As featured in the May 2012 issue of desktop, over the next few weeks, we will be revealing our top 10 Australian logos of all time. Read more about the feature here. All research and writing by Larissa Meikle and Estelle Pigot.
10th place was awarded to the SBS logo.
9th place: Australia Post
The post office is Australia’s oldest surviving commercial enterprise and until 1975 was known as the Postmaster General’s Department. At that point, it was split into two companies – Telecom Australia and Australia Post. The national postal service was in dire straits, running at a loss and with a damaged public reputation. The split was the recommendation of an inquiry into sluggish government bodies in urgent need of reform. Australia Post had public confidence to win back and revenue to raise.
To celebrate their new, separate identities, both companies were bestowed with a logo designed by another national treasure, Pieter Huveneers. A Dutch émigré and widely known postwar graphic artist, Huveneers had already worked on the corporate identity of a vast number of major European companies, including General Electric Company, British Railways and Pepsi-Cola. Most interestingly, he designed a series of delightful posters for the Great Britain Post Office throughout the 1950s, qualifying him with a particular pedigree for the task of the Australia Post logo. He left the Netherlands in 1968, where he had been the international creative director for Philips based at its headquarters, to come to Australia, “a country with new horizons.”
His neat solution has remained the symbol of the postal service across the country bringing together history, tradition and modernity. The bright red ‘P’ for post smartly incorporates the image of a postal horn: the traditional instrument European postmen use to announce deliveries. According to Australia Post, Huveneers selected red in response to research that showed that the public felt the colour was synonymous with the post service. This is most likely because the colour has long been associated with Commonwealth services. The encompassing circle is said to symbolise the worldwide reach the service offers.
Huveneers’ contribution to the catalogue of Australian visual culture has been great; he went on to create the instantly recognisable Westpac logo, which is still very current. Today, he is 87 years old and retired. Although he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, Huveneers’ partner of 32 years, Tani Wilson, says: “He still recalls much of his work and, of course, retains his great sense of design.” In many ways, his creative handwriting is perfectly realised in the Australia Post brand mark; it is deft and succinct, but at the same time there is an absence of corporate sterility and, instead, it resembles the quiet sparkle of his energised style.
The subtle pictogram is stamped with the designer’s aesthetic and yet, after all these years, it has become so ubiquitous, it’s as though it belongs to every Australian and it now stands for all the values that, back during the 1975 split, the organisation was seeking to reassert – trust, community, honesty and dedicated service.
“We’re immensely proud of our logo, which has included the post horn symbol (‘P’) for almost 40 years and is so familiar to Australians today,” says Mel Ward, media and communications manager of Australia Post.
“Our logo can be seen on almost every street corner on street posting boxes and on the thousands of Australia Post motorbikes, vans and trucks that deliver the mail to 10.9 million addresses every working day.”
At the time of going to print, emerystudio’s contribution to the Australia Post logo and identity development was not included, so herewith an account by emerystudio of its involvement:
With the changing shape of communication and postal services as key product areas Australia Post took a dynamic role in positioning itself for the future. One of its strategies, developed in conjunction with emerystudio, was to look at its own brand identity and to strengthen that visual presence in the market place.
The strategy had to acknowledge a very difficult issue, Australia Post is possibly the only organisation in Australia that cannot protect its own corporate name. Essentially the word ‘Australia’ cannot be protected and neither can the word ‘Post’ so it would be possible to see other companies adding the word Post to their company name without a problem.
emerystudio developed a strategy that identified the need for the public to associate the word ‘Post’ with Australia Post. The challenge was not to be Australia Post but Australia’s Post and to use ‘Post’ as the marketing name. The strategy extended into the perceived ownership of the colour ‘red’, with a consistent use of this colour and the strong relationship with the word ‘Post’ a powerful identity would be established. The previous identity established by Pieter Huveneers was essentially white with red symbol and black name, a recessive image compared with the current emerystudio stand out white on red identity scheme which transformed the presence of the brand across the Australian landscape. Utilising this dynamic image and building on the established strengths of Australia Post the company would be able to maintain its position as Australia’s Post and be excellently prepared for the emerging competitive environment.
Australia Post has a successful network of retail outlets, these outlets sell a wide variety of products and provide a number of important services. Where it is commercially viable you can mail parcels, pay bills, do bank deposits or withdrawals and in addition you can buy stationery, packaging and similar products. emerystudio outlined a strategy to clearly link the product brands with the corporate brand, you could see this clearly in the ‘ParcelPOST’, ‘giroPOST’. ‘RegisteredPOST’ and ‘ExpressPOST’ product ranges.
The strength of emerystudio strategies and design excellence can be seen in the posting boxes, the vivid red pushing the word ‘POST’ clearly forward, there is no mistaking what these objects are. The post boxes are distinctive pieces of street furniture that will take on the same iconic value as the old upright circular post boxes (if you are old enough to remember them.)
The extensive Zurich type family is used in the visual identity, with the POST in a modified Zurich Extra Black. Above the letters P and O sits the word Australia in Zurich Condensed and to the left of these is placed the circular Australia Post symbol. The logotype is reversed out of a red panel in all major visual identity items to consistently reinforce the branding.
Australia Post and emerystudio have acted pro-actively in the face of global competitiveness by using a world best practice approach to put in place strategies that will protect the corporate brand and in turn the market position. These strategies showed Australia Post to be a dynamic, leading edge, full service provider, an organisation which has the commitment and strengths to redefine itself. This is what is necessary to play on the world stage and be a force in traditional service areas and in the emerging world of e-commerce of that time.
Thumbnail image: 1975 (current logo by Pieter Huveneers).