TM: The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos

New book TM is the result of eighteen months of research to expand our 2011 ‘logos’ issue into a collection of in-depth case studies on 29 of the world’s best examples – from British Steel, Centre Pompidou and ERCO, to the Musée d’Orsay, Pirelli and UPS

New book TM is the result of eighteen months of research to expand our 2011 ‘logos’ issue into a collection of in-depth case studies on 29 of the world’s best examples – from British Steel, Centre Pompidou and ERCO, to the Musée d’Orsay, Pirelli and UPS…

The seeds of the book were sown in the special issue of CR we devoted to the 20 logos that we felt represented the best that the form had to offer. In it my colleagues and I attempted to unravel how these various symbols and marks had been created and, where possible, talk to the designers behind them. (As a result the new book also contains writing and research by Patrick Burgoyne, Gavin Lucas and Eliza Williams).

CR readers can save 30% off the price of TM by using the code ‘TMCR30’ when prompted at the checkout – go here for more details.

The logos for the Woolmark, Deutsche Bank, British Rail, Michelin and the V&A Museum had topped our list in the magazine and warranted the most coverage. But what if a book of essay-length pieces could further explore some of the highlights from the issue (Canadian National, CBS or London Underground), while extending the reach to include a range of other great examples from around the world?

The result led me to conduct detailed interviews with well known designers such as David Gentleman (British Steel), Mike Dempsey (ENO), Bruno Monguzzi (Musée d’Orsay) and Ben Bos (Randstad); while tracking down lesser known practitioners who had nonetheless created designs with remarkable back stories – like Coordt von Mannstein, the designer given the challenge of reworking Otl Aicher’s original symbol for the Munich Olympics in 1972; or Ignacio Vasallo, Spain’s then junior minister for tourism who hit upon the idea of asking artist Joan Miró to create an abstract sun design for the country’s fledgling tourist industry.

(A full contents list is on the back cover of the book, shown at the bottom of this post.)

The case of the Woolmark, however, proved unique in that the new research would lead to a definitive statement of authorship through the designer Franco Grignani’s daughter, Manuela. She explained how she had witnessed her father create the famous design on a tablecloth. The design went on to be voted in as a new symbol of the International Wool Secretariat, but the fact that Grignani was one of the jurors on the committee to decide the Woolmark complicated matters considerably, and his creation of the logo was a secret he held onto for decades. (This essay is republished in the current issue of CR.)

Other than interviews the history of many of the logos – such as Coca-Cola’s – involved working with company collections and archives (in this case early twentieth-century court records). While others – Manolo Prieto’s 1956 design for the Osborne Bull, the famous roadside silhouette in Spain, for example – meant contacting a range of people from collectors to photographers (the ‘bulls’ are particularly well documented on Flickr).

Amid debate in recent years as to whether ‘the logo’ is finished altogether, it also seemed appropriate to examine what work still caught the imagination of designers and the public alike; what logos and symbols had lasted; and what designs would continue to work, indeed, evolve into the future. As the book progressed it became apparent that the logo for the V&A would become a key example of something that could move with the times.

Designed by Pentagram’s Alan Fletcher in 1989 (and still in use) it is a sublime example of the form. But far from remaining a static creation, it was given a new lease of life only a few years ago when a kinetic version of the logo was unveiled by Troika studio at one of the museum’s subway entrances: A palindromic sculpture in which the letters twist on their own axis, deconstructing and remaking the logo each time it revolves (shown in the book, below).

One can imagine that Fletcher would have enjoyed the celebration of his work in this way, and would also have been pleased that his design contained another surprise within its form, which was just waiting for the right moment to appear.

That capacity for renewal added to the case for its status and inclusion in the book and my hope is that the stories behind the other 28 will, in their own ways, offer similar revelations.

TM: The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos by Mark Sinclair is published by Laurence King; £28. My thanks go to Patrick, Gavin and Eliza for their help throughout the project and to Nathan Gale of Intercity who designed the book.

CR readers can save 30% off the price of TM by using the code ‘TMCR30’ when prompted at the checkout – go here for more details.

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