Picture the Star Wars logo. You know the one. All-caps. At the front, the S slides gracefully into the T. The feet on the Rs reach forward, grasping for perfect symmetry. Star Wars fans know it by heart. People who have never watched Star Wars know it through commercials and posters and advertising. And yet that iconic logo was hardly the first design applied to Star Wars. It was at least the fifth, as this fascinating look at the Star Wars logo's evolution (via Kottke) reveals.
Alex Jay dug through mounds of history on the Star Wars logo to lay bare its complex history, and each design along the path is awesome in its own way. The logo we all know evolved out of a decal designed by Ralph McQuarrie, featuring an early concept drawing of a blaster-and-lightsaber equipped Han Solo and the dramatic text "The Star Wars" underneath it in the font Futura Display. Joe Johnston, who worked at ILM at the time, did another logo treatment based on the font Precis Slim.
Tons of promotional materials from the film, pre-release, show off different font choices. The movie title eventually dropped the "the;" sometimes the words were stacked, sometimes displayed side-by-side. A novelization of the movie, a Marvel comic adaptation, and all kinds of brochures and magazine features use different versions of the logo, since they were created before the film was finished and hit theaters. In some of those materials, you can see the early version of Star Wars' iconic logo, which was designed by Suzy Rice.
Lucas asked Rice to design a "very fascist" logo, and she came up with the one we all know so well--almost. The font was hand-drawn, inspired by Helvetica Black, but the W was sharper; when they realized the W design didn't work well in the film's opening text crawl, Joe Johnston changed the W, and the icon was born. Still, Rice's version shows up in all kinds of ads printed before the movie.
And that wasn't the last time Rice's logo would be used. Jay discovered that logo, with its weirdly angular W, in paperbacks from Ballantine. Some publications would even use two different versions of the logo in a single book or ignore it in place of some other funky font. And even when the logo was fairly established, changes in perspective could completely alter its appearance, like in the design to the right.
Jay's blog post is full of tons of awesome artwork from decades of Star Wars material, and it's really amazing to see how much variation it had before, during, and after the film's release. And the post doesn't even delve into how the logos of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi changed--they almost certainly saw less variation, but you can still find a few different versions of each with only a quick search. You should absolutely read the rest of the post for more awesome images of The Star Wars.