The Day the Famous NBC Peacock Logo Got Its Makeover
On this date in 1986, the famous NBC Peacock symbol lost a few of its feathers but became even more well-known as a logo.
The NBC Peacock may have made its debut in 1956, but 30 years later, on the evening of May 12, 1986, the version we’re all familiar with was born.
Though the NBC Peacock we know today has only six feathers, the original, which premiered on May 22, 1956, had 11 multi-colored feathers. The peacock represented vibrant color. So using the bird as a symbol of the network that pioneered color television made a lot of sense.
The original NBC Peacock
Here’s a look at how the early animated version of peacock first looked:
The logo, designed by Sudler & Hennessey, was designed to indicate richness in color, the New York Times reported.
In 1962, during the western Laramie, a new version of the peacock, still with 11 feathers, premiered:
In 1975, NBC temporarily retired the peacock in favor of a pair of trapezoids turned to represent an abstract N. You may remember this one:
The problem with this logo is that the shape was identical to a logo for Nebraska Educational Television, a detail somehow missed by the network during the review process. The only real difference between the two Ns was that NBC’s was red on the left half and blue on the right, while Nebraska ETV’s version was a solid magenta.
NBC settled a lawsuit over the logo by providing Nebraska ETV with some $800,000 worth of color equipment and another $55,000 to fund the creation of a new logo.
In 1979, NBC combined its contemporary logo and the peacock logo into one, which it nicknamed “The Proud N” to accompany the advertising campaign, “Proud as a Peacock.”
Here’s the 1978-1979 “Proud as a Peacock” campaign, though it features only the peacock:
Here, from 1982, is their “Just Watch Us Now,” one of my favorite annual campaigns they ever ran. You can see the Proud N at the end of this spot:
The new peacock
It was during the network’s celebration of its 60th anniversary in 1986 that the revised, simplified peacock made its official debut. A collection of stars from NBC shows past and present gathered around the new peacock as a chorus to sing a tribute to NBC’s 60th at the very end of the program, and that served as the premiere of the logo.
The peacock in the new logo faced to the right instead of the left, supposedly a signal that the network was looking to the future.
And in the six-feather design, each color was supposed to represent one of the network’s divisions:
- Yellow: News
- Red: Entertainment
- Blue: Network
- Orange: Sports
- Green: Productions
- Purple: Stations
So, for a third of a century, the familiar six-feather NBC Peacock has remained as a logo and become one of the most familiar symbols in the world.
Happy birthday, Peacock!