One of the quieter developments in Sunday’s “Mad Men” was the introduction of a funky new logo for Sterling Cooper & Partners, the hybrid agency formed earlier this season with the merger of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Cutler Gleason Chaough.
Given how much was going on in the episode -- Sally’s boarding school misadventures, Ken getting shot, Pete confronting Bob, and Don impersonating a baby -- one could be forgiven for missing the logo, which made its television debut during a heated confrontation between Don and Ted.
Thankfully, the publicity team at Sterling Cooper -- uh, we mean AMC -- sent out a press release announcing the new branding efforts after the episode aired.
The mock statement even included a quote attributed to Don that cheekily referred to his secret past: “A name can mean a new beginning, a chance to see yourself as you would dream to be, and to leave the baggage you have accumulated over the years behind. At least that’s been my observation.”
The release didn’t include much explanation of the eye-catching logo, though the odd, inscrutable Jim Cutler did note the “funky” ampersand.
This being “Mad Men,” no design choice can be made without intense scrutiny, especially when it comes to typography; font geeks are a notoriously nitpicky bunch. With that in mind, we checked in with a few design experts to get their thoughts on the agency’s makeover.
“I have to say I’m impressed with how weird the logo is,” said Scott Stowell, proprietor of Open, a New York City design studio.
“My prediction was that they would keep the old logo and just replace the D for Draper with an ampersand,” he continued. “That would have been economical, both for SC&P and for ‘Mad Men.’ And that switch would refer to Don’s ongoing lack of connection to the agency. But what they did is more surprising.”
Mark Simonson, a font designer who has paid more attention to the graphics on the show than just about anyone, was not quite as impressed: “It looks perfectly plausible for the period but not something that would be seen as a classic later on.”
Both men agreed the font used for the initials was probably custom-made, though Stowell called its “modular structure” reminiscent of the work of Dutch modernist Wim Crouwel, who, we can only hope, will provide some fashion inspiration for Harry Crane next season.
As for that “funky” ampersand, Simonson identified it as a font called Pistilli Roman, developed in 1964, while Stowell disagreed, saying it was an extra bold Caslon, a font “originally designed in the 18th century, but popular in the 1960s with some New York designers like Herb Lubalin.” (Let the debate begin!)
Whatever the case may be, the combination of these two fonts was unexpected, said Stowell:
“I’ve never really seen those two flavors of design -- super-futuristic modernism and super-nostalgic traditionalism -- put together that way. The result is an uncomfortable clash between looking forward and looking backward that is pretty much the whole point of ‘Mad Men.’ ”
Now if someone could just tell us where to get one of those sweet Sterling Cooper & Partners mugs, we’d be all set.