Top Ten Australian Logos – 4th

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Published:  October 22, 2012
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Top Ten Australian Logos – 4th

As featured in the May 2012 issue of desktop magazine, over the next few weeks, we will be revealing our top 10 Australian logos of all time, as voted in by you and our panel of judges. Read more about the feature and our judging panel here.

All research and writing by Larissa Meikle and Estelle Pigot.

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10th place was awarded to SBS.
9th place was awarded to Australia Post.
8th place was awarded to Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
7th place was awarded to Nine Network.
6th place was awarded to Woolmark.
5th places was awarded to Woolworths.

4th place: Commonwealth Bank

From 1921 to the 1950s, the Australian Coat of Arms was the Commonwealth Bank’s first insignia and was kept for almost 50 years, with only a slight variation in the design occurring in 1926. During the 1950s, a dark and light blue symbol of entwined CBA letters in a circle, appeared on some branch façades and stationery, although the Coat of Arms remained the official Bank marque. The CBA symbol had a short-lived existence and ceased to be used after the formation of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation in 1960. The existence of the Commercial Bank of Australia, commonly known as the CBA Bank, was possibly the reason the Commonwealth Bank’s CBA symbol was not adopted ‘officially’.

Logo c.1950

1961 logo by George Hamori

With the change in structure that took place in 1961, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation was established and a new trademark introduced. It was designed by a very modest and shy Hungarian man named George Hamori, and featured the map of Australia enclosed in a black circle with three radiating rings to the right hand side. The offset rings created the idea of expansion and symbolised the Corporation’s three constituent banks – the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Development Bank. Gold colouring of the background was symbolic of wealth and the beginnings of banking. The seven-pointed star on the left of the design represented the Commonwealth and the six states. The Corporation name was placed around the perimeter of the design.

After Hamori’s original design, the Commonwealth Bank only received one slight modification in 1984, explains the bank’s marketing manager, brand advertising, George Pank. “The actual change to the logo in 1984 was very straightforward – it only involved the removal of the star and the words Commonwealth Banking Corporation,” he says.

Described as “bold, strong, modern and progressive” in a bank press release, the Commonwealth Bank’s current logo was introduced when the bank enlisted its new identity in September 1991. According to the bank, the design is based on the formation of the Southern Cross constellation with the yellow section linking the five stars of the Southern Cross, and the black portion completing the geometrical shape. Yet, Ken Cato, the designer appointed in 1989 to create this new corporate identity, disagrees: “It doesn’t mean the Southern Cross; it means the Commonwealth Bank,” he says. “We needed a shape that could still include the colours yellow and black (as this distinguished us from all of the other banks’ colours) and it had to be a memorable shape in contrast to the bank’s competition and a diamond seemed like a good idea, plus it breaks up the black and yellow colours,” Cato adds.

According to the Commonwealth Bank, the current logo shape is based on the Southern Cross constellation

1989 (current) logo by Ken Cato

The story behind the development of the trademark’s single, extended character, double M typeface is also surprising. “It simply came down to having very uncomfortable words placed together,” says Cato. “It was a very long word followed up by a descriptor word like ‘bank’ and I needed to make the word ‘Commonwealth’ as short as I could. There was also a picket fence in the word where the double ‘M’ forms an awkward arch, so these were the decisions behind the joining of the letters and the legibility was not lost – only a designer would pick it up.”

While the Commonwealth Bank declined to comment on the controversial price of the revamp, Cato says he has to smile when people bring up the so-called $11 million redesign budget. “In today’s world, that figure is considerably small when it comes to the branding of big corporations, which have to replace all of their building signage and stationery – it’s almost laughable as it was done incredibly cheaply.”

3 Responses

  1. Jay

    really!?….I’ve always disliked this logo. It looks broken or unfinished… it says nothing about the company it represents and it looks awkward no matter where or how it is positioned. Thanks for the explanation though as I’ve been wondering what it was supposed to represent for over a decade. Although I do like the handling of the typography, this would be in my top 5 list of how not to design a logo.

    • I agree. This logo’s fascination for me is that I can’t ever resolve it into anything meaningful. It’s just annoying.
      I got hopeful while reading the explanations above until I found out it is NOT the Southern Cross, just “a diamond seemed like a good idea at the time.” Grr.

  2. Jack

    This logo looks to me to be an abstract representation of Australia in yellow (the Commonwealth Bank) and the black as a representation of NZ (ASB Bank). The two shapes are about where they should be if you were looking at a map. And the choice of colours are significant too as they have strong ties to each country.

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