Mystique Of The Debian Swirl

Magic Smoke

The Debian Swirl logo is known to many Linux users. Some have queried what it represents, with many theories offered for its symbolism.

In fact there are two Debian logos, the Swirl comprises the top part of a larger image, showing the smoke emanating from a bottle, as a magic genie would in a Hollywood animation.

The Debian Official Use Logo
The Debian Official Use Logo is the red swirl coming out the genie’s bottle and may only be used for official parts of the Debian project, or by Debian developers. 

Debian Official Use Logo

The Debian Open Use Logo
The Debian OS may be referred to using just the swirl which is called The Debian Open Use Logo. The logos exist to protect Debian’s property from mis-use, which could harm its reputation.

Debian Open Use Logo

The logos were designed by Raul M. Silva in 1999, as part of a Debian logo contest. The designer, Raul Silva, never made any public statements about the logo's symbolism.

The logo's can be found on the Debian web site and are available for download.

Some of the theories for the logo's meaning:
  • The bottle represents the Debian community's collective effort, producing the magic swirl - the Debian OS.
  • Bruce Perens, famous advocate of free software and former Debian Project Leader suggests:

    The swirl is “magic smoke”. Electrical engineer lore has it that when you burn out an electronic component, you cause the “magic smoke” that makes it work to be released. Once the magic smoke is gone, the component doesn’t work any longer. Debian is supposed to be the magic smoke that makes your computer work.
  • In Pixar’s 1995 animation Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear had a red swirl on his chin. The movie may have been an inspiration for the logo. Bruce Perens worked at Pixar for 12 years. 
I guess nobody knows for sure, but I like Perens offering.

Yeah. I'll go with the "Magic Smoke".