The logo for news channel CNN was designed in 1980 by the late Anthony Guy Bost, who had also been a professor at the University of Auburn. Toni Dwyer of Atlanta-based Communication Trends, Inc. (the ad firm that worked with CNN before the channel got off the ground) distinctly remembered presenting the designs to the powers that be. “There were several forms of the logo they weren’t exactly wild about, there was one we thought would play the best, we tried to keep it simple.”

In 1980, Terry McGuirk, vice president of Turner Broadcasting, was involved in the start-up of the news channel. He was the first to see the logo presentation, and said, “They gave us four or five different looks, and one sort of stood out, a cable running through the letters C-N-N.” CNN founder Ted Turner liked the logo, and the choice was made.

When it came to how much the project was worth, Toni Dwyer said, “For the price of the logo, we wanted something like $5,000. They (CNN) all threw a fit, and the final bill was $2,800 or $2,400.”

CNN logo

The logo was not without its critics. Canadian National Railway believed it closely resembled its logo and raised some concern about the matter. “I didn’t know anything about railroads or the Canadian National Railroad,” Dwyer said. “When I looked at the logos, it wasn’t even close.”

Thirty years later, that logo designed in less than 48 hours is still on the screen, although it’s been slightly changed and sometimes animated.

Here’s the CNN “bug” as shown on-screen (on YouTube).

Details quoted from an old CNN blog post that’s seemingly no longer available. Via Quipsologies.


It is not bad at all.
I think it does not take than 2 hours to design such a logo if they are your INSPIRED 2 hours… and you know what you want.

Overall it is a nice logo. simple and effective.

It is not bad at all.
I think it does not take more than 2 hours to design such a logo if they are your INSPIRED 2 hours… and you know what you want.

Overall it is a nice logo. simple and effective.

I’ll add the proverbial “but it took 10,000 hours to get to the place where you could design something great in 2 hours”.

I read that Led Zeppelin wrote most of their 4th album on the fly in the house they recorded it at in England. The lyrics to “Stairway” took Plant 5 minutes to write. They kind of wrote themselves, he says. That’s the kind of readiness that happens when you do something really well for sustained period of time.

It’s really nice when that happens, in design or art or music. It makes you feel a part of something much bigger than yourself because you know you really are just plugged in to something that decided to show up through you, though you do your best to keep the welcome mat cleaned and straightened for when it does show up.

it does take lots of time and tea and coffee and biscuits to get to those 2 productive and creative hours.

Sorry for double posting above…
David can u please delete my first one?

It reminds me of this:

A woman spotted Picasso sketching outside a café in Paris.

The woman asked Picasso if he might sketch her, and charge accordingly. Picasso kindly obliged. In a few minutes he handed her an original Picasso.”

“And how much do I owe you?” she asked.

“Five thousand francs,” he answered.

“But it only took you three minutes,” she said.

“No,” Picasso said, “It took me all my life.”

I don’t think the logo is great. Is it good because you know who it is? Because of exposure? Or because it is genuinely a great logo?

I’d go with the former.

It’s a good, solid, timeless logo with a great brand behind it — an amazingly effective identity. Logos are only as good as the strategy behind their use.

I think it is a great design. Simple. I see the cable, but I have also always seen a heart monitor-esque heartbeat- another element that you might associate with a news station.

I simply can’t believe that something like that was created in less than 48 hours and is actually still in use today. I believe that identities like that are part of a timeless era of logo design that in the digital age have sort of gone to the wayside. I really hope to be around long enough to have that style of logo come back into usable, profitable style.

Drew Beamer
Graphic Designer

What strikes me is that while many designers would have been tempted to make the cable a bit more explicit, it was a wise decision, and possibly a brilliantly insightful bit of futurism, to keep it a simple line that can be rationalized as a cable.

After all, we all know that the name MEANS Cable News Network, but in time the name CNN has come to mean 24 Hour News, regardless of delivery technology.

If they had made it explicitly a cable it would have become an anachronism during Gulf War 1 when CNN made its reputation for live satellite-delivered new footage.

It is a timeless piece of logo design.

@ lee newham, it may not be showy, shiny or particularly clever, it is simple and effective and we only know who it is because it is so effective.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with logo’s that are changed over time to keep them from looking tired but you have to admire one that can last that long without being reworked significantly. A testament to how good design can be produced under pressure too.

48 hours of inspiration resulted in one of the most recognisable logo in the world today. That is the reason why designers should never charge for their services based on hourly rates.

@James Swatton:

What do you suggest? A touch of drop-shadow? Some gradient effects? Or a nice swoosh or swirl around the logo? You should learn more about works from the likes of Paul Rand, Dieter Rams and William Golden, it may change your opinion about what good design should be.

This logo is an excellent example of what good design is about, simple and distinct.

Great post.

I personally don’t think the CNN logo is that great to look at, However everyone knows this logo as soon as they see it. So it has done a great job at branding the company, and is therefore a great logo.

Thanks for sharing.

And David, you say online logo design companies suck? They do deliver fast and creative logos as well and within 24 hours and at an affordable rate too. There are still geniuses out there! So please don’t say that online logo companies that charge $49 and does the logo in 24 hours are worthless! They are only making it accessible to startups that need logos for their new company and with today’s economy, we as designers need to lend a helping hand to startup businesses.

The CNN logo was in fact designed by Anthony Guy Bost who worked at Communication Trends, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, using letter-press typeface Yagitype Double. Which, given the timeframe, is the equivalent today of opening your favorite design program, looking through your cool fonts, selecting one, and typing out “CNN”.

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