Great logos are a huge part of branding and marketing. Read the interesting back stories behind several iconic logos below!
BY KYLE VANHEMERT 09.03.14
Logos are a useful entry point into the world of graphic design. They’re everywhere, for one thing. But they’re also the perfect serving size—each is a concise study in how to effectively (or, in some cases, not so effectively) convey a brand with a symbol or typeface.
Sometimes, though, the most interesting aspect of a logo isn’t the graphic itself. It’s the story behind it.
That’s just what we get with TM: The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos. Written by Mark Sinclair, the Deputy Editor of Creative Review, the book uncovers the origin stories behind some of the world’s biggest brands.
The collection skews British, but it’s all fascinating stuff nonetheless, filled with old advertisements and period photographs throughout. Here, a few of the more unusual tidbits from the annals of brand history.
The Michelin Man Used To Be a Creepy Drunk Dude
The Michelin Man was born in 1898, but the Bibendum, as he’s officially known, wasn’t always the smiling-eyed marshmallow man we’re familiar with today. In his early years, he wore a pince-nez and chomped on a stogie, looking not altogether unlike Teddy Roosevelt dressed up in a mummy costume.
The advertisement that introduced the mascot to the public featured this creepier-looking version raising a champagne glass as a toast (tagline: something about Michelin tires ‘drinking up’ obstacles). It gave rise to an unfortunate nickname: The Road Drunkard.
NASA’s Logo Was Hated by NASA Vets
Logos often take on nicknames, and NASA’s are no exception. For its first 15 years and change, the agency was represented by a mark affectionately known as the “meatball,” depicting the agency’s name inside a blue circle, surrounded by clusters of stars, a whizzing white spacecraft and a stylized red arrow. Its replacement, designed in 1976 by New York design studio Danne & Blackburn, was significantly more streamlined, simply spelling out NASA in thick, curvy letters. With an “N” and “S” reminiscent of tubing and crossbar-less A’s evoking rocket nosecones, it’s the wordmark that likely popped in your head when you read “NASA logo.” It, too, had a nickname: the worm.
The problem arose before the logo was even shown off publicly. At that point in its history, NASA was made up of relatively loosely organized offices that had historically operated independently of each other. Their first exposure to the new logo was when it got mailed to the head of each office on swanky new executive stationery. While the rest of the world associated it with space shuttles and satellites, internally, the worm became a symbol of the new NASA, where orders were handed down from a headquarters on high.
When Dan Goldin took charge of NASA in 1992, the agency was in something of a slump, in no small part due to the Challenger disaster just six years earlier. A newspaper report from May, 1992, recounted a conversation between Goldin and Paul Holloway, then in charge of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “You know how to lift the morale of NASA?,” Holloway reportedly asked his boss. “You can do it by changing the worm.” Goldin took his advice, and by June, the meatball was back in action.
CBS Basically Ripped Off Its Logo From 19th Century Religious Drawings
In 1950, Alexey Brodovitch, the celebrated art director of Harper’s Bazaar, left to start a new magazine. Dedicated to graphic design, it was called Portfolio. The first issue featured an article on the “gift drawings” of the Shakers, the mid-19th Century American religious sect, in which members recreated their spiritual visions as drawings on paper.
A detail in one of those drawings–an all-seeing eye–apparently left quite an impression on one of the magazine’s early readers, William Golden, a creative director at CBS. The next year, when Golden was tapped by the company’s president to come up with a new logo for the network, one of his first suggestions was an eyeball remarkably similar to the one in the Shaker drawings. It’s served as CBS’s logo ever since.
The Peace Symbol Was Originally a Self-Portrait
Today, the peace sign is so ubiquitous it’s hard to even think of it as a logo. But before it ever graced a Lisa Frank folder or a tie-dyed t-shirt, it served as the graphic symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was designed by Gerald Holtom, one of the CND’s earliest members who happened to be a professional designer.
As Holtom explained decades later, the symbol started as a sort of self-portrait: “I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner ofGoya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.”
The figural inspiration was more evident in earlier versions, which had the symbol’s segments billowing out like bell-bottoms where they met the outer circle. In later years, the mark evened out into the version we know today.
The Ma Bell Logo Was Instantly Better Known Than the President
Before it was broken up by the government in 1984, Bell Systems was a sprawling monopoly that controlled telephone service throughout the United States. When celebrity designer Saul Bass was tapped to create a new identity for the conglomerate in the late 1960s, it was one of the biggest corporate branding jobs ever undertaken.
Bass pitched his logo to Ma Bell brass with a dramatic 30 minute video presentation. Within a handful of years of its roll-out in 1969, the iconic bell had an astonishingly high 93 percent recognition rate. As Bass put it: “More people knew it to be the telephone company logo than knew the name of the president of the United States.” Decades later, when the government’s Antitrust suit forced AT&T to break from Bell, the company hired Bass to design a new logo. He came up with the Death Star logo that AT&T still uses today.
Originally posted by Wired.com at http://www.wired.com/2014/09/weird-facts-about-5-of-the-worlds-most-famous-logos/