Most AvGeeks will be familiar with Boeing’s iconic logo: it’s a wonky triangle next to a picture of Saturn, right? But few will know the surprising story behind plane makers’ artfully abstract branding.
Around the world in 175 days
Before there was the space race, there was the race to circumnavigate the globe. In the 1920s, several countries were vying to be the first to circle the world by plane. There was an unsuccessful British attempt in 1922, followed by a French attempt the following year – also a failure. Italian, Portuguese, and Argentinian teams also announced their intentions to take up the challenge
In the Spring of 1923, the US Army Air Service became interested in joining the contest. They approached plane-maker Donald Douglas, who designed them the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC), a modified version of his DT torpedo bomber.
Four World Cruisers left Santa Monica, California on 17 March 1924, setting off on their mission around the globe. On 22 September after 175 days, three returned, met by a crowd of over 100,000 cheering onlookers. The achievement was memorialised in the Douglas Company’s Logo, which depicts three DWCs circling the globe.
Missiles and mergers
Douglas continued to manufacture airplanes in the coming decades, expanding into commercial airliners in the 1930s with the production of the DC-2, (the “DC” standing for “Douglas Commercial”). The company also manufactured missiles and was involved in designing the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets. To reflect this arm of the business, a missile was added to the company logo.
In 1967 the firm was struggling with quality and cash flow problems and accepted a merger with military aerospace company McDonnell. The new McDonnell-Douglas company adopted the Douglas Logo of a plane, a missile, and a globe.
In 1997 the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation could no longer compete with rivals Boeing and Airbus and was consequently bought out by the former. Whilst the name Boeing was the one that survived, the company inherited Douglas’ iconic logo, simplifying it to just three elements: A globe, an arc, and a wedge.
Whilst the Boeing logo is abstracted to the extent that you no longer know what you’re looking at, it still bears some of the marks of history. Hopefully, whenever you look at the logo from now on, you’ll be reminded of the story behind it!