Paula Scher of Pentagram has recently completed an update of New York City’s Parks Department identity. It’s really nice work, well thought out and beautifully presented, just as you would expect from one of the world’s top firms. Just one thing was bothering me though — I could not help notice the rather striking similarity of the leaf/circle logo to the familiar (at least to Canadians) Air Canada logo.
The write-up on Pentagram’s site helpfully includes a bit of background on the history of the leaf/circle motif at NYC Parks, which apparently dates back to 1934, so clearly Parks were using this long before Air Canada. Or were they? Air Canada did not come into being until 1965, but the company that preceded them, Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA), was formed in 1937. And guess what? TCA’s logo (clearly the precedent for the Air Canada logo), bears more than a passing resemblance to NYC Parks.
Did one copy the other? I highly doubt it. It looks to me as if the Air Canada logo has moved closer to the NYC Parks logo over time, either unconsciously, or aided by a trip to Central Park. It has been simplified and improved and modernized, and in the process the two began to resemble each other more and more, as both moved toward a purer and more iconic form. It’s really a fine illustration of the old saying that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Everything we come up with is some kind of mash-up of what came before combined with a bit of insight on how it could be better.
(via Twitter: @psfk)