The Heartbleed Logo: How to Get People Talking About Internet Security

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The logo for possibly the biggest Internet security flaw ever evocative and simple and has people talking Shaminder Dulai

If you have an Internet connection and blood flowing through your veins, by now you’ve probably heard of Heartbleed, a bug that’s “as bad as it is possible for a security flaw to be,” which is how Rusty Foster put it. It’s like the lock on the metaphorical back door to a large part of the Internet has been broken for the past two years, and it is unclear whether or not anyone bad has darted in and stolen anything valuable while we were out doing other things.

You’ve probably come across the bug’s logo: a crisp red heart that has five dripping bloody stalactites descending from it, suggesting that something important is bleeding out or crying. It’s on the Heartbleed Web site, put up by a security firm called Codenomicon, which co-discovered the bug. The logo is everywhere—and looks like a scary version of the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check symbol. It’s evocative and simple, and perhaps cheerful and sinister at the same time: Is this logo telling me my food is good for my heart, or is it telling me that my private data might have been made public?

Logos are powerful, and this one is suddenly ubiquitous. Anything this simple and nice must have come from Scandinavia, and this was no exception. It was created in a few hours by a 27-year-old graphic designer named Leena Snidate living in Finland. (Hat tip to TechCrunch, which has also written about the branding.) Snidate graduated from a Finnish art school in 2009 and, after working for an ad agency, joined Codenomicon in 2012. Snidate and Codenomicon’s chief marketing officer answered some of Newsweek’s questions about the design process by email. “I had to move quickly as the site was going live immediately,” Snidate said. What was it like suddenly seeing her creation all across the Internet? “Quite unreal to be honest,” she said, “yet amazing!”

TechCrunch called Heartbleed “the first security bug with a cool logo,” and remixed it onto the side of a cereal box. Haaretz took the image and placed it over a Matrix-like pattern. Mashable wrapped it in a looping counterclockwise arrow. I asked Snidate how she felt about the logo being reinterpreted in so many ways. “Glad the logo has a life of its own,” she said.

The Heartbleed website seems to have been started with a kind of Paul Revere mentality: to inform people about the problem. A Codenomicon representative told TechCrunch that it needed to take a “Bugs 2.0 approach in getting the message out in an emergency.” The situation called for a “crisis communication.” Thus, the Web site and its logo. Apparently the term Heartbleed was coined by a man on their team named Ossi.

“This week has been incredible,” Snidate told Newsweek, noting that “we are a very young team with quite a bit to learn.… ”

Snidate “designed a modern icon in just a couple hours,” said Hope Frank, the company’s chief marketing officer. “I am drawn to Leena’s talent, authenticity and clear integrity,” she added.

So as you panic—or not—about the potential implications of Heartbleed and wonder whether or not you should be changing your passwords, at least you can enjoy some pleasant iconography as you read about it. Design lovers, eat your heart out.

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