Changes in style in the late 19th century sparked a new trend in home decor. In many homes and commercial spaces, paint replaced the messy application and expensive cost of wallpaper. Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams founded a painting company in 1866. According to Ohio History Central, Sherwin Williams Paint Company was in the right place at the right time. Premixed paint sold in cans was a newly invented product that was not available until 1880. Before that time, the paint ingredients were sold separately. With this new process available, companies were eager for their share of the growing demand. Sherwin Williams jumped on the bandwagon and expanded his business to include professionally matched home décor products. Every successful business should have its distinctive image, slogan and logo. Branding is nothing new and back then, as now, a product had to be eye-catching on shelves, billboards, and print ads.
1885 Colored chameleon
Any good advertising branding strategy needs an identifying graphic, so in 1885 Henry Sherwin devised an illustration known as “The Chameleon.” It featured a lizard on a color wheel artist’s palette, suggesting that more and more middle-class consumers were seeking a colorful aesthetic in their living space. With ready-mixed paint available to buy in all sorts of shades and colors, every homeowner can now add their artistic touch to their home. The “Chameleon” logo served the company until 1893 when a designer named George W. Ford came up with the “Cover the Earth” logo that would evolve through various incarnations over the next century and beyond.
1893 First cover
George W. Ford’s first artist rendering of “Cover the Earth” showed a monochrome globe shaded with white paint over it. The idea was to use paint to cover just about anything that needed decoration. Consumers of that time easily understood that the image was a surreal symbol, not a literal mandate to cover all the earth in the world with paint. During this time, the “The Chameleon” logo was still in use at the same time, no doubt as a test to see which one the public preferred.
The Chameleon was removed and “Cover the Earth” became the only official Sherwin Williams logo. Advertisers decided that the paint can dripping onto our grayscale planet needed something extra, so the initials “SW” were added, so that consumers won’t forget which brand of paint to use. The artwork, like most of the advertising of the day, was drawn and reproduced by hand, which was not as sophisticated as later creations detailed by graphic artists.
1910 onwards a key phrase was born
In addition to the initials on the paint can, the words “Cover the Earth” were added to the globe. In 1919 a “P” was added to the “SW” on the paint can. In the 1920s, a red, white, and blue color scheme was adopted, and the color the company chose for paint spilling from the skies onto a defenseless planet was bold – red!
1974 Earth Days
By the mid-1970s, the population was becoming more environmentally conscious with “Earth Day” celebrations and an emphasis on cleaning up the planet. Oil spills and other environmental hazards were making headlines and companies were shifting their focus to reflect consumer concerns. A temporary logo was released, simply with the words “Sherwin Williams” to coexist with the traditional “Cover the Earth”; however, the temporary logo was removed again in the early 1990s.
Around this time, the Internet appeared where almost anyone can speak their minds about everything that many sounded about the “disturbing” Sherwin Williams logo. Although the company’s business slogan these days is “Ask Sherwin Williams,” “Cover the Earth” still appears prominently on the logo. The messy red paint dripping across Mother Earth’s landscapes and oceans was too much for environmentally conscious shoppers to bear.
Popular culture wars
Sherwin Williams is the top choice for a brand rework according to a survey by Fast Company.com, although Verizon, K-Mart, Hallmark and others also received votes. Adweek.com wrote an opinion piece. “Now it’s Sherwin Williams’ turn for a much-needed new logo, right?” …