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CBS Identity, 1960s

Contributed by Garrison Martin on Feb 13th, 2014. Artwork published in .
    CBS. License: All Rights Reserved.

    In 1959, Lou Dorfsman was given the impossible task of following William Golden (the designer of the “eye logo”) as Creative Director at CBS Television. One of the most important contributions to the CBS corporate image was his expounding upon Golden’s high contrast Didone designs with help from ATF alum Freeman “Jerry” Craw.

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    In 1962, Dorfsman commisioned legendary type designer Freeman Craw to add finishing touches to an earlier specimen drawn by CBS staffers George Lois and Kurt Weihs. (Graphic designer Will Burtin once claimed that Golden's original logo used a Didot specimen that Burtin stuffed into his suitcase when he fled Nazi Germany in 1939.)

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    By 1964, Dorfsman was promoted to Director of Design, overseeing virtually every design aspect of the company. In 1965, CBS set up its new headquarters on 52nd Street in New York.

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    The resulting typeface was used in CBS's identity along with all promotional materials for the company.

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    Dorfsman was put in charge of designing all sorts of fixtures in the CBS Building, including elevators buttons, exit signs and wall clocks. Dorfsman used Craw's CBS Didot thoughout the whole building, with the famous exception of Gastrotypographicalassemblage, a project assisted by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase.

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    By the 1970's, Dorfsman started to stray away from the uptight design sensibilities of the 60's. Craw's custom typeface saw less and less use. CBS Didot would still go on to be used on CBS projects, like the self-titled debut LP of Jaco Pastorius.

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    Dorfsman's years at CBS are prolifically documented in his book Dorfsman and CBS: A 40 Year Commitment to Excellence in Advertising and Design.


    • CBS Didot




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    17 Comments on “CBS Identity, 1960s”

    1. Feb 13th, 2014  2:46 am

      Thank you so much for this well-documented history. ITC Didi, released in 1970, is very similar and adds a lowercase. I’ve only seen it credited to Lubalin and Carnase, but it must have been based on this design.

      Where did you find the specimen (second image) and where did you read the rumors about the Ludwig & Mayer Didot?

    2. Mine Creek says:
      Feb 13th, 2014  3:31 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed my post Stephen!

      Your ITC Didi posts are actually what reminded me of this typeface.

      The Ludwig & Mayer Didot possibility came from Paul Shaw.

      In Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin, Burtin claims that Golden borrowed his specimen sheet of Firmin Didot for the CBS logo, the above link speculated on what foundry book it came from.

      I got the CBS Didot specimen from here.

      There’s some stuff about the Dorfsman/Lubalin/Carnase project Gastrotypographicalassemblage here and a cool video here.

      There’s a possibility that Lubalin and Carnase were inspired by this typeface when they did ITC Didi, I didn’t catch that!


    3. Feb 13th, 2014  6:13 am

      Thanks. Don’t forget to fill in the “Source URL” field for any images that aren’t yours.

    4. Feb 13th, 2014  11:39 am

      I’m not sure about the Ludwig & Mayer Firmin Didot theory. It could have been an inspiration but the L&M version (from 1927–29) looks quite different, most notably in that it is wider and the S much more bowly. It was only available in regular, italic and bold, in sizes 6–48 pt.

    5. Mine Creek says:
      Feb 13th, 2014  10:41 pm

      Thanks Indra! I went ahead and changed the Ludwig & Mayer thing.

      There’s a lot of contradictory information that I’ve found.

      One spot said that Golden used a Didone similar to one he’d seen on a trip to France. There are some stories on the internet that say that Kurt Weihs, who helped with the original logo, greatly modified the typeface they were using. Then there’s Burtin’s colorful claim.

      I agree that CBS Didot took major inspiration from somewhere else. Maybe a specimen more true to earlier Didot drawings.

      Thanks for your scan!

    6. Feb 20th, 2014  2:34 am

      I think it is quite plausible that ITC Didi grew out of CBS Didot. The caps and numerals are very, very similar, with only very slight differences here and there. The ampersand is also close in style.

      The typefaces which made up the core of the early ITC releases (including Didi) were first used exclusively by Lubalin, Smith, Carnase and by Lubalin, Burns & Co. Many grew out of lettering the studio did for clients. It’s possible that Didi was made as early as 1967 or earlier as Tom Carnase said that he drew many of these faces for the Bonder & Carnase Studio, Inc. (a studio he ran with Ronné Bonder from 1965 to 1969). So the date for Didi, might very likely precede 1970 label.

      It is reasonable to assume that a full typeface was drawn with a starting point being the CBS Didot. Lubalin and Dorfsman being close friends after all would make this very possible.

