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(02.) THE “STAR WARS” LOGO DESIGN – Page 2 of 2

UPDATE I, October 28, 2011
The rain falls, the wind blows and unfortunately, gossipers gossip on:


Page Two: the logo design pages, continuing here, as follows:

You are reading PAGE 2 — Continued from Page 1.

The atmosphere at that time of the film’s production was such that:

— special effect footage for the film was not yet completed (some effects were individually done but there was no final, edited footage in which effects appeared; again, most of this effect content existed only in the mind of George Lucas and he would explain what he envisioned effects would look like by hand motions to illustrate what he had in mind, but no one had yet actually SEEN the complete variety of what he imagined, same as with the logo and final print advertising for the film; all visual talent associated with his film at that point in time were being asked to produce effect visuals on film and in print based upon George’s descriptions of what he wanted to see);

— the film, being a “science fiction film with special effects,” which is how it was described by the industry at that production time who I had contact with, was an expensive undertaking and requiring of more time, labor and resources otherwise to complete than the Distributor — at that time, “Twentieth Century Fox” — was peaceful with — there was a lot of tension associated with the film, a lot of contradictions at that time between distributor and creative client and associated talent. But as a client, Fox was mine and Lucas was theirs, so I was sent to meet with Lucas by Fox and my employer, the design studio contracted with Fox. My employer, Fox’s resource, was perceived by the few people associated with the film itself as a part of a complicated if not annoying empire and no one other than myself was eager to “go meet with Lucas” because Lucas had been repeatedly rejecting image work — logos, advertising — that Fox had been obligating him and the film budget to cover. My eagerness (perhaps, eager willingness) to go meet with George about this film was due to two things: eagerness and enthusiasm for my work, and, being someone who considered the genre of science fiction to be interesting and entertaining.

So I was sent to meet with George Lucas following a giggle-fest at the design studio involving the other Art Director there (Barry Shereshevsky, who was a good friend to me then and later), me and the owner of the studio (my employer, Tony Seiniger). The giggle-fest involved a re-enactment by Barry and Tony of the LIFE Cereal commercial, “Hey, Mikey”:

I was the new hire, I was “Mikey” and by that process of deduction I was selected to go and meet with George Lucas about this controversial film project. I’ve later read, even about me referencing this “Mikey” commercial, that Mikey/I would somehow “would try anything” but that’s not the message here — I was young, naïve and eager to please through my work, and, thus, was the equivalent of “Mikey” (and that’s also what that commercial was about). It’s entirely distasteful to me how such unbiased nature as that can be warped by others to instead indicate some sort of lack of character but that seems to be the cruel and wrong interpretation of some of the internet-naysayers.

I met with George and he was a serious fellow but not at all off-putting. Nothing, at all, negative. Just very serious. I found George to be interesting and he seemed very much familiar to me, similar to the editors I’d worked with at Rolling Stone. So once in George’s ILM office, things went well, no concerns or worries. Just very serious, George was, if not, perhaps, tired but very understandable given his circumstances at that time.

George was sitting behind a desk in a utilitarian environment with windows overlooking an asphalt parking lot in the front of the building. His feet were up on the desk, legs bent at the knees, and in his hand he held a yellow pencil, which he used to wave around when describing what he planned some “laser effects” “would look like.” As I’ve already written here, none of the special effects was yet complete so it wasn’t possible to see footage of the film with any effects — one had to imagine what they would look like once completed, based upon what George was describing.

And I had to return to my studio and then have an illustrator render these effects on enlarged prints made from production stills from the film, to impose effects on the photo print/s illustrations of pending effects that would later appear in the film — those same effects that at that time only existed in George’s mind and were still being developed for later film use.

I was there to design a Bid Brochure that was to be used by Fox to send to Exhibitors (theatres) to “book the film” prior to the film’s release. There was a great deal at stake and if I’d stopped back then at that age to think about the immense responsibility of actually representing STAR WARS in a pre-release appealing-to-future-sales presentation, I think it would have meant a freezing of ideas. So I was naive at that time and it was good that I was. I literally was focused on the tasks at hand without any implications. A good thing.

The logo I was asked to design — that was soon to appear in the Main Titles of the film and all following editions, and, came to be used by Lucasfilm for all merchandising over these many decades of popularity of this film, all editions later — the logo was originally intended for the front cover of the Bid Brochure, and for application to other print advertising and sales packaging materials: a shipping box for the Brochure, some special tape with the logo repeating on it to seal that box, the logo, the Brochure itself. The Main Titles were being designed by someone else and that designer (Dan Perri) had already provided the film with a different logo, the version that recedes dimensionally and is clearly cursive, though I didn’t see what Perri had designed until long after my own logo was completed and in use.

