While everyone is debating the block size, there is another ongoing lighter debate taking place - the logo and symbol of Bitcoin. Its letter B needs to be standardized to the single horizontal slash Unicode version or the double vertical slash Thai Baht-looking version. There is also another discussion of how the Bitcoin logo should look - the physical gold coin logo or the flat orange logo.
The controversial attitude surrounding this topic is that Bitcoin is not a company, product, brand or logo. However, branding is still important as it adds value to even decentralized computer protocol and the ideas surrounding it.
A group of industry leaders have tried to standardize Bitcoin's symbol back in 2014 with creation of a website to express their opinions. The industry leaders' chosen B is already an unofficial Unicode character but this has yet to be accepted by the Consortium.
Branding adds communication and visual messages to the cryptocurrency environment. People pay more to Coca-Cola and Nike than their generic versions. However, consensus for these visual Bitcoin ideas has not been met and is hard to achieve because no one controls Bitcoin.
The issue with the double vertical slash B is that it is a logo and not a member of a font character set. It can be used as a webfont which has different characteristics than Unicode. It is an image and a brand type that can be seen as a product.
Most of the time we see the vertical double slash white B surrounded by an orange circle. Satoshi Nakamoto used the double vertical slash B in the original Bitcoin client. The single horizontal slash B is a Unicode character (not quite yet) that represents itself as a currency symbol.
The intentionality of the slashes in the B character is supposed to represent a similarity to current currency icons. A symbol like the dollar or euro is used to represent a currency which is said to be not owned. However, some would disagree with this statement because almost all legal tender is owned by its countries' governments or private banks.
The horizontal slashed Unicode entry is used in a variety of font styles from Arial to Ubuntu. The double vertical slashed symbol meanwhile is not and the closest version available is the Thai Baht. Some people do not like this resemblance since Bitcoin does not represent any geographical region or sovereign government.
Throughout the years, many have shared both sides of this debate through icons, apps, and product placements. The tilted B with the orange background seems to be the most popular logo in graphics and this has yet to be challenged.
However, this logo would probably never see the light as a unicode character. Even the unofficial single horizontal slashed B has yet to make it into the Unicode Consortium although members of the community have been trying since 2011.
Gold coins with the B symbol do not sit too well with a lot of people either. Some say that having Bitcoin represented on a gold coin puts a new concept on top of a vintage thought. The conflation with gold coins is not the direction some would like to use.
Gold coins are not Bitcoin and most of the time the protocol has no resemblance at all with coins and physical money. Others would argue that Bitcoin is very much like "digital gold" and have no problem imagining the protocol in this way.
Bitcoin vs bitcoins
There is also the debate surrounding the capitalization of Bitcoin. There is a difference between the currency and the protocol so it should be separated in written language, people argue. However, this argument is not entirely agreed upon as many use different methods when writing.
Some capitalize Bitcoin all the time while some use the separation to distinguish code protocol and currency symbolization. According to the Bitcoin wiki entry on the subject of capitalization:
Accepted practice is to use Bitcoin (singular with an upper case letter B) to label the protocol, software, and community, and bitcoins (with a lower case b) to label units of the currency.
Can Bitcoin be officially branded?
It's highly doubtful at this point in time as both methods seem to be chosen and an unofficial representation exists. Maybe this is not such a bad thing as both can exist simultaneously and cover Bitcoin as both a brand or an uncontrolled decentralized currency.
This is the beauty of Bitcoin where it cannot be controlled by one singular force and the entire network of participants must agree. Over time demonstrated methods of preference will outweigh some concepts and this will be the case for the logo and branding too.
As a graphic artist, this debate is very interesting as it shows the preferences of the human spirit. The fun thing about this debate is that there is still no specific design structure that must be followed. This means that if a person uses the Unicode style B or the logo, the audience usually accepts this as the designer's individual opinion.
A Bitcoin currency symbol has many attributes to give to those trying to understand it. If recognized by the Unicode Consortium, the value of the protocol and currency may be seen in a better light. It may give it validity in the realm of monetary legitimacy. The acceptance of the icon by Unicode would help graphic artists, typographers and writers deliver a brand that everyone recognizes universally.
To me the ‘Honey Badger’ doesn't care what you think and it continues its life. But maybe Bitcoin isn't a Badger at all. Maybe I personally think it's a little monkey on your back, both friendly and devious at the same time. The choice is yours, that's the most inspiring thing about individualism, human action and the digital protocol that we all love. Over time, a symbol, icon or brand may prevail but until then, no one is wrong and all kinds of symbolization is used.