    7. Feb 20th, 2014  2:38 am

      Also, I can’t really find a lot of proof that Didot was part of Bill Golden’s brand for CBS. The eye logo is on many pieces of promotion, but the typeface for CBS often changes per ad, and there is no consistent Didot-style across many ads. Not until Dorfsman is there a strong Didot presence. If anything, there’s lots of Scotch Romans.

      Anyone have information, images otherwise? It’s quoted that he used Didot, but I can’t seem to find much.

    8. Feb 20th, 2014  4:28 pm

      The other voice in all of this is George Lois, of course. Here is what he said in 1998:

      SH: And you designed the official CBS typeface.

      GL: Golden wanted me to re-draw Didot Bodoni. He didn’t want people to think we just used [an existing] typeface, he wanted it to be CBS’s own. There’s nothing more beautiful than Didot Bodoni. I blew it up in stats, re-drew it a little bit and gave it a little more style (what I thought was more style). I did six of them to show Bill where I was going – A, B, C, D, E, F. And Golden loved it and told me to do the final pen and ink lettering myself. I did one letter a week. They were fairly easy. It was the numbers that were hard! But they turned out beautifully.

      Eye Magazine, no. 29 vol. 8, 1998

    9. Feb 21st, 2014  12:23 am

      Fascinating. Now we have a fifth designer to credit for this typeface.

      “Didot Bodoni”! His casual hybridization of distinct names extends right to the mix of French and English Modern sources for the typeface.

    10. Mine Creek says:
      Feb 21st, 2014  5:55 am

      Thanks for tracking down all that information Alexander!

      A few credible sources indeed say that Kurt Weihs and George Lois drew the makings of this typeface at William Golden’s directives. Which I totally overlooked in my findings.

      I checked out the website of advertising legend George Lois. His namesake logo is set in a very familiar typeface.


    11. Feb 21st, 2014  10:14 am

      I saw that too, Mine. As far as I can tell, it’s ITC Didi. The ‘Q’ and ‘?’ give it away, as opposed to the CBS Didot specimen above. Lois also used Didi for his book, Ali Rap.

      I don’t think we can take Lois’ account at face value, though. Other claims he made are disputed, including the famous 1960 ad for Coldene and the Nickelodeon logo. It turns out Lois has a reputation for taking credit for work that he did not do. He was even featured on This American Life for his fanciful storytelling.

    12. Mine Creek says:
      Feb 22nd, 2014  1:15 pm

      Stephen, you bring up a good point about George Lois. He can spin quite a yarn. If Lois’ choice to oversee Ali Rap doesn’t say everything about his comedic yet boisterous spirit, I don’t know what does. 

      I also want to bring up that a few source inconsistencies exist with the actual date of Freeman Craw’s involvement. The above Lucy and Gleason CBS preview book displays a date of September 9, 1962. The CBS Black Rock building opened its doors in 1965. Yet American Type Design and Designers by David Consuegra gives 1966 as the year of Craw’s CBS Didot. Which is kind of confusing.

    13. May 7th, 2015  11:15 pm

      Just found a 1970 LSC ad for Didi crediting Tom Carnase.

    14. Nick Sherman says:
      Dec 17th, 2016  11:20 pm

      Here’s a specimen of CBS Didot that also shows the lowercase in Ben Rosen’s book, The Search for Corporate Identity

      CBS Didot Thanks to Sasha at the Lubalin Center for knowing this sample existed in this book.
    15. Rod McDonald says:
      Feb 16th, 2017  7:21 pm

      Many years ago I spoke with Jerry Craw about CBS Didot and he said it was actually based on the Didots done by C. E. Coryn at Photo-Lettering Inc. Like so many of us Craw greatly admired Coryn’s Didots. Coryn was also the first lettering artist to have a show at the Alphabet Gallery at Photo-Lettering in November 1951.

    16. Cave Grove says:
      Feb 25th, 2017  10:20 am

      Having seen a video of Kurt Weihs effortlessly ink out a CBS eye logo— along with the fact that he and George Lois worked closely for years after their time at CBS—those two surely had input on this design. If I had Kurt Weihs in my office, I’d definitely give him a crack at the task!

      Jerry Craw’s contribution to the design may have chiefly been adding lowercase characters along with a few other finishing touches. The CBS quarterly from above was released in 1962. Craw’s involvement is often dated later in the decade.

      I also wanted to post these two pics from Alphabet Thesaurus: A Treasury of Letter Designs, Vol. 2. Benguiat’s Elegance hits some similar notes to that of CBS Didot and ITC Didi. Words about Coryn’s mastering of Didots are mostly likely those of Rondthaler’s.

    17. May 3rd, 2017  8:37 pm

      CBS Didot was problematic on-air because the horizontal hair serifs would buzz wildly or dissappear entirely due to standard definition interlacing. On rare occasions where it was used, it would be only at very large sizes and I suspect the serifs were thickened a bit. But it looked awesome in print ads and on elevator buttons!

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