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, which is traditionally red sails on a white field (although more recently has appeared in its "Calm Inbox" blue).
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.