Defunct Designs: The Amoco Logo

The Amoco logo always brings back waves of nostalgia. As a kid in St. Louis (and later Lansing, Michigan), Amocos were far and away the most common gas stations you saw. Though half the time, they said “Standard” instead of Amoco. This duel branding fascinated me from a young age. It was like seeing McDonald’s signs that said “Burger King” under the golden arches. The reason for this branding, of course, had to do with the breakup of Standard Oil in the early twentieth century.

The Remnants of Standard Oil

Like the Bell System decades later, Standard Oil was split into regional companies that had the rights to use the Standard name in their respective states. But much like the “Baby Bells”, the “Baby Standards” wanted to expand nationally. This led to a situation where the same company had to use different names in different areas. By the time I was old enough to remember, the Standard Oil Company of Indiana had changed their name to American Oil Company, or Amoco for short. This meant that the newer signage said Amoco, but in states where they could use the Standard name, they were in no hurry to change. This meant that the mom and pop franchises kept the Standard branding, while the newer stations became Amocos.

Torch + Stripes

Standard Oil and Amoco Combination
The Amoco logo was fascinating as a little kid riding around town looking at signs, but the design gets a lot more interesting when you start digging into it. First of all, the logo combined two other designs, a three-striped oval and a torch. Normally, combined logos are a hideously ugly mess, but in this case, the combined product was better than its constituent elements. But the other interesting thing about this design was its versatility. In my area, the torch-and-oval designs either said “Standard” or “Amoco”, but there were other names used with it as well, including “American” and “Pan-Am” (no relation to the airline.) This was a good introduction to the idea of a cohesive brand identity.

Amoco to BP

Proposed BP Amoco LogoLike most of the defunct logos on this site, the Amoco design went away because of a corporate merger. British Petroleum bought Amoco to become the international conglomerate BP (an initialism that no longer stands for anything.) BP traded in their green-and-yellow shield for a complex flower/sun design named Helios. The Helios design is pretty neat in and of itself (though I just don’t care for green and yellow together.) In order to keep the Amoco design from falling completely to the wayside, BP kept the name for the gasoline itself. This was quite jarring, as you’d pull into a green and yellow BP station and see a red, white and blue Amoco logo at the pump. As much as I’m not a fan of the green and yellow color scheme, I’d love to see the Amoco logo redone to match the BP branding.

What are your memories of Standard Oil and/or Amoco? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

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  1. August 16, 2017

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