You probably haven’t heard of Suzy Rice or Ivor Arbiter or Ira Schnapp. But you have heard of Star Wars, the Beatles, and Superman. And the hands of Rice, Arbiter and Schnapp were involved in them.
Suzy Rice designed the Star Wars logo based on George Lucas’s suggestion that he wanted something that looked fascistic. Ivor Arbiter, who owned a drum shop, designed the Beatles logo (the one with the tall initial B and the T with the extra-long descender) to cover the Ludwig drum-manufacturer logo on one of Ringo Starr’s drum kits. And Ira Schnapp designed the curving block letters of Superman’s logo from a very rough, sketchy version by Superman’s co-creator and original artist, Joe Shuster.
Logo designers are quiet heroes in our visually oriented world. Rob Janoff designed Apple’s famous rainbow apple with a bite taken out of it — and didn’t make a dime for his contribution. Frank Mason Robinson was the bookkeeper and partner of soft-drink maker John Pemberton in 1885 when he designed the logo of Pemberton’s new product, Coca-Cola. Louis Tiffany of the Tiffany jewelry empire created the overlapping N and Y that’s appeared on New York Yankees caps and uniforms for more than a century.
Some designers do get a little bit of notoriety: an occasional newspaper or magazine article, for instance. So you may have heard of Saul Bass, who created logos and title sequences for movies such as Psycho, or Milton Glaser, who built the “I [heart] New York” image. But for every Bass or Glaser, there’s a Paul Rand, who drew the blue and white stripes of IBM and the black circle of ABC Television, and whose name you’ve probably never heard.
So this post comes to salute them. And to salute Alan Siegel, who put the white silhouette of Los Angeles Laker Jerry West in a round-cornered rectangle of red and blue that became the elegant logo of the National Basketball Association. And C. Harold Wills, who served as Henry Ford’s first chief engineer and designed the Ford Motor Company logo script. And Emil Kosa, Jr., who painted the 20th Century-Fox “searchlight” logo that’s appeared before thousands of Fox films. (A veteran scenic painter, he also did the Statue of Liberty from the original Planet of the Apes).
My thanks to you and to all designers who created the icons that we see everywhere and will never forget.