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I noticed some communities have their own icon (logo) while other just have a generic one with the first letter of the community.

Here's an example :

enter image description here

Coffee and 3D Printing communities have a generic logo at the moment. Can someone explain how icons for each Stack Exchange community are chosen?

Who can change them?

  • These appear to be favicons. Sites sometimes use a simplified version of their full logo for the favicon. For example, Arqade uses a more detailed spaceship logo in the site banner, and Meta SE's banner logo is distinct from either of the logos shown in your picture. – Air Apr 13 '16 at 20:38
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The blue ones with white text (occasionally another grapheme but usually text) are beta sites. Nearly all beta sites use the same site style. Coffee and 3D Printing are beta sites.

When a site graduates, one of the designers on staff will work with input from the community to develop a complete custom design for that site, including the icon. The other sites in your screen shot are graduated sites.

Recently it has become possible for a site to graduate without yet having its new design, so you'll see some blue-and-white logos that aren't beta sites while their designs are produced. So not all sites using that scheme are beta sites, but all beta sites use that scheme.

("Nearly all:" CraftCMS is in beta and does not use the white-on-blue scheme. I don't know how that came to be. But if you scan the list of all sites, you'll see that the vast majority of beta sites are as I described.)

  • Case in point: Worldbuilding SE. – a CVn Apr 13 '16 at 16:50
  • It's not unknown now for even a Beta site's community to ask for some non-default favicon. – ChrisW Sep 29 '18 at 21:24
  • @ChrisW but always the white-on-blue styling, as far as I know. Do you know of exceptions to that? – Monica Cellio Sep 30 '18 at 4:11
  • See also How can we change the favicon of SE site in Beta? You're right, it's often/usually still with white-on-blue styling, but a different/new symbol. Actually CraftCMS.SE is currently in beta, and its favicon has a non-default colour. – ChrisW Sep 30 '18 at 8:16
  • @ChrisW thanks; I've changed "all" to "nearly all", with a note about that site. (I was focused on the color scheme. I know that Chess uses a chess piece, Aviation had a plane before graduated, and I think there are some others. None of them are custom designs, though; those are Unicode symbols.) – Monica Cellio Sep 30 '18 at 16:52
  • A Unicode symbol is convenient when the favicon size is (less than) 32 pixels square (and, as a predefined symbol, a design that a beta community may be able to agree on). But yes. – ChrisW Sep 30 '18 at 17:04
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Just to expand a bit on Monica's answer:

Who can change them ?

There is no mechanism for community moderators (volunteers) or community managers (staff) to change the site icon routinely or on-the-fly, in the way that users might change the display picture in their profile. In fact, it's not typical for site icons to be changed at all, outside of the normal graduation process that Monica described.

That said, there is precedent for staff changing a site's icon by special request from the community, as when the Aviation and Astronomy beta sites were found to have the same default icon.

Early in the Engineering SE beta, we had some discussion about whether or not we liked our default "EG" icon. The position of staff seemed to be that, while it was possible to change that icon to a different set of letters or a simple symbol, we as a community would have to come together around a specific proposal for the new icon:

Changing the icon is not out of the question, but I'd need to see more consensus and discussion about what to change it to (if anything other than Eng).

Site icons do represent some part of a community's identity, but only a very small part, and changing them with any frequency would probably be a negative in terms of representing that identity in a consistent way.

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