by Shiuming Lai
started writing this article eight months ago,
but never quite got my thoughts together, between
producing the magazine each month. In some ways
it's also good, because recent events about
the subject have completed a chapter that looks stabilized
for the foreseeable future. As the headline
says, I am referring to the famous Atari
three-pronged "Fuji" symbol, of
emblems are concerned, the Fuji symbol is
rare in that it could claim synonymity with a
multi-million dollar industry. To this day,
where the company of that era no longer exists,
it has made its mark in history and is fondly
remembered for the fun it brought.
that I'm still only talking of the Fuji symbol.
The complete Atari logotype consists of the
symbol, and company name in what has now become
known as simply the "Atari font" to
many people. What is also interesting is that
the logo's two elements can be combined in two
different ways to suit the graphical balance
of the required application. There is the "rectangular"
form with the Fuji on the left and "Atari"
on the right, mostly used on product labels
and badges (or banners, as shown below), and
the "square" form with a large
Fuji on top of the Atari name, commonly seen
on Atari arcade machine cabinets, also
perfect for T-shirts.
company with literally identical flexibility
in forms of its logo is TDK Electronics, most
famed among consumers in the 1970s and 1980s
for its magnetic recording media. You can see
the two forms of its logo in the scan of
the inlay card from the popular AD formulation
Type 1 cassette, below.
why this article? It really came about after
many years of noticing something quite elementary:
the Fuji symbol is extremely difficult
to reproduce in the correct proportions. Ever
tried to draw one by hand? Its very simplicity
is both deceptive and the essence of its effectiveness.
In short, if not produced correctly, it
looks like a cheap imitation. Conversely, it's
not so bad if deliberately stylized, but the
closer to the real thing it is without actually
being correct, the worse the amateurish looking
to the internet, never has been
seen before such a proliferation of suspect Fuji symbols.
I was glad to see I wasn't the only one, when
I saw that Atari.org offered once and for all
a correctly proportioned Fuji symbol for download
in various graphic file formats.
There are hundreds of Atari Fuji logos all over the web. Some have been
raytraced, some have been hand drawn. Others assembled from screen grabs of
Atari systems. But generally they all share one thing in common - they just
don't look right! Either the curves of the logo are wrong, the height and width
is out of proportion or its been expanded from a smaller image and suffers badly
personal experience, the most difficult part
to get right is the curvature of the two side
prongs. Not knowing how to construct those curves
means the only way is to trace high resolution
examples (preferably from official sources)
and attempt to reverse-engineer. Visual inspection
would suggest that the inner facing edge of
the curves could be sections of a circle,
but perhaps not so the outer facing edges. Using
a pencil, pair of compasses and ruler on an A4 print,
a trace for the points about which
the hypothetical sections of circle are described
confirm this. The outer edge of the curve, tested
on the left side, is clearly not part of a circle.
That's where it becomes complicated. The geometric
construction of TDK's "crystal" symbol,
on the other hand, I figured out one bored
afternoon at the age of 11.
examples are also wrong by the thickness of
the prongs. Usually, the incorrect assumption
is that the tops are all the same width,
when in fact the two either side are narrower
than the central one.
the two classical forms we all know so well, the XL line of 8-bit computer systems didn't
show the Fuji symbol on the actual products,
and boxes and covers of the manuals. The latter
two had underlining of the Atari name. Only
on the sides of the boxes and product information
labels underneath the hardware showed the Fuji,
in the square form. Prior to the XL line, the
400 and 800 series had the Fuji symbol as an
individual idendity on its own badge, whereas
the Atari name and model number would be formed
together on another badge or label.
embellishment of the logo was used in the
8-bit days, a sign of the outstanding colour
palettes of Atari's machines right from the
2600. More precisely, the strip of rainbow gradient
shown on the 800XL box above was used on packaging
and even some machines themselves, becoming
something of an Atari trademark. In a lot of
software, a Fuji logo with a rainbow coloured
vertical gradients inside ("rasters"
today in demo-speak) was both easy to program
and highly effective in demonstrating the systems'
colour capability. Years later, a tribute to
this appeared in the Desktop Info... dialog
of the so-called Rainbow TOS version of the
Atari ST operating system.
