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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : How The Current Church Logo Came About » How The Current Church Logo Came About

How The Current Church Logo Came About

Rusty - July 26, 2005

In 1995 the Church decided to do something it hadn’t done before: hire a worldwide professional research firm to find cracks in the system. They called upon Wirthlin Worldwide, founded by Joseph B.’s brother, Richard. After exhaustive research was performed they came back with a list of those cracks. Top among them was the perception of outsiders that Mormons are not Christians.

My good friend and former professor Adrian Pulfer was the person chosen to perform the task of designing the new logo. In his first meeting with those of the Q12 brother Haight said, “The Lord is not pleased with how we’ve used His name.” He was suggesting what the research was suggesting, Jesus Christ needs emphasis. (This was known in 1982, at least enough to inspire the changing of the name of The Book of Mormon to The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.)

Adrian immediately went to his good friend Jonathan Hoefler, the typographer. The decision was made, much to the chagrin of Elder Ballard, to create a custom typeface. (the fee for a typeface was more than a few of the Apostles could handle, even though it was a bargain basement price from Jonathan, who can command into the upper five figures for a custom face. Adrian, however, soothed concerns and eventually sold them on the importance of a proprietary typeface for the Church and its brand).

The custom face that Jonathan created is based on the type from Trajan’s column in Rome. The column was created shortly after the life of Jesus Christ and is often considered the most perfect example of serif typography and the precursor to our visualization of the alphabet. Jonathan called the face Deseret (through his own research, by the way).

Adrian took this typeface and began to play with it. He knew it had to work in other languages (something the old logo utterly failed at), it had to reflect the mission of the Church, and of course Christ’s name had to be emphasized. A couple days after having shown some preliminary comps to the Q12, Adrian was driving to work when he gets a phone call from the Church’s spokesperson, “Adrian, it’s done.” “What do you mean it’s done” “The logo. You’re done.” “What do you mean I’m done. No I’m not, I am still working with it, there is still more to do.” “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. They took the matter to the temple, they prayed about it. This is the logo”



A picture I took of Trajan’s column. Isn’t the Q gorgeous?


  1. Rusty, thanks for the great right up. A fine peak behind the curtain. I took alot of things away from this post, and I don’t want to just bring out the negative, but I am struck again by the Churches unwillingness to pay the “going rate” for many services.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 26, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

  2. Going rate? Ha! That’s funny J. Adrain was offered a (tiny) stipend to cover studio costs, but he refused. I would too. Much better to do a favor for the Church than be cheap, undervalued labor.

    Comment by Rusty — July 27, 2005 @ 12:06 am

  3. Lovely write-up.

    And yes… the Q is lovely.

    Comment by Silus Grok — July 27, 2005 @ 12:09 am

  4. Niiice, Rusty. Who says God isn’t a marketer?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 1:24 am

  5. Oh, Geoff, He surely is. But I would have to say that many of the principles of marketing/advertising/promotion are divine, not the other way around. God isn’t learning from David Ogilvy, David Ogilvy tapped into something God has known forever (not that you were suggesting otherwise).

    Comment by Rusty — July 27, 2005 @ 1:37 am

  6. My group was doing a proposal, requested by the Church a few years ago. We asked for a high resolution image of .ps of the logo and were told that we would never get one. We were also told that the font was custom, had cost a ton of money, and that they never let it out. My thought was, “What? If I have the font can I start my own church or something?”

    I ended up finding and downloading a regular Trajan font that fooled almost everybody.

    This was five years ago. We never hear back. We were not paid for the proposal (and working demo) because we were assurred a contract. Recently we heard that the Church is developing this thing (which I won’t detail) internally, and has been for some time.

    Somehow they always think that the experts are not worth the expense, and in fact are a rip off. The Church has always complained about how much things cost to us.

    Comment by a random John — July 27, 2005 @ 7:27 am

  7. Nice post, Rusty. Thanks!

    The old logo, of course, had all the aesthetic appeal of a cardboard box. So I was definitely happy to see the new logo. But I thought at the time, and continue to think, that the decision to make the words “Jesus Christ” about twice the point size of the other words was a tiny bit of a ham-handed way to respond to criticisms that the church isn’t Christian. The claim, after all, is either that we worship a different Jesus or that we misunderstand Jesus–not that we don’t use the words “Jesus Christ.”

