The Real People Behind 7 Iconic Company Logos
Meet the real woman who inspired the Gerber baby, the real soldier in the POW/MIA flag and more of the everyday folks who inspired some of history’s most unforgettable images and logos.
The Gerber Baby
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For years, the identity of the original Gerber Baby was a mystery. People threw out names like Elizabeth Taylor, even former Senator Bob Dole. So it’s only fitting that the model turns out to have been a mystery writer. Ann Turner Cook, now 88, lived next door to artist Dorothy Hope Smith when Smith sketched her in 1927. The drawing was entered into a nationwide contest sponsored by Gerber, and won. For more than eight decades, Cook has been the cute face of Gerber.
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In 1916, Howard Dietz, an employee of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, created a logo for an upcoming film. The logo is unique because it featured a real lion. Some say Dietz chose a lion to pay homage to his alma mater, Columbia University, whose mascot is the lion, and others say it was to honor the company’s co-founder Marcus Loew, whose German last name translates to “lion.” The logo actually uses seven different lions over the years, but the one you’re probably most familiar with is Jackie. He was the first lion to roar. His roar was used up until 1932.
The POW/MIA Flag
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The image is haunting: The black silhouetted profile of a soldier—a watchtower looming ominously over his shoulder. It is an icon that reassures veteran and helps us remember those soldiers of war who are unaccounted for. But before artist Newt Heisley could proceed, he needed the right model. It just so happened that he found him at home. His son Jeffrey, then 22 and now 68, was on leave from the Marine Corps officer candidate program suffering from hepatitis. With his shorn hair and gaunt look (a result of his illness), Jeffrey came to embody the thousands who never returned home.
Columbia Pictures Logo
Ask Jenny Joseph what her favorite part of any movie is, and she’ll undoubtedly say it’s the first couple of seconds before it starts. You know that Statue of Liberty-looking lady who opens each Columbia Pictures film? That’s her. In 1992, the studio hired artist Michael Deas to paint the company’s logo. Deas interviewed countless models, but none had the right look. Then a friend said, “I have the person for you.” Joseph wasn’t a model—she was a graphic artist at The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. But Deas was taken with her. For the four-hour modeling session, Deas wrapped Joseph in a sheet and had her hold a desk lamp sans shade. It was the first and last time Joseph ever modeled.
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The NBA Logo
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Every basketball fan recognizes it: A silhouette of a player driving to the hoop. You can’t see the basket, but you know the player does. And that player is … no, it’s not Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. It’s actually Jerry West from the Lakers, according to the logo’s designer Alan Siegel. Siegel pored through a slew of photos looking for an action shot from which to base his drawing for the NBA logo. He stopped when he came upon one of West (not the exact one shown above). It’s been in continuous use since 1969.