UPS
‘Bow-Tied Package’

1961–2003

Design: Paul Rand (USA)

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UPS, an acronym for United Parcel Service, is one of the world’s largest package delivery companies. As a result, the UPS shield is one of the most seen and recognisable logos on the globe.

Back in 1961, UPS commissioned Paul Rand to restyle its shield, which had existed in various iterations since 1919. Rand transformed the logo into a modern image by streamlining the contours and introducing balanced Gothic lower-case letters. He then added an outline of a package with a bow on the top representing a crown. This addition reveals Rand’s remarkable aptitude for creating logos that were humanistic, if not playful – and his genius in communicating the essence of a brand.

Rand also had unorthodox methods for testing his designs, such as using his eight-year old daughter. According to Rand: “when I did UPS… I said, ‘Catherine, what’s this?’ and she said, ‘That’s a present, Daddy’ – which was perfect. You couldn’t have rehearsed it any better.” The UPS logo was the cornerstone of a comprehensive corp-orate identity program and endured without modification for 42 years.

In 2003, UPS unveiled a restyled logo. The shield was given a three-dimensional appearance and the string-wrapped parcel was removed. UPS explained that the redesign (by FutureBrand) reflected the changed nature of their business, that now embraced financial services and supply chain management. In short, UPS was ‘more than a package company’.

Considering the reverence for Rand, the restyle provoked much controversy and negative reactions. Many design critics were dismayed at the loss of another design classic; yet seemed blind to the inappropriateness of Rand’s symbol for a global shipper. UPS noted that for several decades, they’ve rejected packages with strings, which jam the sorting machines.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the change, the debate proved the strong emotional bond that people have to trademarks. A connection also evident in the rebrand speech by the UPS chairman Mike Eskew. More akin to an eulogy, he compared Rand’s shield to an old friend: “The time has come to move on. After more than 40 years of honourable service, it’s time for this old friend to retire with the grace and dignity it deserves. So, today, we’re saying goodbye. But unlike most goodbyes, this is not an ending. Rather, this is a new beginning.”

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