Simple, yet sophisticated. Dynamic, yet cute. Iconic in each and every way. That’s how I view the Playboy logo. It’s one of those highly recognisable logos that can be identified in a glance and without the assistance of wordmarks. You probably already know that the…
Simple, yet sophisticated. Dynamic, yet cute. Iconic in each and every way. That’s how I view the Playboy logo. It’s one of those highly recognisable logos that can be identified in a glance and without the assistance of wordmarks.
You probably already know that the late, great Huge Hefner was the mastermind behind the empire that grew from the pages of his men’s lifestyle magazine. He more or less micromanaged each and every piece of it. However, as much work, thought and effort Hef put into his product, the iconic Bunny Rabbit Playboy logo was not his creation.
The logo was the work of Playboy’s Art Director Art Paul. Apparently, after the amazing success of Issue #1, which was updated as Hef feared his men’s lifestyle magazine may only have a single press run, the masterminds at Bunny HQ jumped on an idea and devised a plan for a logo to brand the product.
The original vision, according to Paul, was for something that was “frisky and playful…but had a humorous sexual connotation.”
Hef saw it in a slightly rawer manner saying that in America, the rabbit, or bunny has a sexual meaning. He liked the concept because he viewed rabbits and bunnies as “shy, vivacious, jumping – sexy.”
The Playboy logo itself first appeared in Issue #2, which was dated and eventually the joke in the Editorial Department was to ‘hide’ the rabbit logo somewhere on the front cover. It actually turned each monthly issue of the magazine into an unofficial puzzle or game with the Rabbit logo sometimes being extremely well hidden with creative placement of props and other front cover elements such as the stunning female models who greeted readers from the newsstand.
The Playboy logo remains the same from the first time it was used in January 1954, although it was not originally recognised as the official Playboy logo until sometime later. The stylised rabbit head with a bow tie and collar appears in solid black. The thought behind this colour choice is that black conveys luxury, class and professionalism.
Art Paul’s legacy lives on. Sadly, the creator behind the iconic rabbit head logo passed away in April 2018. The cause of death was officially noted as “complications of pneumonia” and Paul passed quietly in hospital in the Chicago area with his wife, Suzanne Seed by his side. He was 93.
Art Paul in Playboy’s offices in Chicago in the early 1980s. He originally envisioned the rabbit head as a stylized endpoint to articles. It became the Playboy empire’s trademark. Credit Suzanne Seed
What we learn from this in marketing is another nod to the “less is more” camp. The Bunny Rabbit logo, especially when it appears on various types of merchandise, elevates that product into a completely different class. In fact, the rabbit bunny logo is so powerful a marketing tool that merchandise that bears it has created a stable revenue stream for the company.
The Playboy logo has also appeared connected to charitable causes which have elevated the brand into avenues that may not be connected to the original product line. When this happens, you know you have a logo that works. When the logo can essentially cross borders and reach out to different demographics, then you discover the influencing power of a great logo.
You could say that the Playboy bunny rabbit logo has a far deeper penetration than it did when it was just associated with a men’s lifestyle magazine. And like any good bunny, the logo jumps around and gets in your face which keeps it active and alive even if you are not a reader of the magazine that launched the logo in the first place.
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