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 27, 2005 @ 7:44 am

  8. I totally forgot to metion that I think the new logo is great. It is a wonderful cooincidence that the letter “J” is the most distinctive charater in the font, with the noted exception of the “Q”. It works so well, it just looks natural.

    Comment by a random John — July 27, 2005 @ 7:58 am

  9. They went to the temple regarding a new logo? If I ever receive an offer from the Church to do some new media work, remind me to turn them down. I’d love to see what Adrian would have turned out had they let him finish.

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 27, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  10. ARJ,
    It’s true that they usually don’t think the experts are worth the expense, but I understand Wirthlin was paid a sizeable chunk of change. And apparently their lawyers are paid well. I wonder, though, if their hesitence to use experts stifles the progress of the Church in various ways. I mean, say you get global brand consulting firm and see what they can pump out. Would that affect worldwide missionary work? I guess this should be its own post, anyone want to tackle it?

    You’re right about what people claimed. However, it makes sense to move forward by emphasizing Christ’s name. Especially considering what Elder Haight said.

    Yeah, I thought it was strange that they would go to the temple over a logo, but I guess they go to the temple over most major decisions, so it makes sense they would do so for this (so why didn’t God tell them the old logo was crap?). I too would be interested to see what Adrian would have come up with if he had more time to finish.

    Comment by Rusty — July 27, 2005 @ 11:53 am

  11. Amen Rusty. The proper rules of marketing have been around a lot longer than this particular world.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  12. Rusty, I don’t know who you heard that thing about the church’s lawyers being paid well.

    It was customary in negotiations with the old general counsel’s office for them to request a reduction in fees, since the church is a charitable organization.

    And don’t get me started about a little dispute about fees (I think the amount was $700) with a certain bureaucrat in the Church Office Building.

    Comment by Mark B. — July 27, 2005 @ 1:13 pm

  13. Rusty,

    Do you know anything about the old logo? Who created it? When? Under what circumstances?

    Comment by Greg Call — July 27, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  14. Rusty, I assume your question of why God didn’t tell the church the old logo was crap was meant to be rhetorical, right? Like we could ever know the answer to that and frankly, who cares?
    So will they have to change the typeface again when we switch to Adamic? I wonder what that alphbet looks like. Maybe we’ll have to use Adam’s Book of Remembrance as a template…

    Comment by Bret — July 27, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  15. Interesting post.

    We recently had a facilities manager speak in sacrament meeting–encouraging us to take care of the building and such.

    He said the our carpet is going to be replaced–that it only lasted half of the time it was supposed to, and if I remember correctly, such had been the case in many buildings. Apparently the Church dictated to the carpet manufacturer the specifications of the carpet. He said they’ve learned their lesson and will not dictate the specifications this time (ie. listen to the professionals).

    I don’t know whether this kind of thing (dictating to the experts) is SOP or not, but it doesn’t sound like it should be rewarded.

    (I heard that a GA once refered to the building dept as the part of the Church that isn’t true.)

    Comment by Jared — July 27, 2005 @ 8:25 pm

  16. This post makes me think that the Church should separate clearly administrative decisions from the spiritual mission. Just because you are called to be a GA doesn’t mean you have the specialized knowledge to tend to the details of running the Church.

    Comment by Tess — July 27, 2005 @ 9:49 pm

  17. Jared/Tess,
    Oh, I know a guy that worked in the design department in the Church office building and had one too many encounters with a very, very high-up who because he worked in printing 40 years ago thinks he knows how to set the type in the books. And dictated as such. This is one of the biggest reasons I could never work in the COB, how do you tell a member of the 12 that he doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about (in non-spiritual things)?

    I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about the old logo other than who designed it, and that information comes secondhand. He’s the dad of a friend of ours, I don’t know his first name but his last name is Smith (yeah, I know, very helpful) and he still works in Salt Lake. It was in the 70′s I’m pretty sure. Sorry, I don’t know anything else.

    Comment by Rusty — July 27, 2005 @ 11:51 pm

  18. Rusty: how do you tell a member of the 12 that he doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about (in non-spiritual things)?

    Seems pretty easy to me… Just say “You don’t know what the heck you are talking about in this (non-spiritual) thing”. I think we get a little too into the demigod thing with church leaders sometimes. We are under covenant to build up the kingdom not kiss up to church leaders.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 11:52 pm

  19. RT,
    Logos don’t make logical appeals.

    Seems pretty easy to me… Just say “You don’t know what the heck you are talking about in this (non-spiritual) thing”.

