Iconic Indian logos and their creative visionaries

From Nargis Wadia, who designed Air India's iconic mascot 'The Turbaned and Mustachioed Maharaja' in 1955, to RK Joshi, who created the symbol of Punjab National Bank (PNB) in 1984, India boasts a rich history of logo designers who have significantly influenced the visual landscape of the nation.

By  Tanaya PradhanApr 3, 2024 8:22 AM
Iconic Indian logos and their creative visionaries
Indian designers are celebrated for their inventive methods, establishing fresh benchmarks in logo design and contemporary aesthetics. These trailblazers have made enduring contributions to the design landscape, crafting iconic logos that endure through time and resonate with diverse audiences. (Image source: Air India - Mutual Art; SBI - Zero Creativity Learnings; Amul Girl - Wikipedia; Punjab National Bank - Pinterest)

Logos play a vital role in shaping the identity and visibility of thriving companies and brands, swiftly identifiable by consumers. Within the domain of Indian brands, logos not only establish visual identities but also offer glimpses into cultural legacy, entrepreneurial acumen, and creative excellence, influencing some of the country's most cherished trademarks.

Indian designers are celebrated for their inventive methods, establishing fresh benchmarks in logo design and contemporary aesthetics. These trailblazers have made enduring contributions to the design landscape, crafting iconic logos that endure through time and resonate with diverse audiences.

Nargis Wadia - Air India's Iconic Mascot - The Maharaja

Nargis Wadia, a graduate of the JJ School of Art, joined Air India's in-house art studio as a designer in 1955. Initially, the airline's mascot, the Maharaja, was primarily used for corporate branding and could be found at Air India's booking offices, on stationery, coasters, and various other materials, but his presence was not extensive beyond these realms. However, Wadia's team received a directive to make him the airline's prominent face.

Over the following three years, they crafted exceptional artwork that earned global recognition and significantly enhanced Air India's international presence. Prior to Air India, Wadia briefly worked at Shilpi, an ad agency overseen by Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel. Despite encountering challenges as a female professional in a creative field, she thrived in Air India's progressive work culture, mentored by figures like Bobby Kooka, the commercial director. During the late 1950s, Wadia produced numerous posters that propelled the Maharaja to fame, including some controversial pieces like a Paris-themed poster featuring suggestive imagery reminiscent of the Moulin Rouge.

Shekhar Kamat - SBI Logo

Following the nationalisation of 14 banks in 1969, the State Bank of India (SBI) embarked on a process of reinvention. In pursuit of a renewed identity, SBI partnered with the National Institute of Design (NID) to develop and adopt a fresh logo, which was unveiled on October 1, 1971. Shekhar Kamat spearheaded the design of the iconic keyhole symbol placed at the centre of a circle, with assistance from Vikas Satvalekar under the mentorship of Prof Dashrath Patel, the Head of the Design Department at NID. Subsequently, Mahendra Patel contributed by crafting the font that complemented the symbol. According to Kamat, the SBI logo was intentionally crafted for its innate simplicity, with the keyhole symbol specifically chosen for its association with security and its widespread recognition throughout India.

Eustace Fernandes - Amul girl

The renowned Amul girl, wearing a red polka-dotted dress, has made a lasting impression on our memories. Crafted by the skilled illustrator Eustace Fernandes, every aspect, from her blue hair to the dress, was brought to fruition through Fernandes' creative expertise.

The genesis of the Amul girl traces back to 1966 when Sylvester DaCunha, the managing director of the ASP advertising agency, secured the Amul butter account. Simultaneously, Nisha DaCunha, Sylvester's wife, coined the now-famous slogan ‘Utterly Butterly Delicious.’

It was during this period that Fernandes introduced the beloved character, establishing a remarkable collaboration. Since her introduction, the Amul girl, dressed in polka dots with distinctive blue hair and an orange face, has endeared herself to millions across India. Fernandes remained involved with the Amul account until 1969 before establishing Radeus Advertising in 1974. Additionally, Fernandes played a pivotal role in launching the iconic Limca logo, featuring waves, in the Indian market. His contributions spanned various media platforms, including press, outdoor, and cinema, where artists of his era meticulously crafted visuals, leaving behind a lasting legacy.

Sudarshan Dheer

Sudarshan Dheer, a renowned designer, has left an indelible mark on various brands, including Hindustan Petroleum (HP), Titan, the Essar Group, Raheja Corp., Kissan, IDBI Bank, and Centurion Bank, among others. With over 100 brand identities to his credit, Dheer's expertise in logo design has shaped the visual identity of numerous companies.

Reflecting on his work, Dheer explained that the HP logo, for instance, embodies a circle symbolising the distribution of oil across India, with the oil spouting from the bottom and spreading to the sides. Armed with a government diploma in graphic design and fine arts painting, Dheer began his career in advertising agencies like National Advertising and MCM before establishing his own studio, Graphic Communication Concepts, in 1974.

Devashis Bhattacharya - Doordarshan

When reminiscing about the television landscape of the 1970s, Doordarshan inevitably springs to mind for many. Devashis Bhattacharya, an alumnus of the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID), played a pivotal role in creating the enduring 'DD eye' symbol. Alongside eight fellow NID students, Bhattacharya embarked on a government project in Ahmedabad during a crucial juncture when Doordarshan transitioned from its status as a subset of All India Radio (AIR).

His design, characterised by two elegantly curved lines symbolising the yin and yang, caught the attention of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who selected it from a pool of 14 submissions. Despite its initial success, the 'DD eye' underwent further refinement throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with NID students once again at the forefront of the redesign efforts. Notably, another NID alumnus, RL Mistry, contributed significantly to the symbol's evolution by pioneering its animation. Mistry's innovative approach involved creating multiple copies of the symbol and meticulously capturing its motion through camera work, resulting in the dynamic and visually captivating 'DD eye' emblem that has become synonymous with Indian television broadcasting.

RK Joshi - Punjab National Bank

RK Joshi, a legendary calligrapher and academic type designer, hailing from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, honed his skills at the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai in 1952. Embracing indigenous traditions in his design philosophy, Joshi conceptualised the symbol of Punjab National Bank (PNB) in 1984, infusing it with cultural significance. Crafted in the Gurmukhi letter form enclosed within a circular motif, the logo represents the bank's commitment to safeguarding cash deposits.

The vibrant orange hue, symbolising India's cultural ethos, further enhances the emblem's traditional appeal. Established in May 1894, PNB holds the distinction of being the second-largest public sector bank in India, with its emblem serving as a timeless testament to its rich history and national character. Even after four decades since its inception, the PNB logo remains an enduring symbol of the bank's values and national prominence.

First Published on Apr 3, 2024 8:22 AM

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