Behind the Mail Pilot Branding

A maritime pilot helps ship captains maneuver through difficult or congested waters. Mail Pilot helps you maneuver through the difficult and congested waters of your inbox.

As a captain, when you need a maritime pilot on board, you raise a “Signal G” flag. Once the pilot is on board, you raise a “Signal H” flag, which is half red, half white.

And so you have the Mail Pilot branding, red sails on a white field.

We didn’t originally create the Mail Pilot brand with this metaphor; we applied it later.

Initially, I was word mapping, and went down this path: “Burn down your inbox” > “burn” > “fire” > “light”> “pilot light” > “pilot” > “copilot” > “aviator”. Initially, I used “Aviator” as the name. After a while, I used “Copilot Mail” but eventually landed on “Mail Pilot” which really seemed to stick.

After our Kickstarter, we wanted to appeal to the productivity-ists and early adopters in tech. We thought the imagery of space exploration would evoke that sense, so the first icon was an astronaut’s pin.

After a fantastic public launch, we got a call from Apple, who worked with us quite a bit more than we expected. Wondering if the impending iOS launch would be featured, we contemplated the need for Mail Pilot’s branding to appeal to a wider audience. When I was sketching a few random new directions out, the sails formed, and I really liked them; they’re more approachable, simpler, and evoke a sense of calm. It also, coincidentally, had a stronger metaphor to the name.

With that new metaphor, we got to leverage new nautical themes, like “#SetSail” on Twitter, and “Anchors Aweigh” on the launch button in the app’s onboarding. Finally, we’ve also put together thematic posters for the office.