CBS’ famous Eye Logo celebrates 60 years of service

CBS - the first eye logo 1951It was October 20th 1951 when CBS introduced its world-famous eye animation to American audiences, the logo would later be the inspiration for ATV’s original eye and its shadow logo introduced to ITV in the UK in 1955.

It was October 20th 1951 when CBS introduced its world-famous eye animation to American audiences, the logo would later be the inspiration for ATV’s original eye and its shadow logo introduced to ITV in the UK in 1955.

The CBS logo has become one of America’s most famous and enduring icons. It proves that evolution rather than revolution works with design. While ITV has lost strong brands to a muddy puddle of bland ITV1 nothingness, American commercial networks embrace their key brands and symbols for all they’re worth. CBS has for six decades used its eye in several animated versions and it all began as a symbol which flashed up between the adverts.

“From the Network to the Corporation, the CBS Eye is an enduring asset of our company and a major source of pride for all of us,” said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation.   “It is a corporate logo that is known and respected all around the world, and continues to be a fitting symbol of CBS’s proud history and ongoing leadership.”

Tomorrow CBS is having a retro day of nostalgia as CBS.com and CBSNews.com celebrate 60 years of eye contact with viewers. CBS.com will replace its current homepage identity with the original eye logo and a history of the iconic graphic.

CBSNews.com will also look at the history of the eye, and its creation as well as a photo gallery of the eye logo throughout the decades.

CBS logo 1970sTelevision broadcasts will also mark the anniversary, at 8:00 PM, ET/PT, the CBS Network will broadcast a special promotion sequence showcasing the various CBS Eye logos throughout the years and highlighting the significance of the days date.  Old logos will also air in replacement of the current branding at certain points during the evening.

The first animation of the CBS Eye saw the centre as a camera iris that opened and shut with an alternative version of the eye set against a cloud backdrop.

“Over the years there have been different colors and sizes of the Eye, but to this day, the perfectly-balanced design remains unchanged.” CBS say proudly.

CBS’ roots in broadcasting stretch back to radio networks launching in 1927 however by 1951 CBS Television had become a leading commercial network in the USA with hit shows such as, the still popular, I Love Lucy sitcom starring Lucy Ball and launched CBS’s first news documentary series, the critically-acclaimed See It Now hosted by the legendary American broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.

CBS Logo 1980sThat same year, CBS President Frank Stanton felt the time had come to give CBS Television a distinct and distinctive identity, so he asked creative director Bill Golden to design an on-air symbol. Golden’s inspiration came while driving through Pennsylvania Dutch country.  He became intrigued by the hex symbols resembling the human eye that are drawn on Shaker barns to ward off evil spirits.  He also came across a drawing he admired, that had the look of an eye, in a publication featuring Shaker art. With the help of graphic artist Kurt Weihs, the Eye logo was created.

As the image became established, Stanton was determined to keep the CBS Eye in the public eye. He had the clouds removed and emblazoned the symbol on cameras, curtains, buildings, jewellery and rate cards. The next season, when Bill Golden prepared to design a new symbol, Stanton overruled him, saying: “Just when you’re beginning to be bored with what you’ve done is when it’s beginning to be noticed by your audience.”

Decades later, the Eye continues to receive critical acclaim.  On Dec. 13, 1998, it was featured in The New York Times Magazine’s roundup of the century’s “greatest design hits,” and a “Company Logo Smackdown” in the May 5, 2008 issue of Fortune magazine stated “CBS’s logo is as relevant today ‘as the day [in 1951] it was introduced.’” Most recently, the March 14, 2011 issue of TIME ran a story about the evolving logos of many corporations through the decades, stating “…in the case of CBS, sometimes companies get it right the first time.”

CBS logo 1990sIn 1955 Lord Lew Grade of Elstree was, it is said, on a flight back from America and pondering some finishing touches for the new ITV Network, which Grade was to be responsible for the London and Midlands services run by ATV.

The tale goes that during the flight, and having taken inspiration from CBS, he drew the ATV Eye logo on a paper napkin. It however only remained in use until 1981, and had been dropped as the company’s corporate logo in 1979.

UK television has failed to, excluding Channel 4, managed in recent times hold on to strong brands and symbols, which have given way to supposedly modern – yet bland – replacement identities introduced by management who clearly don’t have the talent for television branding like their American counterparts.

Share Button