Deutsche Bank logo

Deutsche Bank logo

It All Started With a Simple Contest

Deutsche Bank Logo

Nothing like a good old-fashioned contest to open the door to your bank’s new brand identity. Trust your fate to the hands of the world’s best marketing designers, pit them against each other — then take the results straight to the proverbial and literal bank.

That is exactly how Deutsche Bank’s famous global logo was born. The bank even secured a jury of industry experts — from the worlds of design and marketing no less, not banking or finance — to judge and eventually pick the final winner.

This was the bank’s third time trying their hand at a contest approach, a gamble that proves the third time truly is the charm. This is how, in 1973, we arrived at that blue square, with its single angled line we now recognize as the icon of an institution.

So, who was the mind behind the miracle? Anton Stankowski, the farthest thing from a finance bro this side of the Berlin wall.

Anton began his career as a modest apprentice to church painters in Germany before going on to the Folkwangschule, a version of ad school in Zurich. The career path is important to note because it led Stankowski, in his offbeat, bohemian way, to discover and develop a highly individual and personalized philosophy of his craft and lifework.

Every subsequent career decision was approached and examined through this very unique intellectual framework. His constructivist ideas caused him to make no distinction between mainstream commercial work as a graphic designer, and what some would consider his more praiseworthy work as a painter. He saw both disciplines as inextricable.

Considering this mentality, the Deutsche Bank logo is perhaps the benchmark creative rendering of Stankowski’s artistic life. Before July 1972, Deutsche Bank did business under what amounted to a 50-year identity crisis. During that time span, the bank used a slew of extremely disparate symbols as its logos without committing to a single image as its trademark.

A Generous Socialist Spin

Karl Duschek, director of the Duschek Studio, explains that during the contest of 1973, each participant was paid 3,000 Deutschmarks — a generous socialist spin on an otherwise purely capitalist endeavor.

In accordance with competition rules, Standkowski served up several submissions. But his winning piece — the most divergent, with that simple, yet very practical looking diagonal — was the jury’s decided favorite.

Soon enough, there it was, all over the streets of West Germany, to the public’s amazement and sometimes disappointment. Duschek recalls their reactions as “mind-blowing” and describes how “the bank’s staff took about two years to accept [it].”

They were perplexed because the image seemed so unemotional — representative of nothing. It seemed to characterize the bank as an aloof entity with no values.

And then there was the simplicity of the logo itself. Couldn’t an average child have designed something so simple?

But today, the slash has grown and evolved as a universally embraced trademark that bankers and designers adore. What began as so radical and inexplicable is now a mark of timeless minimalism. It has become a beloved and globally recognized symbol that represents Deutsche as a foremost international bank, and the logo’s seemingly emotionless quality is regarded with the same open-ended wonder as an abstract painting.

Perhaps this was Standkowski’s undisclosed objective all along.