Citi & Scher

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Hillman Curtis includes Paula Scher in his Artist Series of mini-documentaries made for the web. I really like these. They’re just the right length and present a nice, well-balanced impression.

Scher recounts how she sketched out the new Citi logo on a napkin in “one second” during an early client meeting. It’s quite a believable story, since I’ve shared the experience. Often, there’s a glimpse of a solution or an outright, clear vision during early client briefings or informal chats. Sometimes, I’ve done the same thing… sketched the answer out right then and there “in a second” on whatever’s handy.

Paula’s right, too, to add her 34 years of experience to the one second to yield the real time invested for such revelations to be enabled.

All that being said, I feel the Citi logo shown above is really not such an extraordinary leap, but a rather obvious evolution. And I’m somewhat disappointed because, in my mind, the merged rendering has casually reduced what was once an icon of the insurance industry (among few others, a group that includes Prudential’s “rock”?) to an oversimplified, concrete arc pasted over a cold and unemotional logotype. I’ll admit that I’ve never really been fond of Citicorp Identity to begin with.

Being naturally curious, I was compelled to dive deeper into the mark’s predecessors.

So, Citi sucks in Travelers usurping its trademark in the process as we’ve seen. Not too long afterwards, Citi spins Travelers back out… now stripped of its signature umbrella and its equity of immeasurable worth.

Finding itself in need of a new identity, Travelers, astoundingly turns the dilemma into an employee competition:

About 700 employees out of the company’s 20,000 participated in the contest and more than 1,700 ideas were generated. Once their ideas were submitted, senior management reviewed the ideas and chose 26 that were possible logo ideas. Then they brought in focus groups to help them narrow it down to three that would best express the company. The final logo, a red ellipse surrounding the company’s name, was a combination of all three winners’ ideas.

“A combination of all three winners’ ideas.”? I love that.

If not already battered and beaten enough, the very next year Travelers merges with St. Paul to form St. Paul Travelers.

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There are 4 comments so far | Post a comment

JF | Aug 30, 2006

Great observations. Here’s my two cents.

Out of the group, the citi logo is the only one that is clear and simple.

Unfortunately, The St Paul Travelers mark has the clunkiest of type faces with a mark that looks ready for refresh right from the start.

Anonymous | Aug 30, 2006

Trivia on Hillman Curtis’ Artist Series…

To which Pentagram partner is this quote attributed?

“Your happiness is really tied up in your work. And, if you’re not doing great work, you’re not going to be happy.”

Patrick Baird | Feb 1, 2007

The citi/citigroup logos may feel cold and unemotional to you.. but please, just think back to the awful rendition prior to Paula Scher’s work - complete with cliche compass!

rbird | Feb 1, 2007

Colbert delivers a great synopsis of American CI nonsense here in less than two minutes:

via Google

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