At my first meeting with George, as I’ve described a bit already, he was not a highly talkative fellow. His few words to me included him saying that he wanted “something that is very fascist.” He made a few hand gestures in the air while waving a pencil as he described what he envisioned various special effects would look like and as he later left the meeting, he said he wanted a logo that would “be intimidating“, that would “rival AT&T.”

The Bid Brochure was/is 11″ by 14″ horizontal. The logo reading STAR WARS (limited title for the film, Episode IV, at that time, simply STAR WARS, nothing more since no other Episodes yet existed and wouldn’t for a while afterward), the logo I’d determined was the front cover and the front cover reminded me of what television and film screens looked like at that time: just a tad wider than they were deep, not a dramatic aspect-ratio in the horizontal screen as exists today.

So the cover of the Brochure reminded me of a big screen and I designed the logo accordingly, yet not thinking of applying the logo TO a big screen by that point, simply working toward realizing a simulation of a big screen with the film title on it: the Bid Brochure was, after all, intended to appeal to exhibitors, to film theatre owners/operators.

I’d been reading a book the night before that first meeting with George, a book on German type design. I do not recall the name of the book — an obscure title from the ‘Fifties or ‘Sixties — but it was among my then-husband’s library. I was married to another designer who had an interesting book collection as to visuals. I was reading one of his books by random selection on that night before the first meeting with George, a book on German type design, in which was described how it was that Joseph Goebbels, the dreaded monster guy among other monsters among the German Socialists, how it was that Goebbels had ordered a font for his use in public signage.

An aspect of the “fascist” German National Socialists was their severity of appearance, demands for “unification” of imagery, behavior, attitude, all that was later exposed — and a “unified signage” idea seemed to me to be a prime example of what “fascist” expression would look like and was or had been.

What I read was that Goebbels wanted all signage in the Third Reich to be rendered in “one font” used throughout the nation, a standardized font without any variations to be used for all signage throughout. So it struck me as an indication of what I’d call utmost “fascist” design or insistence on the harsh imposition of severe graphics to make a forceful social and political point or presentation.

And that came to mind when, during my meeting with George the next day, George asked me to produce a logo that was “very fascist”. I was somewhat taken aback that just hours the night before, I’d been reading what I’d been reading – it wasn’t as if we’d coordinated our references at that time.

I was more or less thinking function and not about specific fonts or any font having some sort of “fascist” nature unto itself or as to who created it, but as to how and in what history the actual fascism of German National Socialism developed, while I did not want to use in represent any aspect of or from that political movement but instead wanted to reference a similar forceful impact, an environment of fascism — if George had said he wanted “a poignant logo,” I’d have thought about teary-romance stories, had I been reading one the night before he hypothetically asked for such.

Thus, I thought of the font, Helvetika (in English, Helvetica). And only did so because I’d read about the Goebbels experience as to developing and deploying a uniform (“nationalized”) font to use in signage (street signs, etc.), a forebearer/antecedent to the later drawn Helvetica. Helvetica Black: no flourishes, forceful, presenting an atmosphere in which to locate my rendering for a logo.

I don’t know why this developmental process is so difficult for some to comprehend — it makes perfect sense to me and it did at the time, and, obviously it was a successful, creative chain of thought that produced a successful design result for a very complicated film as also genre; and, to emphasize the success of that, the logo continues to this day — many decades later — to be in use and well recognized by the public. And, the film was and continues to be quite serious theatre and did require a somber or sedate rendition (by comparison with the trends at that time which were mostly cursive lettering) and that was what George was describing with the directive he gave to me.

Helvetica is accredited by copyright to a font designer called Max Miedinger through the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. The book I’d been reading described the earlier (“forerunner”) font of unknown name that was created at the command of the Joseph Goebbels for industrial signage use by the Third Reich. Miedinger’s “Helvetica” came much later but was described in this book I’d been reading as somewhat similar VISUALLY to that earlier signage.

To state the obvious — contrary to bizarre gossip as if I’d stated otherwise — Helvetica wasn’t used by Goebbels nor was Miedinger, to my knowledge, associated with Goebbels, nor his work, nor his dreaded politics nor even the same decade. What I was reading at that time simply referred to the body of fonts originating prior to the 1950’s (and prior to the design of Helvetica) in Germany and Switzerland.

