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Friday, October 9, 2015

Logo Designers

One-hundred years of corporate evolution.
I have long contended that the most important artists today are not the many painters, sculptors, and other creative individuals who enrich and beautify our daily existence. No, the most important artist today are those who make our daily existence comfortable--designers. Yet these creative geniuses are undoubtedly the least recognized artists on the planet. If I were to reel off a list of even the most successful, the most important, the most influential designers who ever lived, aside from those with their own fashion houses, chances are you'd not recognize a single one of them. Let's try: Rob Janoff, Jim Schindler, Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, Raymond Loewy, Frank Mason Robinson, William Durant, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Howard Dietz. Recognize any of those names? Probably not; but when I show you their artwork, that you'll recognize in an instant. These men were all logo designers.
One of the most recognizable logos on the planet, designed by (depending on who you ask) William Durant (founder of General Motors) or Louis Chevrolet himself.
Some, such as William Durant, Gordon Moore, and Howard Dietz are credited with designing only one logo--that of the companies they helped found or worked for. Others have designed dozens, perhaps hundreds of company trademarks we see almost daily. Like most of the other artists I write about, many of these designers are now deceased. Likewise many, perhaps most of their designs have been evolved by other designers in this field. Companies change; they merge; they struggle to maintain a modern, contemporary image. Their Logos do as well (top). The original Chevrolet "bowtie" is said to have been based upon a design observed on wallpaper in a Paris hotel room once occupied by the Swiss racing icon, Louis Chevrolet, founder of Louis Chevrolet's Chevrolet Motor Car Company. As for Durant, it's unclear whether he designed the symbol, bought it (along with Chevrolet's company), or just stole it. Keep in mind that was more than a century ago. Chevrolets have seen far more changes since then than have their logo designs.
Frank Mason Robinson's iconic design has changed little in the past hundred years.

MGM's logo dates back to 1916. The
updated logo is from the 1960s.
Some of the world's most recognizable logos are, indeed, quite old--much older than Chevrolet's hotel wallpaper, in fact. Said to be the world's most recognized logo, in any language, in virtually every country on earth, the Coca-Cola script logo was designed by Frank Mason Robinson as far back as 1885 (above). Likewise, with a few minor variations, MGM's Leo the Lion is almost as old. Originally designed by the studio's chief publicist, Howard Dietz, in 1916, a roar was added in 1928.The studio's Latin motto "Ars Gratia Artis" (Art for Art's Sake) came in 1932; while color was added around 1939. The Stylized lion (left) was a 1960s attempt to update the logo. It lasted exactly three movies before studio executives reverted to good old Leo.

The famed "Golden Arches" are fairly recent addition to the company's familiar logo.
Even some companies founded in relatively recent years have seen their logos change rather drastically. McDonald's (above) is a prime example. The earliest logo, dating from 1948, was based simply on the sign out front. The "tubby chef, Speedy" logo came in 1953 designed by the McDonald brothers themselves, Richard and Maurice. The Golden Arches didn't appear until 1962 when Ray Kroc bought the business. It was the work of designer Jim Schindler, inspired by architect Alan Hess, who designed McDonald's first franchise outlet.

Maybe they should have considered old Mr. Newton munching on an apple.
With the advent of the digital electronics age, companies founded in the 1970s and 80s, such as Apple and Intel, have gone through at least three different logo refinements. The original Apple logo, (above left), designed by Ron Wayne, features Isaac Newton in an antique etching. It would seem to fall under the "what were they thinking" category. Rob Janoff soon set Apple's founders, Jobs and Wozniak straight with his bitten apple. The bite was added so it wouldn't look like a cherry. The earliest version of Intel's logo (below) began with a “dropped-e” design, created by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, the company’s co-founders. When the company became a market leader in the field of PCs during the early 1990’s, the Intel logo came with the popular “Intel Inside” slogan. Once Intel became a major player in the computer industry, the “dropped-e” logo was thrown out in favor of a “swoosh” around the company’s name with the new slogan “Leap Ahead.”

Minor changes can make a major difference.
Graphic designer, Raymond Loewy, is credited with having invented the original BP (British Petroleum) shield logo around 1979, amended in 1989 (below). The current BP logo was designed by the famous San Francisco brand consultancy firm, Landor Associates. It is based upon Helios, ancient Greek god of the sun, and features a green and yellow sunflower epitomizing energy in its various forms. It was introduced in the first quarter of 2000. Landor also came up with a new slogan: “Beyond Petroleum”. Ten years later, the environmental group, Greenpeace, ran a competition for a new BP logo following the company's disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil giant's pretty green and yellow sunflower came away creatively besmirched (bottom).

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Logo design as a form of protest.


  1. These are very nice and very helpful idea. Thank you so much for sharing. It gives me way to design a logo. Web Design Miami

  2. Harper--

    Thank your comment. I enjoy hearing from readers and being helpful in any way I can.

  3. Hi, Thanks for sharing the information..These information about grahic design will really helpful to us..
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  4. Enjoyed reading your blog. When are you next articles coming? Can’t wait to read them all.I think I do have a unique skill set of collecting posters.
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