GE was always ahead of its time: it launched astronauts into orbit, raised planes into the sky, stood at the origins of television, radio broadcasting, and nuclear energy. In addition, General Electric was the first to produce commercially successful toasters, washing machines, refrigerators, and other electrical appliances. Its creator, Thomas Edison, has owned over a thousand patents for inventions, including a power plant, an alkaline battery, the light bulb, and a phonograph. GE inherited his passion for innovation. She has developed many useful little things and complex equipment practically from scratch, including lasers, radars, X-ray machines, alarm clocks, and jet engines. Without it, the modern world would look completely different.
Meaning and History
The pioneer company emerged in 1892 when Thomas Edison merged his corporation with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. It was he who created the General Electric brand because his inventions anticipated the needs of the world. It is a diversified conglomerate that produces a wide range of equipment – from nuclear warheads, locomotives, and nuclear reactors to dishwashers and air conditioners.
But in the history of GE, not everything is so simple. The company’s reputation was once tainted by controversy over who designed its famous monogram logo. Everything would be fine, but opponents accused each other of lying and published their stories about the origin of the round emblem. So many theories were put forward that lawyer Neil Reynolds advised General Electric to stop the spread of unwanted rumors and not take any position. Moreover, he recommended that no research be carried out because the monogram was used long before it became a trademark.
Controversy over the origin of the GE symbol arose when Arthur L. Rich announced that he had invented the lettering emblem. He worked in the catalog department and, out of boredom, often wrote the company’s initials, circled them, and decorated the ring with ornaments. Rich boasted that his monogram formed the basis of the company’s identity and was first introduced in 1899 on the cover of one of the catalogs.
People believed this story. It was published numerous times in major magazines without questioning until the critical editor of Schenectady GE News wrote a rebuttal. In 1977, an article was published; the author argued that there was no evidence that Arthur L. Rich created the GE logo. According to the journalist, Bruce Barton of the advertising agency George Batten Company was much more responsible for this, as he refined the monogram concept in marketing materials.
And in 1944, J. A. McManus (also a former GE employee) stated that draftsman Sven Stalberg allegedly created the logo. In turn, Stalberg argued that he did not come up with a symbol from scratch but used a ready-made design. McManus considered this version too. He found an old drawing of a fan, which showed a hub with the same monogram as in use today. The drawing was by Charles Kelley, a subordinate of Stalberg.
There were two more versions of the origin of the logo. A certain R. T. Kahn reported that he was invented for a General Electric competition. There were also rumors that J. Ellis Glen was the author of the design. Allegedly, B. A. Garrett ordered an emblem with the company’s initials inside the ring from him, and Glen added only curls on his own.
Regardless of who created the monogram, it remains GE’s flagship symbol and is associated with qualities such as honesty and trust. Moreover, all its changes were minor: the developers only slightly corrected the lines, observing the classic structure.
1892 – 1900
Historical records show that the General Electric Company logo first appeared in 1898. Designers used it to decorate the ceiling fan cord. The badge contained the letters “G” and “E,” which were unusually stylized. “G” looked lowercase and consisted of two spiral elements connected. And the “E” was capitalized and resembled an unwound spring. Who and when created this emblem is unknown.
1900 – 1909
The monogram has become thinner and slightly changed its shape. The lower spiral of the letter “G” has become a standard loop, like the lowercase handwritten “g.” Instead, a spiraling element appeared at the bottom of the “E.” A swirl ring surrounded the logo.
1909 – 1969
After reworking, the letters became bolder. The monogram and decorative frame have been painted white, and the background circle has been painted black.
1969 – 1987
In the late 1960s, the designers thickened and enlarged the letters, and at the same time, slightly widened the lines of the ring.
1987 – 1998
In 1987, GE approached Landor Associates to make minor adjustments to the logo. The specialists have reduced the monogram and turned the curling decorative elements into drops.
1998 – present
After another modification, the shape of the letters changed slightly. Some lines are slightly thicker, while others are slightly narrower. This version is still used on a par with the next.
2004 – present
The new CEO decided to add something different to the company’s identity and turned to Wolff Olins for help. The studio employees suggested an improved version of the GE logo: a white monogram in a blue circle.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
There are two theories about the meaning of the emblem. Some people think that these are just the initials of the company in the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The design of that era was characterized by flowing lines that resembled floral ornaments. Its influence is noticeable in the swirling letters and protruding elements on the inside of the ring. According to another version, the monogram was based on the shape of the furnace burner manufactured by GE.
The logo’s font is stylized: the letters are drawn by hand and decorated with decorative curls. Numerous curves make the image moveable and similar to the Art Nouveau style. In addition to the standard black and white version, there is a sign with a blue circle. This color was chosen for its symbolism: it is associated with excellence, trust, and honesty.