I may be a CP Rail modeller, but I'm also a Canadian—and I appreciate excellence when I see it.
Things like the now-classic CN logo, or “wet noodle,” which celebrates its 50th birthday this year.
And so I say: Happy birthday, wet noodle!
The well known CN logo was designed by Canadian graphic designer Allan Fleming, who famously sketched it on a napkin while waiting in a plane for takeoff from New York.
According to designKULTUR, this is the napkin that
Fleming sketched the CN logo on.
"I think this symbol will last for 50 years at least,” he said. “I don't think it will need any revision, simply because it is designed with the future in mind. It’s very simplicity guarantees its durability."
He was right. The logo (also called “the lazy three” because of how it looks tilted on its side), outlasted the Conrail can opener, the Penn Central “mating worms,” the Chessie Cat and the CP Rail Multimark.
Today it is one of the most recognized corporate identities in the North American business world—a testament to Allen’s design. Even Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan called it "an icon."
Getting closer . . .
According to Canadian pollster Angus Reid, 99 percent of all Canadians recognize the logo and associate it with CN. (I wonder how many Americans do?)
How did the logo come to be? According to CN, the story began in 1959 when the railway surveyed Canadians attitude about the company.
The findings came as a great shock; when people thought of CN, they pictured an old-fashioned and backward organization, hostile to innovation—the very opposite of what the company was trying to achieve.
According to people who were surveyed, CN’s traditional livery was viewed as drab, and the company was seen as staid and obsolete.
CN concluded it needed a fresh new trademark and visual image so people would think of it as more technologically advanced—from locomotive paint schemes and building exteriors right down to the sugar packets used on passenger trains.
Allan Fleming, left, at the unveiling of the new logo.
A new logo was at the heart of the redesign program. The challenge was assigned to Allan Fleming, a young and highly-regarded Canadian graphic designer. After experimenting with countless possibilities, Fleming hit on his simple and inspired design while sitting on a New York-bound airplane.
It was a dramatic contrast to the existing image. Out went the maple leaf and wafer, the green and gold livery. In came the new logo and a bright red, black and white image, which is still being used today.
So, once again: Happy birthday to the CN logo!
Some photos and info from designKULTUR.
Check it out for more images and info.