Do we know which artist(s) designed the original Transformers logos?
It probably wasn't something anyone thought to credit back then, but it's incredibly iconic these days and I'd like to know who was involved.
I, Wayne Molinare was the original designer of the Transformer Logo, Autobot and Deception Icons, and Packaging for Hasbro.
At the time I was an Art Director at Coleman, Lipuma, Segal & Morrill (CLS&M) in NYC. CLS&M was a branding and consumer packaging firm, and we were doing a lot of packaging work for Hasbro. This was a very fast paced project.
I remember getting cartons of the original Takara Packaging (in Japanese) and having to figure out how to transform the toys, and translate that to the American market. The inspiration for the icons was the actual molded heads in the toy sculptures. The original package launched in red for Autobots, and Purple for Deceptions to convey the good versus evil theme.
I also commissioned the original artwork for the packaging, which was done with several artists due to the tight turnaround time, and was the creator of the bio card on the back of pack.
Griffin-Becal was the Ad Agency at the time, and did create the launch advertising and promotions, but not the Branding and Consumer Packaging.
To the best of my knowledge, the first use of the Autobot emblem (as well as the Transformers logo, which it was so often used alongside) is in Hasbro's 1984 Toy Fair catalog (distributed in February 1984, at Toy Fair).
(these photos were archived from an ebay auction of the catalog itself)
At this point, Hasbro was certainly preparing for the September debut of the Transformers cartoon and comic book, but it seems that the marketing materials for the toys were the first thing produced. George Dunsay, Hasbro's senior VP of research & development at the time, said in an interview:
Remember: We picked these items up in June and didn't get really working on them till July. Trade previews were in October/November, so we had to rush. Considering the time constraints, R&D, marketing and Griffin-Bacal did 16 months work in 4-5. Catalogs were also rushed. They were printed six months before actual production (for US Toy Fair), and so were commercials.
Here he refers to obtaining the license and tooling for Diaclone and Microchange toys from Takara in mid-1983, preparing for industry previews by fall 1983, and preparing for Toy Fair 1984 the following February.
Griffin-Bacal was the marketing agency run by Tom Griffin and Joe Bacal, who handled branding and advertising for many of Hasbro's major toy lines at the time, including Transformers.
Dunsay goes on to say:
So we were continuing to develop the product after the catalogs and commercials were done. Some product and color changes were made at that late date.
I don't remember Marvel having anything to say about any aesthetics the first year or so. The same product with two colors was an attempt to make the line look bigger...
Here he's referring to the aesthetics of the toy line, not the comic book or cartoon based on the toys. It's clear that they needed final art for the toys at an early date - the logo and "battle scene" art used in the Toy Fair catalog are essentially identical to the versions later used on the toy packaging. As such, it seems clear that the logo was conceived as part of this "rushed" promotional material, if not earlier.
Since Hasbro's internal marketing department and the Griffin-Bacal agency are credited by Dunsay with developing the Toy Fair materials, and he states that Marvel didn't have input on the aesthetics of the toy line for the first two years, I think we can assume that someone at Hasbro or Griffin-Bacal was responsible for the design of the logo and, at the very least, the Autobot emblem.
In fact, the Transformers Wiki credits Griffin-Bacal with the emblem design:
Lastly, Griffin Bacal divided the robots into two groups, "Autobots" (good) and "Decepticons" (evil) and designed faction logos for them, based on the heads of the robot toys...
That information doesn't seem to be present in any of the articles cited by that wiki page, though.
In a blog post, Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter describes the initial 1983 meeting with Hasbro that led to his writing the treatment for the Transformers comic, and notes:
By the way, “Transformers,” “Autobots” and “Decepticons” came from Hasbro.
In his follow-up post, Shooter describes Griffin-Bacal as taking over the direction of the Transformers franchise:
Hasbro’s advertising agency was Griffin-Bacal. They had great aspirations regarding the Hasbro account. They wanted to run Hasbro’s entire marketing effort. And they wanted to be Hasbro’s go-to creative resource, which WE were rapidly becoming. This isn’t pure speculation. Tom Griffin and Joe Bacal were fairly clear about that at several of our meetings...
Griffin-Bacal increasingly insinuated itself between Marvel and Hasbro. We found ourselves dealing less and less with Bob Prupis and the Hasbro boys’ toys guys and more and more with G-B and Sunbow, their executive production arm.
Shooter has a lot to say about Sunbow, the animation studio owned by Griffin-Bacal, which produced the Transformers cartoon. He states that Sunbow frequently took credit for work Marvel staff had done in developing the Transformers characters and story. However, this description of the role Griffin-Bacal played in shaping the branding of the franchise seems to line up with Dunsay's account, as well as with the claims made on the wiki page.
While the story and characters for purposes of comic and cartoon production were conceived by Marvel staff, the branding of the toy line was done by Griffin-Bacal in collaboration with Hasbro marketing. So the fundamental branding elements were produced as part of this marketing effort - the Transformers name, the Autobot and Decepticon factions, and presumably key visual elements such as the Transformers logotype. Per Shooter's account, this was done either prior to Marvel's involvement or without Marvel input.
I believe this supports the assumption that the Autobot emblem was designed as part of the initial marketing effort, so it could be used in the 1984 Toy Fair catalog, and not as part of the development of the comic or cartoon. Given that, any more specific attribution for the emblem design would have to come from someone who was a member of Hasbro's marketing department or Griffin-Bacal's staff at the time.
The original artist for Marvel's first printing of Generation 1 Transformers in 1984 was Bill Sienkiewicz. The comic's writers were Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman. The Generation 1 transformers franchise doesn't specifically state credit to who actually designed the logo, but deductive reasoning would bet that Bill, Bob, and Simon worked together to create it.
According to early design processes by Marvel, they used Marvel Style:
The comic was written in "Marvel Style", where the writer gives the artist a plot outline instead of a full script. The artist then lays out the pages himself; afterward the writer comes back in and scripts the dialog based on the artist's work. This approach gives the artist a larger role in telling the story than simply drawing what the writer tells them to.