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Saul Bass on the new AT&T

Posted by: Helen Walters on September 11, 2007

Ok, not the latest version of the AT&T. But our new Innovation & Design writer, Matt Vella, just put together an analysis of the latest branding venture from AT&T as it continues to evolve after its merger with Cingular Wireless. I put together a slideshow on the evolution of the logo design, and in so doing, came across an interview with Saul Bass, published in Pacific Telephone Magazine in 1970. Bass and his team, of course, developed the pared down Bell logo that was introduced in 1969, while they also worked on the iconic “Death Star” globe implemented in 1984.

What’s particularly interesting about this interview is both how prescient Bass (revered by graphic designers everywhere) was, and how so much of what he had to say resonates — and so often continues to be ignored — today. Direct quotes after the jump.

On corporate identity
"A new 'look' for any organization cannot be a papier-mache cover, tacked on with Scotch tape under the heading of 'beautification.' It has to be based on a probing examination of the company and the people who work for it. As a result, the eventual external visual design becomes the graphic extension of the internal realities of a company."

On the importance of dynamic branding
"The average individual lives in a high impact, complex, visual environment. It is more difficult than one would think... to break through and make a strong consistent impression."

On AT&T / Bell
It's important to reflect in its appearance that the Bell System's responding to the needs of today -- not the past; that it is offering challenges to young people... not only security; that it plays an active role at the advancing edge of modern technology... that it is not set in its ways.

Judging by Matt's piece and the responses of the designers he interviewed to the company's latest branding activity, it seems like with all the mergers and the convolution of the wireless/mobile/telecom industry, AT&T may have lost its vision. What do you think?



What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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