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Design Contest Underway For New "Green" Logo

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Listen up, all creative types: a small fortune in cash is up for grabs, if you can design a logo that represents the environmental benefits of bio-plastics. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.

You see it everywhere: three arrows signaling "recyclable," "made with recycled material," or "recycle here."

It was 1970 when architect Gary Anderson -- then a college student -- designed the logo for a contest sponsored by the now defunct Container Corporation of America and won. After some tweaking, the symbol went global. Anderson saw it for the first time on recycling bins in Amsterdam in the late 1970s.

"It really kind of bowled me over," said Anderson. "It's just astounding to me that it really has become iconic."

Anderson won $25,000 for his original design draft. Now, he's judging entries for a similar contest called "Make your Mark." This one is for a logo that symbolizes bio-plastics, biodegradable and compostable plastics made from natural materials such as corn, algae, and tapioca.

California-based Cereplast, a bio-plastics company, is putting up $25,000 for the winning design.

"There wasn't a symbol, there wasn't something on the product, that could differentiate it from a traditional plastic," said Nicole Cardi of Cereplast Marketing.

Minda Chipurnoi-Finkelstein teaches the "Building A Brand" class in the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies' graduate program for graphic communications technology and management. She incorporated the contest into her class.

"Absolutely it is historical. This will affect how people understand and react to packaged products from here on," Chipurnoi-Finkelstein said.

It's not just the money driving the creative juices here. It's also the chance to make a mark, quickly.

"Because of social media, this brand and this icon will spread much faster than Mr. Anderson's original design," said NYU-SCPS design student Dona McKenzie.

"The recycling logo, you know that. You see that everywhere nowadays. And I see from the research I did that bioplastics could be that big," said NYU-SCPS design student Tiffany Bowman.

Entries are already being submitted to the website, where anyone can help choose the top four submissions by clicking to vote. A panel of judges will then choose the winner, to be announced the day before Earth Day.

The bio-plastic resin Cereplast makes is already being used in items millions of people use everyday: disposable cutlery, pens, straws and yogurt containers -- maybe inspiration for an artist hoping to have as much of an impact as Gary Anderson.

The contest deadline is March 4th.

Additional Info

Anderson says contestants should keep in mind the logo must be reproduceable: it has to be instantly significant when read on the small surface area of a cup, and every size up. It should also signal bioplastics and compostability.

Cereplast specializes in two kinds of resins: "compostables" that will compost within six months in a municipal composting site, and sustainables, made of bio-based material not necessarily compostable but made of up to 70 percent plant, and not oil-based material.

All designs submitted will belong to Cereplast Inc., to prevent creative theft, says Cereplast's Nicole Cardi.

Bonnie Blake, the academic program director for the master's degree in graphic communications at NYU-SCPS, says Anderson's design is a good example of how widespread use came from word-of-mouth and industry approval to propel a logo to the status of a symbol in the public's mind.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rankin Byrne of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says, “The symbol appears as a component (along with other matter, such as wording or additional design elements), but it [does not appear] that the symbol by itself is registered. In appropriate cases, we seem to have “disclaimers” from registrants, indicating that they don’t claim exclusive rights in the symbol except in the context of their mark as a whole..."

Anderson says he never received royalties or publicity for being the original designer of the swirling arrows, and says he sought neither, never realizing how ubiquitous his design would become.

The prize money had to be used for academic endeavors, and he studied in Europe as a result. He vanished until a New Jersey recycling coordinator found him, and he was honored in 1999 in Morris County at the 12th annual recycling dinner, according to media reports, which also say the rights of the symbol were to be handed to the public domain.

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