So, who did design our favourite logo?

Our current issue features CR’s top 20 logos of all time. The Woolmark is our number one, but mystery surrounds the identity of its designer

Our current issue features CR’s top 20 logos of all time. The Woolmark is our number one, but mystery surrounds the identity of its designer



In 1963, the International Wool Secretariat, now called Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) announced a global design competition to create a graphic identity for wool “which would hold consumer confidence and represent quality standards”, to be used internationally. The resultant logo sits proudly at number one in our Top 20 logos, as featured in our April issue.

Seemingly inspired by a skein of wool, the winning design, known as the Woolmark, was launched in 1964 in Britain, US, Japan, Germany, Holland and Belgium, and is now recognised the world over. But who designed it?

Officially the Woolmark is credited to an Italian designer hailing from Milan called Francesco Saroglia. He won the competition, a fact documented by numerous sources. But we don’t know anything else about the man. There are no books featuring his work (at least none we or the leading Italian designers we contacted have been able to find), no record of any exhibitions, not even any web pages featuring any other work by Saroglia or, indeed, anything about him at all. How could the designer of one of the most famous logos of all time have left no trace of his wider practice?

Is this Francesco Saroglia?

Was the Woolmark’s designer not, in fact, Saroglia at all but Franco Grignani, a leading designer of the time whose body of work included many op art inspired images in black and white?

Ad by Grignani for Alfieri & Lacroix, a Milan-based typo-lithographers

In our April issue, Gavin Lucas examines the evidence and the competing claims regarding the logo’s authorship. Did Grignani enter it into the competition under an assumed name? Was his work stolen by another? The likes of Ben Bos, Massimo Vignelli and Leonardo Sonnoli all contribute their theories to a fascinating piece (which subscribers can read here).

The AWI credits Saroglia as the logo’s author and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by them, but we may never know the whole truth. An image from Grignani’s diary with various sketches for the Woolmark including something very like the final version (featured in the issue) would appear to be the smoking gun, but we can’t be sure it is proof of his authorship. One thing is certain, however. The creator of the Woolmark not only left behind a cracking logo, but also a great graphic mystery.

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  • Rob

    Interesting article!

    I also begrudgingly like the fact that crowdsourcing was in practice in 1963.

  • Very interesting.
    I was lucky enough to meet Grignani in the ’80s when he came to teach at a postgraduate design course in Milan. I remember he presented the Woolmark logo as his own, showing us sketches and work in progress leading to its final form. Alas I have no evidence to show for it, so can’t really help to solve the ‘mystery’. On the other hand I would have to see rather convincing proof to the contrary to change my belief that Grignani is the only and true designer of the Woolmark!
    I look forward to the next episode.

  • If @frederico’s story is true, then it makes sense. The logo bears resemblance to his op-art.

  • The one thing that I still find amazing and that no one else has commented on is that this is a logo for a fairly inoqueous organisation.

    It’s not like the woolmark is a major high street or business brand. It’s a organisation that oversees an industry & that when you see this logo your trust level is supposed to increase.

    I think that adds even more credibility and weight to the argument for it being the best there is.

    Hat’s off to whoever really did it.

  • Req

    I read this article in the magazine just yesterday and found it fascinating. The whole issue is one of the most engrossing I’ve read and I’m not even on CR’s payroll!

    Top voted logo in the UK and designed with a fork!

  • The top image showing the logo being inked by hand stresses me out just at the thought of a mistake!
    Its amazing the skills they used back then before the ease of Photoshop and the like.


  • I agree with Giant Squib. It reminds me of when I proudly told my future father-in-law I was a graphic designer, and it transpired that he was a designer when “cut and paste” and “airbrushing” actually meant just that!

  • So you might say that provenance is a bit WOOLLY then?!!

    (and to the Giant Squib above: ) Yes, thank god we don’t have to colour things in nowadays. My mum was in advertising in the 60’s and she tells me her first job was just to paint the red on Peter Stuyvesant logos, every day!

  • @Alison Bates – That’s remarkable!
    I think I would be pursuing a completely different career had I been a part of that generation 😛

  • andy

    I’ve seen the work credited to Franco Grignani in quite a few Italian graphic journals from around the time it was designed, a quick look at the rest of his work ( would convince most people it’s his. Also one of my favorites.

  • Love that image of the logo being inked in by hand…those were the days :)

  • Good article.

    The logo/design and the typography is just great. It reads perfectly small and large.
    When I first saw it (years ago) my jaw dropped. A perfect blend of “Op-Art” for a business application.
    Love the old school inking, too. No command Z.

  • Christopher Brown

    If it was a competition and it was won by Francesco Saroglia then he designed it.

    Thats provenance enough for anyone.

    Its likely proffesionals were not allowed to enter the logo competition. So he either made him up or used his friend to enter it alone.
    You would have to ask to see the original Woolmark logo competitions T&C’s to answer that question.

    My favorite logo too.

  • Alan McDougall

    Yes, great stuff indeed and a wonderful logo that deserves the honour of being the best! Yes, it is also true that way back when it was all done by hand.

    I designed the Habitat logo (not quite in the same league as the woolmark identity) encompassing two chairs, a table and a pendant light positioned in a house(shed) shaped image from an original pencil doodle executed by Terence Conran / Oliver Gregory. Those days are long gone, thankfully, when you couldn’t just hit the save button; just had to bite hard, throw the almost complete drawing in the bin, start all over again and pray that hopefully errors would not happen more than once!

    Hats off to the true designer of this very complicated logo to draw, his obvious artisan skill, determination and patience!

  • italian pride, great post! thanks CR

  • Ken Gofton

    I was PR director for the Intrernational Wool Secretariat from 1976 to1982. This was well after the Woolmark’s launch. My recollection is that the design was aways credited internally to Francesco Seroglia, and that he had worked in the Italian branch of the IWS – but who knows with th Italians? Also, there was some bad feeling among other entrants to the competition because the rules had stipulated that the new logo should not visibly represent wool, which it clearly did. Picking up on another comment, the IWS was not such an innocuous organisation. It was generousy funded by the woolgrowers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, to compete with the huge marketing budgets, at that time, of the synthetic fibre industry. The IWS was responsible for much award-winning advertising around the world, including inthe UK through Davidson Pearce. And the Woolmark featured regularly near the top in lists of best-recognised logos. It was one of the first, if not the first, external logos to be adopted by Marks & Spencer.

  • If the woolmark logo was created as shown using brush and ink – is this a skill that has been lost to mankind with the onset of computers? I know my hand to eye co-ordination would never manage such crisp edges.

  • I do not remember who told me … but there is an interesting anecdote about how Grignani final project logo. For days the idea was turning in his head, but he could not find thefinal solution. But one night, in a “pizzeria” Grignani took a fork and, on the paper tablecloth, rotated it three times.

    sergio Olivotti