I know, I know. Most folks couldn’t care less about where this logo came from. It’s become so ubiquitous in MS that it goes completely unnoticed. After all, it was designed in 1983. Way before Illustrator was mainstream. But someone redesigned it in Illustrator, probably in a hurry, and thought it looked good enough. And to be fair, to everyone but someone who’s a typography nerd, it’s probably fine. There are a few minor things that I’d like to correct, if I may. I just wanted to correct the errors, and if it’s not adopted, that’s okay. It’s enough just to have finally completed it. Mostly for myself.
I was a rookie art director at Maris, West & Baker and was lucky enough to have come on and just the right time to be involved in the Department of Economic Development (DED, back then) account. It involved Mississippi tourism, industrial development materials, etc. My Creative Director at the time was Mike Sommers, who I thought was the coolest dude I ever met. He was a master of typography, and I learned a ton. And, Jimmy Johnson, a Senior Art Director there who was good at just about everything, was a great mentor and showed me the ropes. I still have a caricature of me he drew on my last day there, hanging on the wall next to my desk.
Mike based the logotype on the font Friz Quadrata, first designed by Ernst Friz in 1965. Other collaborators added new weights and italics later. (If you’re really interested check this out.) Mike drew the logo with traditional materials: a Rapidograph pen, french curves, a Compass, a T-square, white gouache, black markers, Exacto knife, etc. Took him a few days. In the initial iteration, the inside curves of the ‘S’ characters curled inside more, in a logarithmic spiral. The second draft is the one you see below. It took only 2 drafts to arrive at the final version. That was in 1984. And the dang logo has been in use for almost 40 years. The version that the Tourism department uses now is a variation.
Redrawn Mississippi Logo
In the time since, the attempts at digitizing the logo have been, in my opinion, sub-standard. If you look closely, the curves aren’t correctly rendered. So it might have been a complete waste of time, but I was just drawn to it (pun unintended). And as Bertrand Russell, said, “the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
And Mike, if you’re reading this, I kerned the second “I” to center between the S’s better. That always bugged me.
The decision not to trademark it was intentional. We wanted Mississippians to use it, and gave them permission to use it in any of their materials, their corporate logos, anyway they wanted. So in the spirit of that decision, here’s a Vector file of my effort. I’m sure there are typographers who could do a better job, but this version is better than the other versions I’ve seen. And it’s true to the original.
Ads from the original 1983 campaign:
My Mom & Dad never did quite understand what I did for a living. And very early in my career, in an attempt to give them an example, I showed them some ads my team had just finished. So after seeing the ads, Mom told everyone I designed the Mississippi logo— which wasn’t exactly true. I assisted Mike, shot PMTs, and had a little bit of input. I laid out ads, brochures, billboards, storyboards, and art directed photo shoots. I repeatedly explained this to Mother, but she didn’t quite get it. All she could see was that logo, and she didn’t really understand how it came to be. I told her many times I didn’t actually design it, that I collaborated on it; I don’t think she really understood.