In the late 1960s, the telecommunications revolution was in full swing. Yet the logo of its biggest innovator, AT&T, had remained the same for 80 years. It was time for a complete brand overhaul, so AT&T tapped legendary graphic designer Saul Bass to do it. After working on a new logo for one year—one year!—this is his pitch to AT&T.
This video has been bouncing around on the web for a while, thanks to AT&T's awesome online archives, but if you haven't yet watched, it's worth your time. In addition to his logo work, Bass designed and directed the title sequences for the greatest films of the period so he brings exceptional cinematic talent to the pitch. This is basically a short film about how the world was changing in 1969, and an argument for how AT&T needed to adapt its look and attitude to keep up. Perhaps the most delightful part of the whole video is Bass's competitive audit of other corporate logos, showing how AT&T has fallen behind the times when compared to the evolution of brands like Chase, Westinghouse, and RCA.
You can almost envision Bass himself turning on the projector in a dark boardroom, smoke swirling in the beam of light (I'm 100% cribbing from Mad Men here). There's the emotional nod to the tumultuous times as an instrumental version of "The Sound of Silence" rises in the background. The groovy animation paired with dramatic narration when the logo is finally revealed is pure Don Draper gold. It's more than just a logo redesign, it's one of the earliest documented attempts at humanizing a technology company.
14 years later, anti-monopoly rulings would require AT&T to divvy itself up into regional "Baby Bells" which inherited different versions of Bass's logo, and a new one was needed. Bass once again was tapped to create the striped globe which, with minor modifications, has come to identify A&T ever since. But it was never as powerful as that beautiful bell. [AT&T]