Hex Marks the Spot: The CBS Eye

Design historians have perpetuated the story that the CBS eye was designed in 1951 by William Golden (above right) based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex symbol.

“Golden’s original inspiration came while driving through Pennsylvania Dutch country. He became intrigued by hex symbols resembling human eyes that were painted on the Amish barns to ward off evil spirits. Additional inspiration was found in Shaker art from 1850s. His basic concept was to portray television’s unblinking electronic eye,”  notes designhistory.org.

It is also acknowledged that the final iteration of the logo was sketched and executed by the designer Kurt Weihs. The story, however, is not entirely true.

Talking with George Lois, who was the featured speaker at Dublin’s OFFSET conference this past weekend, I learned that the “driving through Pennsylvania Dutch country” detail may be apocryphal.

“That’s not how I heard it from Bill or Kurt,” says Lois, who worked for Golden at CBS in the early 50s.

Rather Golden and wife, the art director Cipe Pineles, were, like many of their generation, avid antiques collectors. And according to Lois, while browsing  Antiques magazine, Golden found the hex symbol or “God’s Eye” was at the top of a vintage birth certificate, which looked pretty much like the recent sketch by Lois on the left. Golden showed the magazine image to Weihs (who incidentally, lived in the same building in Greenwich Village as Lois and his family), and told him to redraw and clean it up.

Weihs proceeded to make a schematic. “He was always extremely precise,” says Lois. “If he were drawing just a circle, he’d make all sorts of geometric guide lines,” illustrated in Lois’ sketch on the right.

Although Lois never saw the final tracing paper drawing, he recalls “the stat I saw, all drawn in line, was a negative, with some of the lines browning.” This before CBS was placed in the pupil. Weihs had kept the browning stat in his flat file until he died in 2004. Its whereabouts today is unknown.

4 thoughts on “Hex Marks the Spot: The CBS Eye

  1. Pingback: Interesting Read on CBS logo « PMS320 : the insignificant confessions of a graphic designer | a blog by LexEvan

  2. Larry Launstein Jr

    Steven:

    While we are on the subject of CBS, you should do a story about one of the most famous of CBS’ music art clients, the legendary rock band Chicago, possessors of one of the greatest logos in popular music history (ranked by Classic Rock Corner #5 all time – http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2008/12/classic_rock_corner_the_greate_1.php). Their logo has adorned every one of their albums, and made its debut in 1970’s Chicago (II). It has been put on sheetmetal, carved into paneling, sewn into a flag, used as part of bank note paper, made into a leather design, and used on a map of Chicago.

    But, during their period with CBS, their crowning achievement was a Grammy Award for album cover design for Chicago X (1976), the one with the candy bar.

    The designers of the logo, and those great CBS album covers, were John Berg and Nick Fasciano. They rank as some of the greatest covers in popular music history.

    Another person who has had some involvement with the Chicago logo was Dean Torrence, of Jan and Dean fame. See his story about the Chicago logo here:
    http://www.jananddean.com/ktychptr2/ktychptr2.html

    To view the covers and use of the logo, visit here:
    http://chicagotheband.info/discographyinprogress.cfm
    This is still being worked on by the band’s web masters, and some of the more recent recordings have yet to be included, but all the CBS covers are there, as well as 16 and 17.

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