The Greenpeace logo first appeared on a beer mat

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.

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