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The origin of Reuters dot-matrix logo, by Michael Nelson

Reuters old dot-matrix logo, one of the world's most recognised brands for over 40 years, was not based on the ticker tape of newswires, as some believed, but rather on the holes in teleprinter tape.

Michael Nelson, former general manager, has written to the Financial Times to set the record straight.

An article in the newspaper about an exhibition on the logo's designer, the late Alan Fletcher of the design partnership Pentagram, said the typeface, pictured, "evoked the ticker tape of the newswires".

"That is not correct," Nelson wrote. "Ticker tape carried stock market prices. The Reuter typeface evoked the holes in teleprinter tape which was used to drive teleprinters. I attended the Reuter management meeting with Alan Fletcher to discuss his design in the mid-sixties and expressed reservations about it. I said that the technology on which it was based would be obsolescent in twenty years and the Reuter logo needed a longer life than that. I was right about the timing of the obsolescence, but am glad we adopted it because it was a brilliant design, which lasted Reuters in modified form for over 40 years until the company was acquired by Thomson in 2008."

A section of teleprinter tape is shown at right.

Reuters itself made the same mistake as the FT. This is what the company said about its logo before the takeover by Thomson:

"Times have changed since Julius Reuters first started using carrier pigeons to fly stock quotes between Aachen and Brussels. And as the company has evolved, so has the way we represent ourselves.

"The updates and revisions to our logotype through the years are important, because they provide insight into Reuters history.

"Perhaps the best-known of these iterations is called, simply, the dot logo. But most people are unaware that there were actually several versions of dot logos, beginning as early as 1965. And while some at Reuters are aware that those dots were intended to represent the output of old ticker-tape machines, few know where the other, round element came from, or why the type used to spell 'Reuters' changed.

"The rounded piece - or roundel - was developed in 1996 as an icon to increase Reuters visibility on computer and TV monitors, and as a way to brand our on-screen services using far less space.

"As originally conceived, the roundel was intended to resemble an abstract globe, representing not only the worldwide nature of Reuters business, but also the continuous collection, processing and distribution of information, 24 hours a day (with the dots representing information, and the two hemispheres of the globe representing day and night). Moreover, the left side of the roundel was meant to refer to the openness and transparency of our company; a visual way of portraying Reuters integrity.

"But in 1999 the dots in the name were joined to create greater recognition, particularly on screen where the dot logo often disintegrated in its former form. The typeface was designed especially for Reuters and called, appropriately, Julius.

"Today, the dots live on in the roundel, and our logo is more visible - and more relevant - than ever before." ■

Financial Times