This is an old story, but it appears to have vanished from the internet. It deserves to live on, as it tells the tale of how one of the most recognised logos on the planet was born in a bar.
When Greenpeace International was set up in the late 1970s there was one item that kept appearing on the agenda of every annual planning meeting: finding a common logo. In those days, there was no agreed way to write (or even capitalise) “Greenpeace.”
Some adopted a Native American symbol while others used a peace sign and the ecology icon with “Green Peace” as two words.
Some wrote “Greenpeace” in a Times-Roman font, and others would use whatever typeface they fancied that week — often depending on which Letraset sheets were lying around the office or ship.
Whenever the logo came up for discussion,it would either lead to an argument based on personal preferences or get overlooked in favour of more important campaign matters.
Remi Parmentier recalls “One day in Paris in 1980, we were out of Letraset sheets and the local stationery shop was closed. A publication needed a Greenpeace logo. So Jean-Marc Pias, a fellow who was making posters and stickers for us, ran around the corner to a bar and asked an artist friend, Patrick Garaude to write out “Greenpeace” for him.
“Garaude drew quickly with a fat felt-tip pen, on a beer mat, and the “graffiti logo” was born. It was adopted by office after office and ship after ship until it became one of the most recognised symbols in the world.”
One thing that made it fit Greenpeace’s organisational story was the quickness it expressed — “like somebody is spray-painting it on a wall fast before the cops show up.” It was designed to look like it wasn’t designed, and for an organisation that in those days never, ever used the word “brand” the only logo that was going to succeed was one that didn’t look like a logo. It had to say “pirate” more than “navy” and put an anti- and counter- prefix on anything it said about authority and culture.
Remi says: “Whenever I see that logo today, especially in remote places like Antarctica and the Amazon, I remember Garaude with a pen in one hand, and a beer in the other.”
Remi also says he really wishes he kept that beer mat.