Data + Design Project

The Storied Evolution of the Star Wars Logo

Friday 08.16.2013 , Posted by
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Star Wars 01 Ralph McQuarrie Scrapbook

When it comes to movie logos (or franchises for that matter) there are few as iconic as the now classic Star Wars trilogy… but how well do we really know the design behind that logo? As it turns out, the famously “spacy” typography featured in the now familiar logo wasn’t finalized on all print media until a while after the first movies release, and some early versions slipped through becoming quite familiar in their own right. Now, with a big high-five to the excellent and thorough people at 10th Letter of the Alphabet, we bring you an abridged version of their extensive Anatomy of a Logo.

See Also Hand Painted Russian Nesting Dolls, Star Wars Style

Above is the earliest example of the Star Wars logo by Ralph McQuarrie, produced well before filming when the crew was working on costumes. It depicts a character somewhere between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, with the logo in a font similar to Futura Display. It was produced when George Lucas requested as a symbol to go on film cans and letters.

In the second rendition of the logo, featured below, effects artist Joe Johnston revamped the logo using the Precis font family and dropping “the” from the title. The picture features a young Mark Hamill (along with a now priceless t-shirt) at San Diego Comic Con 1976.

Star Wars 06 Joe Johnston Star Wars Scrapbook

The corporate letterhead, featuring the new logo by Joe Johnston.
Star Wars 05 McQuarrie Johnston Scrapbook

Some early poster concepts by Ralph McQuarrie, using Joe Johnston’s new logo.
Star Wars 02 Ralph McQuarrie Art of Star Wars

For 1977, Dan Perri redesigned the logo with a vanishing point intended for the opening crawl of the film’s titles. Instead the logo was used on posters and advertisements. (It still shows itself occasionally today.)
Star Wars 7

And now we come to the (almost) final logo design, created by newly hired Art Director Suzi Rice. She was given the directive by George Lucas to create a logo that was “very fascist.” Luckily she’d been reading a book on historical German type design just the night before, and set about designing the logo below using the most “fascist” typeface she could think of: a modified version of Helvetica Black. The now iconic S extensions so familiar on the logo were added after Lucas “remarked that it read like ‘Tar Wars,” says Rice. Then again, we can’t help reading that W upside down as “Star Mars” – an astronomers nightmare if there ever was one.
Star Wars 11

A vanishing point edition of the logo designed by Suzi Rice.
Star Wars 10

And now we come to the final edit, and the film version of the logo. Joe Johnston redesigned the W and widened the lettering on Suzi Rice’s logo after it was decided that her version didn’t work well in the pan shot initially planned for the opening credits.
Star Wars 11_1

Rice’s and Johnston’s logos, side by side.
Star Wars 8

The now established logo, as it appeared on the 1997 Special Edition Posters
Star Wars 12

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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