|The first appearance on screen of the Suzy Rice Star Wars logo, as revised by Joe Johston|
Its appearance at the very beginning of Star Wars is a great moment in cinema. But until recently, I had never given any consideration to the origins of the film's famous logo – and it turns out to have a fascinating history.
The Star Wars logo recedes as the film's
opening crawl begins, long before
'Episode IV' was added
Yet the Star Wars logo that we're all so familiar with was not originally intended to appear in the movie.
The Dan Perri Star Wars logo and the Suzy Rice Star Wars logo
|Dan Perri's logo on a |
1977 Star Wars poster
The logo as we know it was largely created by Suzy Rice, an artist at Seiniger Advertising, a design studio working for 20th Century-Fox. She had been responsible for logos for other Fox films that year, including Smokey and the Bandit. Rice tells the story of the logo's creation at length on her own website and recalls that no one else in the design studio was keen to take the job. The agency's contract was with Fox rather than Lucas himself, and word had spread that Lucas “had been repeatedly rejecting image work – logos, advertising – that Fox had been obligating him and the film budget to cover".
The brief was to design a 'bid brochure' for Fox to send to cinemas, encouraging them to book the film. “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,” Rice writes.
George Lucas and the 'fascist' logo design
|The Star Wars logo as designed |
for a 1977 'bid brochure'
by Suzy Rice
(I should add, at this point, that Suzy Rice's comments started a pretty esoteric and angry online debate about whether Helvetica was a 'fascist' typeface, but she says this was never her contention. I think we can also ignore the eccentrics who have concluded that George Lucas or the film were somehow 'fascist'.)
|1977 advance poster |
containing the Suzy Rice
logo with the square 'W'
A few days later, Rice recalls, producer Gary Kurtz rang her to say that Lucas had decided to use her logo in the titles, because it fitted better than Perri’s. “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.”
There had been a little more tinkering before the logo made it to the screen, however. According to The Star Wars Poster Book (Chronicle, 2005) and the website Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, Joe Johnston of Industrial Light and Magic re-designed the ‘W’ and spaced the letters a little wider before it was put on film. (Incidentally, Marvel’s letterer Jim Novak seems to have taken Rice’s logo and redrawn it as well, but slightly differently, as the Tenth Letter post recounts.)
Variations on the Star Wars logo
|The UK Star Wars novel, |
still with the square 'W'
Rice hit on a design that would lend itself to enough variations to remain fresh for decades. And I’ll bet there must be kids all over the world who have, at one point, tried writing their name in that Helvetica-derived font – and been slightly disappointed if there was no way of joining some of the letters together like the ‘ST’ and the ‘RS’ of the movie.