Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What's in a Logo?

What do you see when you look at the head tube logo on my custom frames? Many people see a tic-tac-toe or the pound symbol you see on a telephone keypad.

If that is what you see, you are looking at the blank space inside the logo. It is simply four lower case letter “m” placed north, south, east, and west in the form of a cross.

During the 1970s in England there were strict rules regarding the amateur status of athletes, especially Olympic athletes. No sponsorship was allowed and I could not advertise the fact that a few 'World Class' cyclists were riding my bikes. One way around this was to have my name prominently displayed on the frame.

[Paul Carbutt of the British Olympic Team rode this Dave Moulton Bike in the 1976 Olympics in Montréal, Canada.]

I did this in a simple typeface similar to that used on road signs, easy to read and distinctive in my name being spelled out in all lower case letters. A picture of a leading cyclist riding my bike on the cover of the British "Cycling" Magazine would result in a huge boost in sales. Sometimes a photo would be a head on shot and all that could be seen was my logo on the head tube. The logo was simple and instantly recognizable.

When I resumed building my own custom frames in California in the early 1980s I still used the same decals including the logo with the words “Worcester England” underneath. (The address of my English frameshop.)

I later added a decal that read:

This was placed at the top of the seat tube, under the seat lug where the tube manufacturer’s decal would normally go. I followed Masi’s lead and left the tubing decal off my custom frames because they were prone to bubble and fester in the heat of the paint-curing oven.

To my chagrin there was resistance to the ‘dave moulton’ name on my frames when I first started building in California. “Not exotic sounding enough” was the excuse I usually heard. Some wanted to order a frame without decals for that reason, which I refused to do.

Many of you know the story behind the Fuso name and logo, but it will bear repeating for the benefit of those who do not. When I decided to bring out a line of production frames in 1984 my main competition was the Italian import frames, so I looked through an Italian/English dictionary for a suitable name.

I came across the word “Fuso” Italian for molten metal. It was a play on words on my name. I sketched out the logo of crucible pouring molten metal into a mold, and the Fuso brand was born.

I did not know at the time that Fuso was also a Japanese word and there was a famous Japanese battleship named Fuso during WWII.

There is a subtle difference in pronunciation; my frame is pronounced the Italian way, Fuse-oh. The Japanese pronunciation is Foo-so. Mitsubishi has a line of commercial vehicles with that name.

If you can believe this also, when I brought out the Fuso frame, many of my customers protested and wanted ‘dave moulton’ on it. By now, I my reputation had grown and no one cared if the name sounded exotic or not. However, to put ‘dave moulton’ on a line of production frames, even though the quality was high, would have been unfair to those who had paid top dollar for individually built custom frames. So once again, I had to refuse.


VintageSpin said...

I at first thought your Moulton logo looked very much like Native American's sun symbol, also used on New Mexico's flag.
That symbol represents everything brought together, in balance, kind of what you accomplished with your frames.

Anonymous said...

I have this acquaintance Scott. Scott is skinny and nerdy. He rides his bike EVERYWHERE. Maybe 60-70 miles daily between bike shop and production jobs in a given week. While we are all constantly changing our bikes around and riding something different everyday, Scott keeps happily pedalling on this old lugged road bike, decked out in ancient Shimano 600, mustache bars, and Suntour barcons. Guess what it is... a Fuso.