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Eye Remember, Mama: CBS Logo Turns 60 Years Old
October 19, 2011  | By David Bianculli

CBS-Eye-1951.jpgOne of the most recognizable logo brands of the 20th century, one that's still around (with modernized variations) here in the 21st, celebrates its 60th anniversary Thursday. It's the CBS eye, which, only in the most literal sense, is a black eye on the face of the CBS network. Otherwise, it's a marketing triumph that would make Don Draper weep with pride.

The CBS Eye, with the CBS Television Network identified in the pupil, and with the eye floating behind a sky of black-and-white clouds, was broadcast for the first time on Oct. 20, 1951...

It was a busy, unbelievably fruitful period for CBS. I Love Lucy, which would change the face of situation comedy and become the most popular TV program in the country, had premiered less than a week earlier (on Oct. 15, 1951). See It Now, the Edward R. Murrow newsmagazine that eventually would help topple the Communist witch hunts of Sen. Joe McCarthy, would premiere less than a month later (on Nov. 18, 1951).


According to the official CBS account, the CBS Eye was the brainchild of CBS creative director Bill Golden, who had been asked by network chairman William S. Paley to design a distinctive logo for CBS. Working with graphic artist Kurt Weihs, Golden came up with what was then a somewhat surrealistic, very modern design, with the suggested shape of a human eye floating in mid-air, staring back at the viewer.

As the CBS story has it, Golden was inspired by driving through the Pennsylvania Dutch country, and seeing all the bold, circular hex signs mounted or painted on the sides of barns to ward off evil. It's a nice story, and you'll probably hear or read it this week, as CBS trumpets word of its own logo's anniversary.


But the real inspiration for the CBS eye, I suspect, was something hung not on the side of a barn in Pennsylvania, but on a museum wall in New York, at the Museum of Modern Art:

Rene Magritte's The False Mirror (right), which presented a close-up view of a single human eye -- but instead of being sky-blue-eyed, this particular eye contained a blue sky, complete with clouds.

Magritte's The False Mirror was painted in Paris, and completed in 1928 -- a full 23 years before CBS unveiled its corporate logo.

CBS may insist the similarity to Magritte's surrealistic vision is mere coincidence, and perhaps it is...

But eye know what eye think.




Cathy said:

Eye'm with you, David.

[Thanks. I'd make another eye joke here, but I'm afraid my sense of humor is getting cornea and cornea. - DB]

Comment posted on October 19, 2011 1:50 PM

Betsy said:

"Eye hear ya's : )

Comment posted on October 19, 2011 7:59 PM

Sally W. said:

Great post! I think the history and the theories behind the CBS Eye logo are just fascinating.

Oh, and I almost laughed remembering that Murrow's show was "See It Now" - was there an intention to tie that to the eye logo? Hmm!

[Funny, but no. Murrow's TV series debut actually was a play on a radio show and series of record albums called "Hear It Now." Just changed for a new medium, as was the old radio show, "Candid Microphone," when IT came to TV -- as "Candid Camera." - DB]

Comment posted on October 19, 2011 10:29 PM

Mac said:

You Tube has a couple of histories of the eye, including Charlie Osgood's take on it. You know you're having a slow day at the computer when you follow logo histories (especially bad early computer VHS logos). Even sadder are the people who have access to these and have the time put them together. And I watch. Still no "eye" joke. My eye pun is closed.

[And yet your TV pupil is dial-ated... - DB]

Comment posted on October 20, 2011 9:13 AM
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