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(01.) THE “STAR WARS” LOGO DESIGN – Page 1 of 2

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


However, what follows are the logo design pages, beginning with this, Page One:

I drew the STAR WARS logo many decades ago and I have long since let my experiences with it slip by into the past. However, I continue to find sniping statements by others about my experiences — as I’ve shared them earlier on my sites — and I, therefore, have been making ongoing attempts to address some of these.

This will be my last response to such (later, decision revised, but please read on). I have never fancied myself nor promoted myself as an expert historian nor a design paragon — I’m a fine artist (Painting, Fine Arts, the practice of painting not the theorizing about it) who has worked in design because I can but otherwise, I’m not a paragon of knowledge about the arguments if not downright possessiveness some engage in about fonts, who, what, whattheheck. Reading such arguments is like listening to a group of self-avowed experts analyzing a painting of the clouds in the sky: someone sees bunnies, someone else sees a ’57 Chevy. Each critic is sure they see that which they already have in mind. On the other hand, some of us like the practice of doing the work, not talking about doing it or how someone else did.

My time and intent in writing about this design experience from this particular film (“STAR WARS”) was originally provided to the public as an act of helpfulness because I’d begun reading a lot of gossip and questions on the internet about the logo and it’s design — the point is to share what occurred, not to promote myself; after reading the wonky remarks on the internet by alleged ‘designers’ about what I’ve shared, I will clearly state here that I loathe measuring contests: someone else will always be more important, more meaningful, more profound, better, best — so I view my work as what is best achieved by me and let slide what someone else can or might possibly achieve. They aren’t me and vice-versa.

And since my experiences involve me being present when they occurred, criticizing what I’ve shared as to the experiential seems strange by those who were not present when those experiences took place.

Reading websites by alleged ‘designers’ making fun of me as an individual while ignoring the design itself has been disappointing, to say the least. Such does not speak well of the alleged ‘designers’ engaged in such gossip because they appear to be motivated mostly if not expressly by their own personal unhappiness and animosity about other human beings.

However, I am not providing links to these sites that are the source of this criticism (also, later revised but please read on) because I’ve concluded that their ribald weirdness is aimed at latching onto this story about the logo and in attempting to, thereby, affix their sites to this logo as design completed, despite being contemporaries who had nothing to do with the experiences from whence the logo design occurred.

From one of those erratic sites actually has a lengthy post entitled, “Dear Suzy Rice, Helvetica Is Not A Fascist Font.”

Of course THE FONT isn’t fascist, not expressly defined as such. If it was, it’d be conquering continents and bringing ruin upon humanity from atop a tank or chauffeured automobile. Which, actually, might make a funny episode on SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS but it’s not plausible in any other context and it has never been my point as to Helvetica Black as I’ve referenced it to the concept of “fascist”.

Whoever made that declaration misses the point entirely about what I wrote and does font design and history no service. No font is in and of itself “fascist” — the very idea is ridiculous when addressed so simply. To the contrary, my original point in stating that I’d selected Helvetica Black upon which to reference my work when designing the STAR WARS logo (with severe modifications, Helvetica Black mostly just inspiration for what I drew in the original), my original statement that Helvetica Black “was the most fascist font I could think of” was as to the ENVIRONMENT FROM WHENCE THE FONT ORIGINATED, the “general environment” of culture and time prior to, during and directly after World War II, and, as to the severity in appearance of the font itself. It was “fascist” based upon what I’d learned about how that font was developed and within what history epoch it originated — not “a fascist font” in and of itself but from a period of human, political history born of certain severe conditions WHICH ATMOSPHERE PROVIDED ME WITH AN INSPIRATION FOR THE DESIGN.

No, the font itself is not “fascist.” To read that into what I expressed originally (that I regarded Helvetica as “fascist”) is very strange, a font with “special powers”? And politically extreme ones at that. Absurd.

[EDIT] -> CAUTIONARY NOTE: The original page published on this site was in need of editing but was previously included as-is on this site for reference but it has since been taken down; I’d have long ago deleted it altogether but I attempted for a while to make it available as fill-in of the story as it’s been unspooled via internet gossip; the page is badly written because when I wrote it, I had pneumonia, was holding up a transport to take me to a hotel for four weeks due to a flooded residence and a few other pressing circumstances such as sitting in that flooded environ and trying to quickly type out a page — I’d intended to return to it later, to edit and polish the page but I literally forgot about returning to it what with pressing circumstances ongoing for months after that flooding-temporary-hotel-living event; thus, people read it, belittled me and the page for being disjointed, badly written, the gossip ensued while I was surprised at the outpouring of angst by some so bitterly maligning me for having written it; result: page is no longer available, there’s no point, and these two pages should suffice for anyone interested in the development of the STAR WARS logo as it has come to be known. [END EDIT]

I can understand a need for an emotional connection with the film that continues through the decades: it’s an emotional film and it’s impact on people continues for that reason. The logo represents that emotional impact, which is a mark of it’s success.

As a designer, this inspires even more pride in the work I accomplished than normally would result. Audiences look at the logo, they perceive the film itself, emotionally and specifically. This means it’s a successful film logo and it did, indeed, fulfill the design directive by the film’s Director, George Lucas, to me from all those years ago: to produce a logo that was “very fascist” and elicited some degree of intimidation of, or intimidating impact upon, the viewer. The logo has become an imprint for the drama that is the entire film series and related stories themselves. I’m quite proud of the impact the logo has made and continues to generate.

