TELEPHONES, PART 2 | Saul Bass + The Bell Telephone Logo

Much has been written about the incredible Saul Bass and his redesign of the Bell System logo in 1969.

His task was to transform the company’s image from:

Ad for Bell Telephone long distance service in 1955 via

PHOTO > Mike F via Flickr

to that of a contemporary, cutting-edge telecommunications company.

Someone else has pointed out that his logo for the Bell System is the equivalent of an extra symbol for the Helvetica typeface,

and I think they make a strong argument. Nothing said “contemporary” and “Corporate America” better in 1969 than Helvetica.

Bass’ logo achieved a remarkable 93 percent recognition rate in the United States during its fairly brief lifetime. As a pictogram, it was perhaps without equal in the U.S.A.

PHOTO > Bravo Six Niner Delta via Flickr

PHOTO > weatherpatternvia Flickr




Loads have been written about the logo, so I won’t dwell on it.

Instead, I’d like to point you in the direction of an amazing (to me, anyway) film that Bass produced as communication tool to present his redesign. This was not for public consumption; it was to convince Bell execs to get with the times, because the times, they were a’changing.

The film comes from the Bell Archives and, at 27:00, may seem a bit lengthy, but if you’re at all interested in the era (Vietnam and integration, expos and lunar launches) or the history of graphic design and one of its high priests, I think you’ll find the time extraordinarily well spent.

Here are a few teaser screenshots to whet your appetite:

PHOTO > The Looniverse

Bass logo: rotary dial numbercard

The Bell Telephone System undertook the largest corporate identity program in the United States of America. The project consisted of the redesign of: 135,000 Bell System fleet vehicles; 22,000 buildings; 1,250,000 phone booths; and 170,000,000 telephone directories. The company then had 1,060,000 employees and 80,000,000 customers. It took five years to implement this program — from 1969-1972 — without the aid of computers.

SOURCE > Bell System Memorial

P.S. designKULTUR would be remiss in not mentioning its disdain for Bass’ follow-up to the Bell Bell – the AT&T uniblob or “Death Star.”

The ’80s were an unfortunate exercise in design, and this logo stunk upon its debut in 1984 and still stinks today. “Death Star,” indeed:

AT&T Tech Channel | Saul Bass Pitches the New Bell Systems Logo

Bell System Memorial | Bell Logo History

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