A magazine’s logo is its identity, beckoning the reader from the newsstand–or mail pile. In the case of Forbes, it also represents three generations of family stewardship.
So what’s in a name? Forbes asked legendary art director Roger Black — a cofounder of Font Bureau who has designed (and redesigned) countless magazines, including Rolling Stone and Esquire — to evaluate 100 years of Forbes’ typography, from prewar swashes to postmillennial serifs.
“The Arts and Crafts movement was going on in printing in the U.S., with people like Will Ransom, and I think that first logo and the 1922 logo owe a lot to that,” Black says. “The swashes on the letters are from that era. Today we think it looks kind of cute.”
“The 1918 logo is as elegant as any logo of its time. I’d call this Beaux Arts style. There was a Renaissance revival going on; World War I posters had this kind of lettering on them.”
“In 1923, Forbes industrialized the previous logo, then condensed it. A year later, they expanded it and then filled it in 1930.”
“This is the year the magazine went kind of berserk. What is that lower case F with a hat on top? You can see the Ford influence there–and everyone in American business was looking to Ford then. But in publishing there was a prejudice against italics in script. Perhaps because editors were sending a lot of text by wire, and the wire didn’t allow for italics.”