60 Years ago this week: the CBS Eye

One of the most famous corporate logos made its debut 60 years ago this week: The CBS Eye.
CBS is proud of their ol’ Eye, releasing the above photo montage today. It is such an enduring symbol, virtually unchanged in 60 years and recognized around the world.
A decade or so ago, as part of a corporate restructuring, CBS rebranded their outdoor advertising, taking down the old Viacom logos and replacing them with The Eye logo. It is up there on billboards across Canada today even though the network itself does not cross the border. (The programming, obviously does. Actually it floods across the border; CBS shows The Big Bang Theory, The Amazing Race, Survivor, Two and a Half Men and CSI are the most-watches shows in Canada this fall.)
The Eye logo had its debut on Oct. 20, 1951, less than a week after I Love Lucy premiered on CBS. The symbol predated by just over a year the opening of CBS Television City in Los Angeles, itself a remarkably enduring design. The Eye logo has peered out from the top of the still busy broadcast centre since November of 1952. The logo even shows up all over the curtains on the Television City soundstage where The Price is Right tapes. Call me crazy, but if I could order those curtains for my house, I would.

The curtains on The Price is Right set

The old on-air, black and white, animated original used to iris down in the middle like a camera lens. Seeing it flash on some of my old 16mm Dick Van Dyke Show prints is in of itself a nostalgic experience.
Apparently the design came about when CBS creative director Bill Golden was driving through Pennsylvania Dutch country. According to today’s CBS release, “He became intrigued by the hex symbols resembling the human eye that are drawn on Shaker barns to ward off evil spirits. He also came across a drawing he admired, that had the look of an eye, in a publication featuring Shaker art. With the help of graphic artist Kurt Weihs, the Eye logo was created.”

One-eyed critic

In case you were wondering, NBC’s iconic Peacock logo first appeared in May of 1956, part of the then RCA-owned networks push to sell colour TV sets. The eleven feathers were trimmed to six by the mid-’80s, and the peacock flipped to face the future, not the past. ABC’s simple black dot logo, designed by logo whiz Paul Rand (IBM, UPS), branded their network from 1962 to 2007. CBC’s “exploding pizza” logo, simplified in the early ’90s, dates back to 1974.
CBS will use the original logo on air Thursday to mark the anniversary.
The network, by the way, is having a pretty good fall. They had 10 of the top-10 dramas in total audience last week as well as four of the top five in demos.
UPDATE: David Bianculli over at TV Worth Watching has his own arty theory on what really inspired the CBS Eye logo.

One Response to “60 Years ago this week: the CBS Eye”

  1. A month ago I was watching Route 66 on the now-cancelled RTV subchannel. Its two lads, who went week to week travelling – filmed on location – in a Corvette, were ‘working’ at CBS (episode 52, from March 9th, 1962). Fun stuff seeing the office lobby in the background.

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