MEMPHIS, Tenn. – For its 125th anniversary, International Paper (NYSE: IP) has ditched its 63-old “P tree” logo for a strange boat looking logo that evokes, possibly, a ship, or a bunch of ships with one ship upside down. If it is a tree it is a flat tree, or a bush. It may well be a paper factory roller?
The company announced the logo change to “rebrand to align with its strategic vision to Build a Better IP through sustainable, profitable growth and accelerated value creation.” The new design is said by the company to highlight “the resilience of International Paper, the sustainability of its mission and its commitment to creating what’s next.”
The logo, in a 1980s evoking green, destroys the equity built by its well-known and classic P logo by the late Lester Beall (1903-69). Beall was a Kansas City-born graphic designer known for his corporate work, including magazines such as Time and Collier’s, and numerous corporate logos, including the chemical company Rohm and Haas and the block cross style logo of Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith. He also had a career doing posters and graphic items, including design for the large conglomerates formed in the U.S. after World War II.
The new branding, the company said, is rooted in the company’s “legacy of safety, ethics and stewardship. It embodies a renewed sense of purpose, energy, and optimism, and marks another major milestone in the evolution of International Paper.”
“IP is meeting today’s needs for renewable, fiber-based packaging and pulp while sharpening our focus on the future,” said Mark Sutton, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, International Paper.
The company said that the new branding will be rolled out globally beginning this month and include notice of an updated website which will “launch soon” as a “one-stop-shop” for stakeholders to see first-hand “IP’s commitment to being among the most successful, sustainable and responsible companies in the world.”
Previous Logo Evoked 1905 Logo
The P-tree logo of the company, familiar to most Americans, evoked an earlier design for International Paper that featured a spruce tree inside of a Roman-style laurel wreath, pictured here. The stylized logo of 1960 is from an era of minimalist logos. At the time, many companies hired designers like Saul Bass, Raymond Loewy and Paul Rand to make their logos simpler, so they could be better seen and stand out on hundreds of different products and packages. Of particular interest was simplifying early 20th century logos, which were ornate, and sometimes even rococo.
The Beall logo for International Paper, a simplified tree and P, dates from 1960, according to Hal Morgan’s book, Symbols of America. Morgan wrote that after the presentation, the company’s chairman, John Hinman, joked, “That’s a hell of a thing to do to a good spruce tree.” He was eventually won over. Hinman was a legend with the company, beginning in 1913. He doubled the size of the company’s land holdings, and is in the Paper Hall of Fame.
The Hinman quote might as well apply to the most recent logo, as well.
Beall was noted as being the first designer to receive a show at the Museum of Modern Art. His work was seen most recently in the 2011 exhibition, “Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen.”
The Smithsonian, in a profile, said that Beall began his art career in 1917, when he took Saturday art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. He later mastered mechanical and technical drawing. After graduation, he became a freelance illustrator, and during the Depression, found time to search the Art Institute’s library for inspiration.
He moved to New York in 1935, and established a practice in Wilton, Conn.
Below, some of Beall’s best known poster work. A link to his work at MOMA is here.