Mike and I have finally settled on a logo for M&T. We’ve spent two years going back and forth trying every idea under the sun: plane shavings, hand planes, joinery dissections, etc. None of it worked. We needed something dead simple that eluded to (but didn’t clobber you over the head with) the heartbeat of M&T. We knew the most effective logos (such as those of Apple, Nike, and Target) can be drawn in a few lines and are recognizable from across the room. After many abandoned designs, we decided on the one above. This drawing is from the title page of London-based painter and engraver William Hogarth’s 1753 book, The Analysis of Beauty. The image is simple, powerful, and beautiful. But what does it symbolize?
The Meaning Behind the Symbol
In 1745, William Hogarth painted a self-portrait with his pug. Lying on the painter’s palette prominently set in the foreground was an S-shaped three-dimensional line with an explanatory caption below: “The Line of Beauty”. Hogarth later said that “the bait soon took” and many artists came to him to inquire of the meaning resulting in “freequent explanations and disputes”. Hogarth made the case that the waving line, found all throughout nature, was “ornamental and pleasing” requiring a “lively movement of the hand” to draw. It was the Line of Beauty.
Hogarth expounded his case in The Analysis of Beauty which he said was “written with a view of fixing the fluctuating IDEAS OF TASTE”. The book set forth six principals of beauty: FITNESS, VARIETY, UNIFORMITY, SIMPLICITY, INTRICACY, and QUANTITY. He explained that these elements work together to create true beauty. In his view, although all these principals were to be balanced together, the waving and serpentine lines made the biggest visual impact. Hogarth’s biographer, Ronald Paulson, has explained that the Line of Beauty was “a synecdoche for his theory and its crucial terms of variety, intricacy, and pleasure. It was his theory reduced to a hieroglyph.”
Not all waving lines are created equal, however. To illustrate the ideal curvature, Hogarth showed seven cabriole chair legs, the first three of which were “mean and poor” (too straight) and the last three of which were “gross and clumsy” (too curvy). The ideal curvature for a cabriole leg was depicted as number four.
Because of the importance of the waving line in his system, Hogarth composed an illustration that sat on the title page of Analysis. This emblem depicted the serpentine Line of Beauty set inside a transparent glass pyramid atop a plinth inscribed with the word “VARIETY”. Of the pyramid shape, Hogarth wrote, “Observe, that a gradual lessening is a kind of varying that gives beauty. The pyramid diminishing from its basis to its point [is a] beautiful form… There is no object composed of straight lines, that has so much variety, with so few parts, as the pyramid: and it is its constantly varying from its base gradually upwards in every situation of the eye.”
One scholar has said this symbol was “emblematic of and embodying Hogarth’s ideas espoused in his work” and was “a synthetic visual demonstration of the argument of his text.” In his preface, Hogarth explained how the two elements in the logo come together to symbolize the essence of beauty: “the triangular form of the glass, and the serpentine line itself, are the two most expressive figures that can be thought of to signify not only beauty and grace, but the whole order of form.”
We at M&T celebrate the SIMPLICITY of historic craft process, eschewing elaborate machining processes and complicated jigs. A major part of that includes embracing the VARIETY (in dimension, tool mark texture, etc) inherent in hand tool work. We’ve decided to adopt the drawing (sans the plinth) as M&T’s official logo because it perfectly depicts the beautiful fusion of SIMPLICITY and VARIETY.
This logo, shown on the first page of Issue Three, will also be featured on our merchandise in the future. Yes, stickers and shirts are coming.