National Geographic Logo History

On the evening of January 13, 1888, thirty-three men traveled on foot, horseback, and in horsedrawn carriages through the streets of Washington to the Cosmos Club, then on Lafayette Square across from the White House. They convened around a large mahogany table to discuss “the advisability of organizing a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” The entity they were about to create would become the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institution in the world.

The group included geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers, and financiers—all learned, well-traveled men distinguished by a love of knowledge and a thirst for discovery and achievement. As one of them pointed out, they were the “first explorers of the Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone, those who had carried the American flag farthest north, who had measured the altitude of our famous mountains, traced the windings of our coasts and rivers, determined the distribution of flora and fauna, enlightened us in the customs of the aborigines, and marked out the path of storm and flood.”

The men embodied an era that was marked by exploration, discovery, invention, and change. Massive industrial expansion and immigration were altering the face of the country, infusing people with new ideas and values. Americans were energetic, ambitious, optimistic, and curious for new information about the world around them. It was clear to the men assembled at the Cosmos Club that a vehicle was needed to satisfy that desire for knowledge.

They readily approved a resolution that the Society be organized “on as broad and liberal a basis in regard to qualifications for membership as is consistent with its own well-being and the dignity of the science it represents.” Over the next two weeks a constitution and plan of organization were prepared, and on January 27, 1888, the National Geographic Society was officially incorporated.

Its first president was Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a lawyer, financier, and philanthropist who helped found a school for the deaf and promoted the experiments of his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell. Acknowledging in his introductory address that he was neither “a scientific man, nor...a geographer,” Hubbard stated, “By my election you notify the public that the membership of our Society will not be confined to professional geographers, but will include that large number who, like myself, desire to promote special researches by others, and to diffuse the knowledge so gained, among men, so that we may all know more of the world upon which we live.”

Nine months after the Society was founded, the first NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine was published. A studious, scientific journal with a nondescript, dull-brown cover, it bore no resemblance to the color-illustrated periodical it would come to be. On its first two pages, however, was an announcement stating the mission that was to guide the Society and its magazine for the next century and beyond:

“The ‘National Geographic Society’ has been organized ‘to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,’ and the publication of a Magazine has been determined upon as one means of accomplishing these purposes. As it is not intended to be simply the organ of the Society, its pages will be open to all persons interested in geography, in the hope that it may become a channel of intercommunication, stimulate geographic investigation and prove an acceptable medium for the publication of results.”

After more than a century the National Geographic Society today is propelled by new concerns: the alarming lack of geographic knowledge among our nation’s young people and the pressing need to protect the planet’s natural resources. As our mission grows in urgency and scope, the Society continues to develop new and exciting vehicles for broadening our reach and enhancing our legendary ability to bring the world to our millions of members.

The current logo

National Geographic Channel

Andy Baker - Creative Director
A few months back, we decided it was time to update the look of the National Geographic Channel – we wanted to freshen it up while maintaining its “smartness” and make the channel feel less promotional. We changed our logo, the graphic colors and how we talk to our viewers. We choose to use the logo and colors that are used by the international National Geographic Channels. So, no matter where you watch the channel around the world it has the same logo and look. We felt that the more understated palette of gray, white, and our signature yellow, really showcases the spectacular imagery from our programming. We know that people who watch the channel enjoy informative non-fiction programs, and don’t like to be “sold” on shows so we changed the way we talk to our viewers, using less hype to tell people about our shows, and to emphasize the incredible stories and information within the program.

To make these sorts of changes, it’s a very time consuming process. The creative team has to review every place where the old logo and color palette exists on air or in print and then re-create it with the new logo and colors. New graphics, new copy and new guidelines for how an ad or commercial should look and feel can take as little as a few hours, or as much as several weeks!

Most of the readers of this blog are from the U.S., but the National Geographic Channel has a longer history in other countries. Nat Geo Channel International launched in 1997, the U.S. Channel in 2001. We have decided to take a more global mindset so whether you're in Chicago or Calcutta you will see the same logo and shortened name ‘Nat Geo’.

You'll see this logo all around the world.

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