The Land O’Lakes Cooperative established 320 small-scale dairy farms. They merged in 1921 to make it easier to advertise and market their products. The organization was originally called the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association because it was based in the state capital of Minnesota. The manufacturer made very high demands on the composition and quality of the products. He implemented his certification system, overtaking competitors and forcing other companies to either leave the market or maintain high standards.
Meaning and History
Most consumers associate Land O’Lakes only with butter, the packaging of which used to depict a girl from an Indian tribe. After the logo was updated in 2020, the design was simplified, and the Native Americans disappeared without a trace. Now the brand name is at the heart of the identity. It appeared when the creators of the cooperative held a naming contest among the residents of Minnesota. Two people sent the winning option at once: George L. Swift and E. B. Foss. They suggested calling the brand Land O’Lakes because Americans know Minnesota as “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”
After that, the company needed a new logo that would reflect the changes on a visual level. It was designed by the artist Arthur C. Hanson. He portrayed a young girl in the national Indian costume. According to legend, her name was Mia, although many associate this image with a character from Native American folklore – the fictional woman Minnehaha. It was she who was mentioned in the stories about the leader of the Hiawatha.
By the way, the name Minnehaha is translated as “laughing waters,” and the word Minnesota means “cloudy waters.” This is another explanation for why the brand is called Land O’Lakes. His logo also used to have a “water” theme: a girl was sitting in front of a lake. Moreover, the artist Patrick DesJarlait in the 1950s tweaked the landscape and added details to bring out the scenic Narrows Gorge that was well known to the Red Lake tribe. The same designer changed the girl’s clothes to match the traditions of Ojibwe. He decorated the hem, belt, and headband with floral designs. Patrick DesJarlait knew exactly what they were supposed to look like because he came from the Ojibwe people.
On the one hand, such artistic motifs were considered an expression of reverence for Native American culture. After all, while they were trying to forget about them, settling on reservations, the oil producer constantly reminded of the existence of the Indians with his logo. In addition, DesJarlait himself considered himself apolitical and wanted peace among all the inhabitants of America. He was confident that his work fostered historical pride. But the Land O’Lakes logo has caused a lot of scandals. It was called a caricature that does not show the real facts of the genocide. Allegations of racist stereotypes forced the dairy manufacturer to redesign globally and remove the image of the Native American girl from its butter and other products.
1903 – 1925
The history of Land O’Lakes dates back to 1921, when American farmers formed an association. The manufacturer produced dairy products, including pasteurized processed cheese. Its label bore the red brand name in serif typeface – obviously the logo. Below the product type was mentioned, and the inscription “Land O’Lakes Creameries, Inc.” (the organization received this name in 1926).
1925 – 1949
The first Native American girl emblem was designed by Arthur C. Hanson, an illustrator at Brown & Bigelow. This happened in 1928 when the cooperative decided to adapt the identity to its name. The artist depicted a landscape typical of any corner of the state of Minnesota: a green coastline, a picturesque body of water, tall pine trees on the horizon. The main selling point was a Native American woman who bent down to the water, holding a butter box in front of her.
1949 – 1959
In the late 1940s, the logo has been modified. The company entrusted the redesign to Red Lake Ojibwe Indian artist Patrick DesJarlait. This is how the image of a girl turned to face the viewer appeared on the label. She was on her knees, clutching the butter to her chest. The feather on her head was in the center of the letter “O” in the red lettering “LAND O’LAKES.”
1959 – 1969
Over time, the colors became brighter. The letters were outlined in yellow, and the apostrophe disappeared for some reason. The artist has detailed the embroidery on the buckskin dress, adding ornaments that Ojibwe has for plants.
1969 – 1983
In 1969, Arthur C. Hanson refined the logo, complementing the green shore with bright yellow colors and depicting two converging tree lines on the horizon. He wanted the landscape to resemble a special area on the reservation – Narrows. This area could be recognized by any Indian from the Red Lake tribe. The apostrophe reappeared in the LAND O’LAKES caption.
1983 – 1993
The yellow dress on the label turned red and orange. In addition, the designers underlined the brand name with a long, thin line to separate it from the product name.
1993 – 2009
In the early 1990s. Land O’Lakes has unveiled a corporate emblem with the iconic Native American image. The upper inscription turned into a red arch, while the font was changed to a stylized sans-serif. The word “FOODSERVICE” has been added at the bottom. The lake landscape has disappeared.
2009 – 2018
The designers repainted the brand name in golden color and placed it on a curved red ribbon. A pond with trees reappeared in the background.
2018 – 2020
The dairy manufacturer has been accused of kneeling down as if in acknowledgment of submission. Therefore, the artists removed the torso, leaving only the head. The “portrait” was placed in the red letter “O,” the apostrophe disappeared. The word combination “LAND O LAKES” became even, and in the upper right corner, there was another inscription: “Farmer-Owned.” An Italic font was used for it.
2020 – present
In 2020, only the name of the cooperative remained on the logo, without hints of an Indian theme. The company said it would decorate food packages with real photographs of farmers providing fresh milk. The Farmer-Owned tag also disappeared. The changes were timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Land O’Lakes.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The old symbol depicting a girl named Mia has been repeatedly called racist and misogynistic because the image, in society’s opinion, was overly sexualized and did not reflect the real problems of the Indians. Therefore, the disappearance of the Native American woman caused a great stir. The owners of the cooperative hoped that the young girl from the Indian tribe would be associated with cleanliness and nature.
The name of the company is written in a stylized bold red font. The letters don’t have serifs, but they have curving decorative lines. The “O” is a perfectly flat circle and looks like a separate design element that divides the lettering in two.