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NBC debuted as a radio network in 1926, with a logo depicting a microphone surrounded by lightning bolts, superimposed over a map of the United States of America.
The "NBC" letters appeared in an arc above the graphic images.
In 1931, NBC introduced its second logo – a square with a diagonal NBC text in it, and lightning bolts around the "B". This logo was later adopted in 1944 for use as the original logo for the newly formed NBC television network.
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In 1943, NBC introduced its third logo, a microphone surrounded by lightning bolts, which was a modification of the original 1926 logo used by the NBC radio network. Lightning bolts were also part of the logo of corporate parent RCA, as well as that of one-time sister company RKO Pictures. The waves placed on the left side were meant for the radio network, and the right waves were meant for the television network.
In 1953, a stylized xylophone and mallet was introduced, accompanied by the NBC chimes, which were first heard on NBC radio in 1927 as a seven-tone sequence. The current tones – which were first adopted in 1929 as a simplified cue for identification of its radio affiliates because of issues with orchestrating the seven notes properly – are only three notes, G, E' and C'. There is some indication that the xylophone logo was used at 5:32 p.m. Eastern Time on December 17, 1953 to announce the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) approval of the new color standard, which would go into effect 30 days later. This logo debuted in December 1953, during the Tournament of Roses Parade.
According to the New York Times, 9-2-88, p. A3, John J. Graham and Herb Lubalin of Sudler & Hennessey designed a peacock for the NBC television network: an abstraction of an eleven-feathered peacock indicating richness in color. This brightly hued peacock, which NBC called the "Bird," was adopted because of the increase in color programming. In addition, NBC's owner, RCA, manufactured color television sets. As a result, the peacock became a marketing tool, in the hopes that people tuning into NBC would purchase color TV sets. NBC's first color broadcasts showed only a still frame of the colorful peacock. Several modifications were made by NBC before the emblem made its first on-air appearance on May 22, 1956. This logo was accompanied by a voiceover which narrated, "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC."
In 1962, on Laramie, a new version of the Peacock opening logo was introduced in which the bird fanned its bright plumage against a kaleidoscopic color background. As with the 1956 Peacock, this logo appeared at the start of every NBC color program; as all NBC shows eventually began airing in color, it was generally used only to open those shows that were produced by NBC itself, such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. It was, however, seen on the NBC airings of The Wizard of Oz as well as on the broadcast of Peter Pan, which had been videotaped at NBC Studios. The "Laramie Peacock", named for the series which introduced it, used the same "living color" tagline as the first peacock, but the accompanying music was a soft, woodwind-based number; Mel Brandt provided the voiceover. It was revised further in April 1968; the music was slightly rearranged and the animation shortened by a few seconds, Another version, with Vic Roby announcing, "Now, a special program in living color on NBC", was unveiled for use on specials during this same period. It was shortened further in 1975, when the peacock was retired.
Starting in late 1959, an animated logo joined the Peacock, appearing at the end of every show. Starting with the "N", each letter would grow from the other, forming a stacked typographic logo ending with the "C", forming the base. This would be known as the "NBC snake". Several versions of this exist; the first is the snake forming in front of a multicolored background while a camera passed by with a jazz rendition of the NBC chimes, while the second consists of the snake forming against a color-changing background, going from blue to green to red, on each note of the regular, automated NBC chimes. The logo was also designed by John J. Graham.
NBC updated its image in October 1975 with the introduction of an abstract "N", a bold, bright and contemporary design consisting of two trapezoids – one red and one blue. One of the technological innovations of this logo was its use in the first electronically animated ident for an American television network. On the January 10, 1976 episode of NBC's Saturday Night, Weekend Update host Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner mocked the new logo and its $1 million design cost. In February 1976, Nebraska ETV, the PBS member network for Nebraska, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against NBC. The new NBC logo was virtually identical to the logo that Nebraska ETV had been using since 1974, with the only cosmetic difference between the two designs being that the right trapezoid of the NBC logo had blue coloring. An out-of-court settlement was reached in which NBC gave Nebraska ETV over $800,000 worth of new equipment, including a color mobile unit. It also paid Nebraska ETV $55,000 to cover the cost of designing and implementing a new logo. In return, NBC was allowed to keep the "N" logo.
The Peacock returned as part of NBC's branding in September 1979. The "N" and the Peacock were combined together to create a design called the "Proud N". This marked the first time that the Peacock was actually part of NBC's own logo. It was simplified in keeping with the letter's pared-down design. Although all eleven feathers were intact, the teardrop tips were merged into the rest of the feathers, while a simpler color scheme was used for the feathers themselves. The Peacock's body became a simple triangular shape, without any feet. On several occasions, the new Peacock was used independently of the "N", starting with the new "Proud as a Peacock" advertising campaign that reintroduced the Peacock; however, the "N" and the Peacock were usually combined together between 1979 and 1986. The 1979 Proud N logo was designed by Lippincott & Margulies.
On May 12, 1986, during the finale of the NBC 60th Anniversary Celebration TV special, past and present NBC stars stood on stage to introduce a new logo – a simplified peacock icon, ending the arranged "marriage" of "N" and Peacock. Although NBC had been popularly known as "the peacock network" for some time, it was the first time that "The Bird" had been used as NBC's official symbol all by itself. The peacock's head was now flipped to the right – this was done to suggest as if it was looking forward to the future, not back to the past. The 11 feathers of its previous peacock logo were pared down to six to represent NBC's six divisions: yellow for news, orange for sports, red for entertainment, purple for the stations, blue for the network and green for productions. The shape of the peacock's body was also simplified, becoming vertically elongated, and removing the tips at the bottom and above the head.
The small notch in the purple feather is meant to represent the peacock's beak. The bottom of the peacock evokes a lens shutter. T Incorporating the six primary and secondary colors in the RYB color palette, this Peacock, redesigned by Steff Geissbuhler at Chermayeff & Geismar, remains one of the world's most recognized logos. The network maintains specific guidelines for the logo, including proper colors for reproduction, using either RGB, CMYK or Pantone colors.
On September 30, 2013, NBC revised its 3D crystallized peacock, reincorporating the "NBC" wordmark below the logo in the same font variant introduced by NBC Sports with the 2012 relaunch of the Versus cable sports channel as NBC Sports Network. This modification was extended to the in-program logo bug on June 10, 2013.
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