Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

“This is what you need — a magic dot.”

Saul Bass (1920-1996) described a particularly sticky moment when he presented his Minolta design at the company’s Osaka headquarters in 1980.

Minolta logo Saul Bass

“Although his son, the President of the company, had initiated the corporate identity program, the Chairman and retired founder, Kazuo Tashima, remained skeptical of such fancy new ways.

“During the initial consultation process, he listened to my proposals in stony silence. At one point when I was speaking, Mr. Tashima plucked a miniaturized Minolta camera from its display stand, and said ‘Gentlemen, we have a very small product. There is hardly enough room on it for a name, let alone a symbol!’

“I paused a moment. ‘Mr. Tashima,’ I said, ‘your company has a perfectly symmetrical name — three letters on each side of a circle — and the circle is the perfect place for a symbol.’ I then reached over and took Herb Yager’s pipe out of his hand; it was a Dunhill pipe. I pointed to the traditional white Dunhill dot and said, ‘This is what you need — a magic dot.’ That did it. From then on the old lion was intrigued.”

Excerpted from page 348 of the superb book Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, published by Laurence King.

Dunhill pipe dot
The trademark dot on Dunhill pipes, photo credit PipesMagazine

Minolta corporate identity
The Minolta corporate identity applied

Minolta merged with Konica in 2003 to form Konica Minolta.

Saul shared a little advice for design students in this video (embedded below).

From the LDL archives: Saul Bass logos: then and now.

Minolta logo (top) credit: I is someone else

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

14 appreciated comments

  1. What a fantastic anecdote about the Minolta logo!
    It is easy to forget that we need to “sell” designs not just “present” them — this is a great example of that.
    I suppose the “Saul Bass” brand name helped him persuade this particular client.

  2. Great anecdote and a nice reminder of why I need to order that book!

  3. I think way more designers need to take this view it helps so much to be able to sketch out an idea first before you start finalizing the desgin :)

  4. Dina Dembicki

    Sheaffer (writing instruments) has a magic dot as well. Usually on or above the clip. They’ve used it since their inception in 1913.

    http://www.sheaffer.com/writing/product_detail.php?ID=1

  5. VDM

    How This Same Anecdote Would Have Occurred in 2012

    Saul Bass: “This is what you need. A magic dot like on THIS pipe…”
    ….
    Saul Bass: “Where’s the pipe?”
    Herb Yager: “The administrative assistant took it. She said this was a smoke-free environment.”
    Kazuo Tashima: “Leave my office immediately and never return.”

  6. kai

    Leica also has a magic dot. :)

  7. Thanks for using my picture in this article, I am a Minolta collector.
    http://www.flickr.com/trembleatdawn

  8. Nice quote David. I really need to get that book. It’s on a long list ;)

    Ever since I started watching Mad Men, I’ve been very interested in the unorthodox ways of how designers can pitch to their clients and this is a great example.

  9. VDM, or you could replace the pipe with the Sheaffer pen Dina mentioned, or Kai’s shout for a Leica camera.

    Mad Men’s definitely a favourite series, Jamie. Looking forward to season five.

  10. Great post. As I’ve gained more confidence and experience in my work, it’s becoming easier to “sell” my ideas. Sometimes you just have to move on and do what the client asks, but I’ve been surprised over the last couple of years how many clients will listen to you and allow you to make the best decision for them when they see your passion. Saul was a master at finding that right angle to sell at.

  11. Converting the unbelievers. That’s salesmanship 101. I like that.

  12. This is the sort of advice I wish more designers would bring to their day to day dealing with clients in a more agressive manner. If every single one of us did that, clients wouldn’t behave so badly towards the design profession.

  13. Too bad Minolta wasn’t able to make the switch to digital. It was bought out by Sony and the line discontinued. At least the brand will live on as a fundamental design/sales lesson and part of Saul Bass’ legendary portfolio of work.

  14. Inspirational story. I think the fact that the “magic dot” was well thought through and justified by the symmetrical layout, makes it so impressive. It shows that if there’s a reason behind your design elements, no matter how simple, your client will (eventually) understand your proposal.


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