As to the STAR WARS logo I designed and drew, I responded to an unusual directive with a fitting, appropriate frame of reference. George asked for a logo that was “very fascist” and given what I’d been reading the night before that first meeting with him, that’s what and where I referenced in what I soon drew after that first meeting with him: I returned to my work, looked through a few books with reproductions of political artwork from the 1930’s (because it was a period in human history during which overt, politically fascist behavior began and continued afterward), noting the influence of a heavy-handed reliance on and variations of Art Deco lettering, and, having made an enlarged copy of the font, Helvetica Black, used that photostat of that font as reference, drew the two title words on two lines, stacking and squaring them (“intimidating” and “fascist” in statement). Then I outlined each letter (more severe, white outline against a black field/background — stars, space, the Dark) and started working each letter of each word into relationship with the others.

The first version after that, within a few hours hand drawn by me on vellum and inked later by a production assistant, was then “comped” to a mock-up of the Bid Brochure cover that was soon presented to George at a second meeting. He looked it over and said, “it looks like ‘TAR WAR'” and asked me to close-up the loop in the first and last “S” of the title (the title begins and ends with an “S”).

So I went back to work, and incorporating George’s requested revisions, drew by hand another version of the logo on vellum with pencil (and eraser, ruler, triangle and t-square).

The second and revised version was again comped and taken to George for a third meeting — and George liked it. He looked at it, nodded “O.K.” and that was that. I returned to my work to complete the Bid Brochure for STAR WARS now that George had approved the logo for it’s cover (the Bid Brochure couldn’t proceed to finish until the logo was set).

After all the pages for the developing Bid Brochure were completed — overall design, various hand-rendered recreations of special effects upon large, color stills from the film’s live action footage, effects rendered in interpretation of what Lucas planned to later present in the film when completed — another meeting with George was necessary in order to present to him these final elements: the final Brochure couldn’t proceed to finished production and printing until George approved of the work in progress.

This later meeting was held at a sound stage in midtown Los Angeles, where, from behind a nondescript storefront south of Hollywood Blvd. accessible directly from the city sidewalk along a major street, Greedo answered the door. An actor in Greedo makeup and costume opened the door smoking a cigarette out of a straw affixed to the end of “Greedo’s” nose and smoke billowed out all around the edges of Greedo’s face, from neck-to-brow. By that time, I wasn’t surprised at anything: downtown Los Angeles, city sidewalk opening to film-filming, Greedo smoking a cigarette out of a straw stuck in his nose: Los Angeles!

So I walked past Greedo, found George in the back directing the filming of inserts for the “Bar Scene”. Big moment seeing him directing film footage. In the following — as I wrote earlier, live action was already filmed but at that session, the inserts were being filmed for the interior scenes — from approximately 4:32, Bar Scene, or, “Cantinu at Mos Eisley” while the scene sequence in entirety begins at 3:00:

A few days after that final meeting with George — presenting the Bid Brochure work for final approval (and got it — O.K.-to-print), Gary Kurtz called me at my office and said that he and George had “decided to use (my) logo in the main titles…because it works best in the title treatment, the pan of the main titles…”

The title treatment had already been completed but the logo from Perri did not “read as well (in the main titles, animated title treatment) — ” as mine did, from what Kurtz explained, so they (he and George) replaced that version with my logo and, “wow,” Kurtz said.

I asked Kurtz if I could have film credit for the logo design but he declined, saying, they’d already completed all the titles and couldn’t redo it. But I was happy to know my logo worked and after seeing it at the cast and crew screening on the big screen (I was invited and did attend), it worked very, very well.

Lucasfilm kindly contacted me about a publishing project they were developing in 2004/2005 and we spent a number of weeks interacting in email about those times as I’ve related them here; later, Lucasfilm included me in their wonderful, beautiful, big book, “STAR WARS POSTER BOOK” by Stephen J. Sansweet & Peter Vilmur, Chronicle Books, Copyright 2005 and trademark by Lucasfilm Ltd.

Steve Sansweet and Peter Vilmur from Lucasfilm sent me an autographed copy of the book: so thoughtful, so considerate. Included in it is a much shorter version of this story.

(— Return to Page 1).

3 C O M M E N T S

  1. […] and drew by hand — the STAR WARS logo. I’ve written about it in what I’d hoped was a final statement about that work but the negative gossip blabs on by people who weren’t there, don’t […]

  2. […] (02.) THE “STAR WARS” LOGO DESIGN – Page 2 of 2 […]