The greatest logo of all time?
You’ve probably seen it hundreds of times and you almost definitely have one somewhere in your closet but have you ever taken the time to really appreciate it? The Woolmark logo, designed in 1963 is considered by many as the greatest logo of all time. Seemingly inspired by a skein of wool, the Woolmark was the winning design of a global competition to create a graphic identity for wool. Organised by the International Wool Secretariat, now called Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the Woolmark is credited to an Italian designer called Francesco Saroglia.
There is almost no information on who Francesco Saroglia is and to date no one has been able to find any other examples of his work. Although he’s mentioned by numerous sources as the designer of the Woolmark, the Alliance Graphique International (AGI) attributes the logo design to Franco Grignani (1908-1999). The site suggests that he entered the competition under a pseudonym because he was a member of the jury charged with selecting the winning design. Another theory that has been put forward is that the logo was submitted by another of the panel’s judges – Spiriti.
It’s thought that Grignani was approached by Spiriti, an owner of an Italian advertising agency, and asked to design the Woolmark logo several months before the competition. Shortly afterwards, Grignani was invited to be on the judging panel only for him to see the very work he’d submitted to Spiriti months before entered by an unknown designer called Saroglia. The story goes that he was so embarrassed that his work had been stolen that he decided to conceal the fact that it was his design. When the other jury members chose it as the winning logo, he tried to overturn the decision but in the end it was his logo that was chosen.
Years later in an exhibition on his work he displayed a sketch from his diary with nine possible Woolmark designs that he’d given to Spiriti, and which had been entered into the IWS logo competition. Furthermore Grignani’s previous work shows that he was clearly interested in Op Art and played extensively with arrangements of black and white stripes.
The Woolmark is a timeless icon, beautiful in its simplicity. It looks clear and neat when it’s shrunk right down to fit on a label and powerful when enlarged on a billboard; most importantly it’s a great graphical mystery. And that makes it my favourite logo.