The History of the NBC Peacock
 

The History of the NBC Peacock

 
Heather Taylor, Advertising Week

All hail the Peacock! For more than five decades, this brightly colored bird has reigned supreme as NBC’s highly recognizable logo, shifting with the times and transforming the way viewers engaged with the TV network. Over the years, many have watched the symbol undergo new and exciting designs, from the Laramie Peacock to the Modern Peacock. Join us on the ultimate television throwback journey as we uncover more about this icon that is truly proud as a peacock.

Pre-Peacock Logos and the Debut of the Peacock — in Color!

It might surprise you to learn that NBC’s corporate logo wasn’t always the now-famous Peacock. In 1943, their first logo was a dramatic black and white NBC microphone. Flanked by a background of lightning bolts, that microphone remained the network’s logo for 11 years. NBC enjoyed success in radio and used the platform to build its TV network. The microphone logo conveyed to listeners that NBC had the excitement and immediacy of radio on TV. In 1954, NBC switched over to a xylophone logo complete with a mallet and three letters: N, B, and C.

Two short years later, audiences were captivated by television and ready to switch their sets from black and white to color. This was precisely the audience NBC wanted to woo and they set to work conceptualizing the Peacock. John J. Graham, the Director of Design at NBC, designed the original Peacock. Along with the bird, Graham developed variations on the NBC chimes and their radio signage.

The Peacock’s original design included 11 feathers in six colors — maroon, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Each feather was tipped with teardrop shapes for a closer resemblance to actual peacock feathers. The Peacock also had feet, but interestingly enough this particular mascot has never had a name.

In 1956, audiences met the Peacock in all of its splendid glory. At the beginning and end of colorcasts, the logo would flash on screens as a way to introduce viewers to color technology. For those missing out, the Peacock’s tail had gray shades as a reminder of all the entertaining programming that they could be watching. The Peacock would enjoy its first animated incarnation in 1957. Here, the peacock’s feathers start off as white and instantly fill up with vibrantly colored plumage. Later in 1959, the Peacock would be accompanied with an animated NBC logo on screens. More than just a logo, it was the symbol of a thrilling, new era for both the network and the changing media landscape.

The Laramie Peacock and the 1980s “Proud N” compromise

Viewers were treated to a second version of the original Peacock in 1962 on the TV series, Laramie. For this feature, the Peacock’s bright feathers fan out from the colors used in the kaleidoscopic background as an announcer boasts; “The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC.”

In 1975, the Peacock was briefly retired as the network adopted a stylized “N” as part of their updated visual identity. The Peacock made a triumphant return in 1980, as part of “The Proud N Logo” which combined 1975’s “N” with the Peacock for a contemporary design. The 11 feathers remained, but the Peacock’s feathers lost their teardrop tips. The bird’s frame also evolved, losing its feet and adopting a simple, triangular shape for its body. The newly redesigned Peacock accompanied the network’s latest advertising campaign that marketed NBC as “Proud as a Peacock.”

Introducing the Modern Peacock in 1986 and Beyond

As NBC’s network position improved in the late 1980s, the Peacock enjoyed another major reconfiguration. In 1986, designers Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar would design the “Modern Peacock” we know and love today. The “N” was fully dissolved to put the focus solely on a simplified Peacock. The original 11 feathers were brought down to six, each of which represented NBC’s divisions at the time including news, sports, entertainment, television stations, television network, and operations and technical services. The Peacock would also turn its head to the right and the tiny spray of feathers above its head disappeared.

In 1993, seven famous artists, animators, and designers were invited by NBC to play with the logo. Among the seven were David Daniels, Joan Gratz, Al Hirschfeld, John Kricfalusi, Peter Max, Mark Malmberg, and I.I Seidelman. These artists created animated interpretations of the Peacock with on-air spots featured in NBC’s promotional campaign for its 1993/94 fall primetime schedule. Check out John Kricfalusi’s promo above as a determined Peacock sprouts out fabulous feathers!

Since 1986, the icon has had two more subtle updates and NBC celebrated their 90th birthday in 2016. At 16-years-old, the Peacock is strong, stylish, and has never been more proud to be the face of its network. As one of the most recognized logos in communications, nothing can ruffle this Peacock’s feathers!

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