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Pirelli, a logo with a hundred-year-old history

In the early days, the Pirelli logo coexisted with other elements and after World War II it evolved into the trademark that we know today

Home life Pirelli, a logo with a hundred-year-old history
Pirelli, a logo with a hundred-year-old history

“The idea of the capital letter stretching horizontally to cover the other letters of the name like a roof was created one day in New York back in 1908. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing requested by the agent that Pirelli had there”.

This is how the trademark that still appears today on all the group’s letterheads originated according to an article published in Rivista Pirelli in 1958. The article entitled “Una P lunga cinquant’anni” (“A fifty-year-long P”) was written by poet and writer Vittorio Sereni, who was heading the Press Office at the time, to celebrate the logo’s half-century anniversary. The article explained why finding a trademark with clearly defined features was so important for the fledgeling brand in the already highly competitive United States market.

Another version of the story has it that the stretched P was added to the trademark to honour company founder Giovan Battista Pirelli, who used this stroke in his signature. For sure, as Sereni commented in his 1958 article, the stretched P aptly suggests the idea of elasticity that is one of the main characteristics of rubber and is still valid today.

Certainly, at the beginning of the 20th century, a trademark was needed to characterise the company fresh from its first sporting successes because one year before, in 1907, Pirelli had supplied the tyres of Barzini and Borghese’s Itala, the car that won the Peking to Paris rally, driving 17,000 kilometres over stones, mud and all sorts of rough roads.

The stretched P feature will remain constant over the years, although the graphics of the word have changed several times. Before 1908, the Pirelli logo was alternated with other components, such as the star symbol that returned frequently because it appeared in the name of a range of Pirelli tyres.

Then, the stretched P itself underwent various treatments, like in the mid-1910s, when the word Pneu was enclosed in the P. In one of the most famous versions the two words together traced the outline of a bonnet and radiator of a red racing car. The word Pneu reappeared in the twenties but a more balanced proportionality began to be sought after World War II. The rules concerning the base-height ratio, the thicknesses consistency and the design of the letters were gradually established.

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A second codification took place in 1961, followed by more recent redefinitions by Studio Unimark International and Studio Cerri & Associati. The most recent restyling in 1982 is the work of designer Salvatore Gregorietti. The manual for the correct use of the trademark is written at the same time. Architect and graphic designer Pierluigi Cerri created the bilingual manual that illustrates the correct chromatic references, that still apply today, in 1997.

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