First in aluminium
Saul Bass & Associates 1962 logo for The Aluminum Company of America.
The Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) had a design problem. It had extended the use of its trademark–two triangles in red and blue inverted above another–to manufacturers using the ALCOA ‘base’ material. These products came with the exclamation "made with ALCOA Aluminum”. However, the ALCOA brand was being eroded by the many manufacturers using high quality ALCOA aluminium to construct poorly designed products. The association was damaging. If a consumer had a bad experience with a non-ALCOA manufactured product, they still held ALCOA responsible. To address this problem, the corporation hired renowned American designer Saul Bass, Saul Bass & Associates (Minolta, United Airlines, AT&T) to develop a design policy and build visual equity around a new logo without entirely losing the recognition of the previous design and discarding the association with poorly made products.
As well as addressing this key concern, the new design policy would also be required to communicate ALCOA’s position as a leader and as a progressive, pioneering and growing corporation. Further, the new design policy would need to unify a broad range of packaging, and take into account low-quality surfaces such as steel barrels and corrugated boards and a wide variety of applications.
Continue reading to understand how Saul Bass addressed the issue of continuity and a clean break. See how the industrial context shaped the logo and accompanying custom typeface, and see how the logo was applied to structures and stationery.