Except for some subtle refinements, Japanese electronics maker Sony has had the same logo since 1956. But to celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary in 1981, someone at Sony had a brilliant idea: let’s throw a contest, and get the unwashed masses to redesign our logo for us!
According to the ad, Sony received almost 30,000 entries for a new logo from the United Kingdom, Europe, North and South America, Japan, and Asia. They then narrowed these 30,000 entries down to three winners, and proceeded to not use any of them.
The three winning designs — recorded for posterity in this vintage ad from Time, and rediscovered by Greg Prichard — aren’t just a fascinating look at a new Sony logo that never was, but serve as an object lesson on why you shouldn’t try to crowdsource design.
“It was the decision of the judges that there was no clear first, second, or third place winner and that the prize money should therefore be divided equally among the three finalists,” Sony’s copy reads. “And until the time comes in the future that we decide to make a change, the Sony logo will remain the same and continue to represent our commitment to innovative thinking and quality projects.” Because what better represents innovation than leaving things the same?
Yet with the hindsight of history, it’s sort of hard to fault Sony. All three “winning” logos are super ’80s in design, like they belong on the side of a VHS tape. That said, it’s impossible to imagine any of them surviving the decade because they’re virtually illegible. Comparatively, Sony’s current logo -—rendered in Clarendon Bold Expanded, or something similar — seems timeless. It’s simple. It’s recognizable. It renders well in a number of different mediums. And it has class.
So while it seems like bad form to get 30,000 people to design a logo for you, only to shriek “PSYKE!” at the end, it’s hard to argue Sony didn’t make the right choice.
[H/T Under Consideration]