    I almost agree. You say “Actually, current practice is to do it this way.” You explain why. You talk with them in an intelligent way. They would probably like the fact that you take them seriously. Not because they are GAs, because no one likes to be told that they don’t know what the heck they talk about.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 29, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

  20. Ha! I agree anon. I certainly wouldn’t ever be that rude either (GA or not). I just used the exact quote for effect.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 29, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

  21. Geoff,
    That was me–Steve H–not trying to be anonymous, but doing so anyway.

    Comment by S Hancock — July 29, 2005 @ 10:46 pm

  22. As the son of the man who designed the Church logo. I can assure you that my father worked tirelessly at the logo for nearly a year… and he had the logo narrowed down to two that both met his approval. One contained an underline below the Jesus-Christ and the other is the one that the Church chose. In the end, I do believe my father finished the job and what we see is what he was inspired to create.

    Comment by Christian Pulfer — March 31, 2006 @ 1:01 pm

  23. … and the man who designed the original logo is Randall Smith. His company is called Modern 8.

    Comment by Christian Pulfer — March 31, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  24. I’m so glad to have stumbled onto this. I am a former student of Adrian’s and I know who Jonathan is. I think of him once in awhile and how much class he had as a teacher. He stood apart from the other instructors who thought it was their job to use criticism and vagueness as teaching tools. He has a quiet dignity that is to be respected. He told us, “In a world of mediocrity, there’s a lot of room at the top.” It’s delightful to know of his involvement in this project and to be reminded of the good old days as his student. He makes me want to be a better designer–in a world of mediocrity!

    Comment by Shellie — September 16, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  25. This is a great thread, especially with the info that Christian Pulfer and Shellie contributed. Thanks for the great comments and thanks to Rusty for a great post that, though old, is still relevant! Can we get more stuff like this Rusty?

    Comment by MCQ — September 17, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  26. Thanks for this account. It’s very different from the one reported in this Salt Lake Tribune article in which the design is said to be lead by McRay Magelby and that the final logo was chosen after “several months of market testing”. Is the truth somewhere between these two stories? Were Pulfer and Magelby on the design team together?

    Comment by Stephen Coles — October 3, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

  27. Stephen,
    That’s an interesting article, I hadn’t seen that. I don’t know what the answer is, though I don’t know if the stories are mutually exclusive. I heard the story from Adrian’s perspective, he might have mentioned working with Mac and I had forgotten it, not sure. They were both employed by BYU at the time and I know that they worked on other projects together. Regarding the timing, not sure. I was told the way I described it above. It could be that they decided that was the logo (to take into testing). Interesting stuff, though.

    Comment by Rusty — October 3, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  28. Thanks. Posted a bit more about the previous logo here.

    Comment by Stephen Coles — October 3, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

  29. I was employed at the Church Graphic Design Department in the 70s and together with Stan Thurman, we designed the first Church logo and identity system. I was also attended a Salt Lake Temple presentation with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve when the idea was presented and approved. Not surprisingly I believe it was well executed and ahead of it’s time, long before the concept of “branding” came about, certainly for a religious organization.

    In the 90s, I was in my own design firm and was contacted regarding my interest in contributing to the design of a new Church logo. However I was way too invested in my original effort and argued against changing it. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go any further.

    At the Sunstone Symposium last year I presented “Branding Mormonism: the evolution since the 70s” which generated the Salt Lake Tribune article mentioned above. Although I know Adrian Pulfer, I only spoke with McRay Magleby regarding the new logo. He claimed the order of creative contribution was 1) Magleby 2) Pulfer 3) Hoefler. I don’t really know — I can only speak definitively about the first logo. I believe the Sunstone Foundation recorded my presentation and makes it available if interested.

    Happy to answer anything that I know.

    – Randall Smith, modern8.com

    Comment by Randall Smith — October 7, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

  30. Randall,
    Thanks for weighing in. Clearly when I wrote this (almost a decade ago) it was based solely on (me remembering) one person’s account of the events. Even though this was never meant to be anything more than a silly blog post (decidedly NOT journalism), it is embarrassing to have pointed out to me my fuzzy facts.

    And I agree, Randall, what you had developed for the Church WAS ahead of its time and is arguably more ownable than the current logo (the difference between the two is actually a pretty good symbol of the Church’s relationship with Correlation).

    Comment by Rusty — October 7, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

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