Head And Shoulders Above The Rest – The Story Behind The Head Logo & Brand

One of the things I like most about branding is how several of the common items we use daily are branded with people’s names. It’s almost as if there was a trend several decades ago to name your product with your surname. I’m not sure how effective that would be in today’s marketing but it did pave the way for many entrepreneurs.

One such entrepreneurs was Howard Head. It was his designs for metal skis in 1947 that launched a whole new revolution in the sport and the sport equipment industry. The Head Ski Company, Inc. was formed in 1950. It actual took a long time just to get there. Head was actually a writer but became an engineer after his writing career fizzled out quickly.

He worked for aircraft manufacturer Glenn L. Martin Company and over the years developed a reputation that included a fondness for parties and poker. It was through his social circle that he was introduced to skiing and although he did not fare well on the slopes he did discover a sport that really got him excited about creating ways to improve his ski performance.

Head started designing skis and after 40 different designs he watched a ski instructor perform on a pair of Head-designed composite skis and knew he had a winner. Naming the skis ‘Standard” they weighed as much as the traditional hickory skis that were actually the standard of the time but the composite ones were stronger, turned better and were more flexible. The Standard also gave beginners a tool they could use when new on the slopes learning the skills required.

Following much in the way of struggle, Olympic ski victories in the 1960s became the final nail in the coffin for hickory skis and the Head Company started to get through the moguls and hit the gates cleanly. In 1966 active wear joined the product line and in 1968 the company launched a tennis division with the creation of the first metal tennis rackets. The next year it released a fibreglass/metal ski.

Ownership changes ensued and product lines expanded to include athletic footwear in 1987 in the form of tennis shoes. Other products were discontinued such as golf clubs and sportswear and eventually the company settled to focus on winter sports, tennis and scuba diving.

The HEAD Logo

You know how much I am a fan of simple, concise and dynamic logos, right? Well, Head is probably one of my top favourites simply because it has all of these points. The logo is a stylised ski tip. There is no mistaking what it represents and it can be clearly understood with just a glance. I say it is iconic and secretly wish I had created it. However, it is logos like the Head ‘ski tip’ that inspire me as a graphic designer so I truly admire the logo and the overall branding.

Through All The Changes, Head Never Tanks

When I design a website for a client, I discuss the importance of everything having relevance to the industry the website represents. The changes that the Head Ski Company experienced over the years could be compared to possibly a small lack of relevance. Golf clubs, for example, may not be a good choice for a company that has been focused on skiing and tennis. Don’t get me started on scuba diving as I’m sure there has to be a connection in there somewhere. Regardless, this is still a timeless brand that has redefined itself several times and is still setting the pace and winning the race.