Classic

saul_bass.jpg
Adfreak points to this Design Observer post from Michael Bierut, a partner at Pentagram. Bierut laments the decision by SBC to retire Saul Bass’ iconic AT+T logo after the big merger is complete later this year.

Take a long, last look at Saul Bass’s finest moment. AT&T will live on, but its logo is about to disappear.
In 1968, Saul Bass was hired to bring order to the system, and created a classic modern identity program. In Nixon-era America, Bass’s simplified bell-in-circle logo, rigorous Helvetica-based typographic system and ochre-and-process blue color scheme became as familiar as the Coca-Cola signature. It was the ideal graphic analog for a phone system that was hailed as the best in the world, a virtually indestructable monopoly posing as a public utility: Ma Bell, utterly reliable and as ubiquitous as air.
Now, after 20 years of telecom chaos, SBC Communications, Inc., a descendent of Southwestern Bell, is taking over its former parent company: the child becomes the father to Ma, as it were. Their brand strategy lets them have their cake and eat it too. By retaining the AT&T name, they signal continuity. By replacing the Bass sphere with a “fresh, new logo,” they signal vitality and change. Who’s going to argue with that?
Graphic design, unlike architecture , leaves no footprint. When one of the best known logos in the world disappears overnight, the only hole created is in our collective consciousness. By New Year’s Eve, Saul Bass’s sphere will be no more. Will anyone mourn — or protest — its passing?

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan in the Pacific Northwest. Brand builder at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Believer in Gossage, Bernbach and Clow. Doer of the things written about herein.

  • http://www.devitoverdi.com Gregory Pruitt

    Few will mourn. Maybe we understand that once something exists, it exists forever, or until the whole thing sinks into the sea or dies out in the dark.
    Nothing lasts forever, not even big time logos. But good branding lasts a long time.

  • sarah

    Almost as sad as when UPS replaced their classic Paul Rand mark with that generic piece of beveled PhotoShop crap.

  • Dave

    I never thought of it that way, but your right…the minute a new logo is introduced, the old one is forgotten almost over night. I mean, you really have to think hard to remember a company’s previous logo.
    I think the same is true to a certain degree when a company changes it name. If successful, after a while it’s difficult to remember what it used to be. In researching for one of my classes, I stumbled across this blog post that helps explain company name changes, and gives current examples of both name and logo changes.
    http://www.namedevelopment.com/blog/archives/2005/11/new_names_for_o.html