The direction for the logo, however, came from George Lucas, not from me, and I complied as a designer to his requests in the most immediate fashion that I could, in what I can only akin to a theatrical performance of sorts: George declared a theatrical directive, I was asked to respond theatrically — combined with what was at that time “no time to waste” (like, show him results nearly immediately). Had I had to work out of thin air to design a logo for STAR WARS, without George’s succinct direction about it before I began, I can’t say that I’d have solved the design or the theatrical challenge. So I really responded to George while it was he who established the environment, aimed the arrow, in other words.

While I agree that the film is historical, and the logo also, apparently, because of the film it is a part of, I disagree that as creative individuals there need be quite so much analyzing and in such disturbingly personal criticism about me as an individual for my having shared my experiences about my design of this logo. It’s needless by others, makes no contribution to the information and, instead, detracts from the genuine story I’ve related about this bit of film history.

Interestingly, my design work isn’t being picked-over — the logo clearly “works” and is successful work — but is aimed at me.

I was young when this work was done — new to feature films at that time and to being required to produce such a high volume of original design solutions by hand for commercial purposes. At that time, (mid-Seventies) there were no digital tools available for even our sophisticated design studio — Seiniger Advertising in Los Angeles — nor available in the film industry itself, not for print advertising. Film title houses had “motorized cameras” — a camera on a programmed mechanical track that photographed single frames and then edited them together to simulate a motion-tracked graphic or series of still images — but even George Lucas had to create his own “computerized camera” for the visual appearances he wanted as to representing space flight, moving the camera to simulate on film a moving terrain or background “moving” through the point-of-view of a film character.

After one of my meetings about the logo and film advertising with George Lucas at the then-San-Fernando-Valley-situated ILM (“Industrial Light and Magic”), producer Gary Kurtz gave me a tour of the props and equipment in use for the film, and proudly introduced me to what he called “the computerized camera” that tracked over the horizontal and quite flat-panel-board-game rendition of the “death star surface” against the large, horizontal matt painting of what was “the stars” or the appearance of space surrounding that “Death Star” and the “flying” spacecraft. Kurtz showed me the spacecraft models, their daintiness in reality quite surprising when one views the film’s various scenes and footage edited together later.

But that was the extent of what was then called “computerized” tools available. As a designer, I used a large drawing board where I drew layouts on tissue paper and velum, including specific pencil drawings from whence a production employee would then ink.

I was all of in my mid-twenties at that time employed at Seiniger’s and soon working on this STAR WARS project. And before that, Assistant Art Director at ROLLING STONE magazine for about five years after studying painting at the University of Florida.

ROLLING STONE was predominantly an editorial environment, not necessarily a design environment. I had the privilege of working in an Assistant capacity for Mike Salisbury for a short while at ROLLING STONE when he was Art Director of the magazine and the magazine was about the written story with little variation from the music industry and culture associated with it. I contributed my first graphic illustration of sorts while Mike was the A.D. and I’ll always remember that moment, seeing him pleased with what I’d done and then seeing it in print afterward. And Mike included me as a designer in the front cover designs eventually, so I began increased involvement in the visuals of the publication during Mike’s presence there. But the magazine as “art” at that time was limited to a mostly newspaper-environ. The four-color front cover and advertising pages were among my areas of responsibility and later a few feature layouts with the recurring “Music” section of the publication. The greatest contributions, however, in the publication originated with the Art Director’s assignments and decisions as to photographers associated with stories and of course, the editorial-intense content under the direction of then-managing editor, Paul Scanlon.

That was the “art” process back then at that bi-weekly publication and nearly all of that, hand-rendered, hand-made, nothing available at that time (mid-‘Seventies) as to digital tools and the extent of mechanical helps were the typesetters and the camera room to develop and print photographs and to reprint graphic images for reproduction in the magazine later. I worked with a supplier over the years who provided the magazine’s “color separations” or films for the two, three and four-color imagery, but again, that was the extent of technical capabilities as to creating and/or reproducing images.

I mention all this as to hand-work because certain gossipers on the internet seem to consider graphics rendered by hand some sort of “olde fogey” method and the current-day technology available to them via computer software and hardware to be something no “olde fogey” had anything to do with, contrary to reality. Technical expertise never replaces conceptual skill, something missed by people intent on laughing about “olde fogeys” who can manipulate well a tool by hand.

ROLLING STONE’s office at that time was in San Francisco. The entire publication later relocated to New York — most of the existing staff was offered to relocate with it though I declined, opting to take a job (magazine, then films) in Los Angeles instead. After five years at Rolling Stone, I wanted a change. So, moving to Los Angeles, I soon went to work as an Art Director at Seiniger Advertising and soon after that was sent on the client meet with George Lucas for his film, “STAR WARS.”

(– Continued on Page 2).

6 C O M M E N T S

  1. […] designed — 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 […]

  2. […] “George Lucas knows I designed the logo — he met with me several times in the design process of the logo and I eventually handed him a finished design. What I’ve shared on my site about the design of that logo explains the process, the meetings, how it was done”, Suzy Rice, the designer behind the Star Wars logo states on her website. […]

  3. […] Trade Gothic (since changed to Franklin Gothic — see below), then a very cool logo (designed by Suzy Rice of Seiniger Advertising) flying away from the camera, and finally a monumental opening crawl that […]

  4. […] (01.) THE “STAR WARS” LOGO DESIGN – Page 1 of 2 […]