Chesapeke and Ohio - The world's worst logo, decoded!

Our 1936 Bureau Chief has just wired me this ad for Chesapeke and Ohio railroad, which finally reveals exactly what the hell their logo is. History's secrets... revealed!!!!

Many times I have sat at a railroad crossing, watching an interminable line of rail cars go by. They are often grouped together, so the bored / frustrated motorist can appreciate multiple examples of the giant logo on the side of the train. This is made even less bearable when the logo is one of such baffling and terrible design as The Chessie System (as it is called now). What is the logo supposed to be? A satellite image of an undiscovered island? Pac Man with oral cancer? The worst shadow puppet ever?

The Chessie logo is a frikkin' kitten sleeping on a pillow. Now I know. This was meant to communicate to you how smooth was the ride on the Chessie system. This mattered when humans traveled on trains much more so than they do now. There was once, citizens, so much competition for the train traveler's dollar that railroads apparently worked hard to give the passenger the smoothest ride possible. This is quaint. Travel by train is still completely possible, of course, but it's just not the ubiquitous mode it once was.

This logo is a failure. It was once a photograph (or painting) that has been made into a two-color graphic, and has not survived the transition with any degree of legibility. If you need the original picture to decipher the graphic, it's a failure.

If your logo cannot be deciphered when it's nine feet tall, it's a failure. The casual observer should not have to be eighty years old to remember a time when the logo was once printed in photographic form in order to understand what the hell he or she is looking at. Yes, if I had done a Google search on the Chessie logo, I would have immediately found the kitten picture. But, if your logo requires a web search to find out what it is, it's a failure. Yes, the Chessie logo is memorable, but your company logo shouldn't be memorable for being an inscrutable blob.

None of this would matter if I hadn't spent a cumulative nine hours of my life in a state of frustration watching this horrible logo keep me from getting home, a mere quarter mile from the railroad crossing. The uselessness of the logo just makes it more galling, and now that I know what it's supposed to be, I hate it more. If, on any of the innumerable logo design jobs I've done, I had submitted a logo that looks like an alien continent, I'd have been laughed at, fired, and punched... unless of course the job was for The Tourism Board of "Space Barbados, with exciting new peninsula!" The artist who made this kitty picture into a logo should be stuffed up his own butt. "How's the view in there? See anything that looks like the shit logo you designed? Enjoy!" He should then be kicked in the stomach, to break his nose.

That being said, the locomotive in this ad is brilliant. I am a man, and as such, was once a boy, and likewise, once had strong opinions about trains. The one in this ad is from the perfect time when trains had become enormous and still had lots of wheels and wiggly bits on them that made them interesting to watch, but had yet to become the slab-sided featureless rectangles that we have today. If I some day become one of the crazy old men who plays with model trains, I will have a locomotive like this one. Make no jokes about phallic symbols. As Freud once said, "Sometimes a train is just a train."

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Steve Miller said...

Considering the implications of the treatment of one's traveling customers, TSA's fondness of groping said persons might lead to some, er, "interesting" logo ideas. Except that's sorta what the Chessie logo already looks like.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Kitten receiving colnoscopy. "Arrive refreshed, the TSA way, on Chessie lines."

Thanks, Steve!


Anonymous said...

It's not even a good indiscernible blob - Someone actually added onto the kitten's arm(?)... leg(?)...,
Not that I ever pondered the logo, I am actually glad to know what the hell it is...Thanks, P.A.G.!


PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Of course someone added on to the kitten's "arm". They had to show everyone how stupid cats look with human elbows.

Thanks for reading, MFHB2! Y'all come back now, y'heah?


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