After finally divesting itself of the Bell System, the company that came to be known as AT&T needed a corporate identity program, and it needed it fast."Usually, when you do a giant corporate identity program," Saul commented, "it's more important to do it right than to do it fast, but in this situation the Justice Departement had stipulated that AT&T could not use the Bell System name or mark beyond a specific date - about five months." It was a major undertaking, not least because the company had no name at the time. At first, the client favored the name American Bell and Saul devised an appropriate logo. The Department of Justice, however, ruled that the name was too similar and that any representation of a bell would cause confusion. The job of coming up with a name and logo was given to Saul.
Discussing the campaign, Saul stated: "For the name we recommended AT&T, which was its stock designation on Wall Street. As a communication name it didn't have much purchase, but it at least had awareness in the financial community and we felt it was better than some totally new name. It was an opportunity to signal the international scope of AT&T because their vision at that time was that the company was going to be a global communications player.
"It was this viewpoint that led to the current symbol. When I've been asked to describe the meaning of the new AT&T mark, I've said it described the world girdled by information. Little did I know when I said that ten years ago that the 'Information Superhighway' would become the buzzword of the 1990's"
Saul didn't expect the public to immediately understand the new logo's symbolism. So, when AT&T commissioned him to create animated tags to punctuate their television commercials, he took advantage of the opportunity by amplifying the meaning inherent in the symbol. One tag shows a field of abstract but recognizable bits of information flowing toward and wrapping itself around the globe. Another version was created to accompany the MacNeil / Lehrer NewsHour. Each of these tags reinforced the metamorphosis of a gargantuan national phone company into a global communications giant. The new symbol achieved rapid recognition. After only two years in circulation, recognition stood at seventy-six percent.
Edward Block, then chief marketing executive, commented, "The enormous value of Saul's design was how it built some kind of franchise around a company that was only known on Wall Street. The consumer had never bought anything from AT&T, had never seen any reference to it on a package. As a matter of policy, the local phone company had always been our public face. So a strong graphic system was immeasurably significant in a short period of time."
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