For most casual photographers out there, the chances of you ever heard of Kodak are less to none. But to seasoned photographers and most probably your parents, they would know. Kodak is one of the few pioneers in the photography industry introduced way back in 1889. In 1975, Kodak invented the world’s first digital camera to usher in the digital age.
Unlike the lionized status achieved by design legends Paul Rand or Saul Bass, Peter Oestrich, the brain behind the Kodak “K” logo, never achieved the status but his most famous design is as iconic as the work done them. Kodak adopted the famous red and yellow camera-shutter logo in 1971, and it has gone to become one of the most effective and widely recognized symbols in the world for 35 years. It was then replaced with a simple and plain red workmark (picture below). But not until two weeks ago, the company has decided to return to its roots – after 10 years, the Kodak “K” is back alright.
In effort to revive the legendary logo, Kodak has approached New York design studio, Work-Order without even a single brief sent – only thing they did was asking to go back to Oestrich’s “K”. “Fantastic, because we would see no other way than to take it back to this symbol,” says Keira Alexandra, a partner at Work-Order. Alexendra added, “It’s such a valuable asset, it would seem fruitless to begin again”. In resurrecting the logo, Alexendra says she preserved the original proportions of the “K” and its round-corner rectangle. All she did was changing the “Kodak” letters, to a handsome set of bold, capital letters stacking it vertically and evoked sprocket holes on the edges of a roll of film from the plain, boring one previously.
Going back to its roots means reverting back to the iconic typographic wink which propelled Kodak to the iconic status they are now and also alluded to Kodak’s technology. Kodak actually started as a film company back in the 1960s and 1970s. To express that, Oestreich turned both arms of his “K” into beams of light. A matter of perspective, those light rays are projected to be pouring into a camera viewfinder, or projecting outward. While the red and yellow “K” illustrates the physics of photography. Like many other iconic logo, the “K” mark was a mark with meaning hidden from a naked eye, a visual trick similar to the arrow inside the FedEX logo.
Sales started to decrease for Kodak in the early 2000s due to fierce foreign competition and the dawn of digital technology weaken its monopoly on the photography world. In attempt to fend of competitions and modernize in 2006, Kodak took a leap of faith and got rid of Oestreich’s “K”, with a straightforward, dot-com looking “Kodak” wordmark by Ogilvy & Mather. 6 years later, the company filed for bankruptcy.
In order to to resurrect Kodak to its former glory, the company now has a revival plan which involves Yves Béhar’s to design the body of Kodak’s revamped Super 8 camera, that combines both film and digital technology to give filmmakers an effective way to capture grainy, textured footage. That being said, the product is yet to be launched, but Kodak has just recently announced the Ektra, a smartphone designed with capturing and editing photos in mind. Both devices are equipped with new technologies wrapped in black traditional plastic casings reminiscent of the kind normally found on an old rangefinder. “It’s a modern nostalgia,” said Dany Atkins, Kodak’s brand director which directly relates to the new/old logo of Kodak. Dany also added, “It’s very much the final stamp in a product evolution that we’ve been on for a whole year.”
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