It was really with the ST
line that the rectangular form of Fuji symbol
and Atari name together as one became popular.
Derivatives of the ST design, namely the XE
8-bit computer systems that replaced the XL,
followed suit with visible Fuji symbols once
again, none more prominent than the avant-garde
System of 1987 with its large moulded Atari logo.
In Europe, Atari's computers were more successful than on the company's
home turf, America. Particularly during
the late 1980s and early 1990s, the German market
was a huge driving force behind the ST computers.
Rainbow colours were out, and the new identity
was mostly blue and white, with dashes of grey,
reflecting the more business-like nature of
these more powerful, newer generation systems.
Incidentally, Apple Computer also used rainbow
colours in its fruit logo from way back in the
early 1980s, then went to solid single colour some
time around the advent of its translucent G3
systems in the late 1990s, before settling on
its present "Aqua" style.
significance in the scheme of the Atari logo
is shown below. In nearly all of the German-produced
advertising and graphics, the whole design,
most notably the font, is thickened, to the
point where the apex of the "A" is
rounder and the "R" is "closed"
(indicated by the arrow). It always made me
think of delicious Deutsche Würste.
Now any time you see photos of Atari events
where the banners show a thick, chunky Atari
logo, it's a safe bet to say it was in Germany.
thick logo was never used, to my knowledge,
on the products or packaging, as these didn't
originate in Germany. I chose my Mega STE's
box as a great example of this contrast, as
it has a promotional flyer from Atari GmbH stuck
Corp. UK adopted the thickened Atari logo in
some of its later, business-oriented advertising
material, for example the double-sided Mega
STE and TT030 leaflet from 1992. However,
it is possible that these were simply
adapted from German literature, produced by
the same design house but simply in different
languages. If anyone can confirm this then please
get in touch.
When the toy company used
the Atari brand for its "Interactive"
division, it made the most radical change
to the logo. While casual observers insisted
couldn't see anything different, or didn't mind
the change, to established fans it
was nothing less than sacrilege. To set the
record straight, the correct Fuji symbol is
actually a little wider than it is tall, on
the Hasbro version it has been forced into
a perfect square, and the bottom ends of the
side prongs have been thickened. Both of these
are responsible for the awkward and uncomfortable,
bottom-heavy appearance. Finally, the (some
would say stupid) box around it is the most
disliked element, certainly from all the people
I've talked to. Overall rating: rather square.
at the arcade division
Let's not forget,
at the point of the Tramiel take-over, Atari
was divided into two separate companies, one,
Atari Corporation, making the consumer products,
and Atari Games, Inc. continued the arcade games.
Atari Games kept the traditional square form
of the Atari logo well into the 1990s, so it
came as a surprise when some time after 2000,
I found it had been changed.
of all, the Fuji symbol has been rendered in
3D and textured. Next, the Atari name itself
is in a futuristic, more aggressive font. The
general form has been retained, but the rendering
doesn't add anything instrumental to the design.
I always maintain that the best logos are those
that work effectively in flat colour or mono,
because if they communicate well in that state,
without fancy effects, they must be fundamentally
A big sigh of relief was to
be heard from all quarters when Infogrames took
over and discarded the boxed-up Fuji logo, returning
to the classical form, and correctly-proportioned
seemed well again, Infogrames was treating the
historic design with the respect it deserved.
Does that mean it wasn't changed from the original
your mind back to November 2002. One of my personal
favourite issues of MyAtari, featured Infogrames'
latest game release under the Atari brand, Unreal
The cover design
was a simple montage of elements from the game
graphics, most importantly, including the Atari
logo (rendered in metallic effect). The
Fuji symbol looks authentic enough, but three
aspects of the Atari name underneath are unorthodox,
even to the naked eye. We have a much larger
version below so you can see.
sides are no longer aligned with those
of the Fuji symbol, they stick out.
top corners of the "T" are
as a result of point 1, it looks vertically
squashed, bearing an aspect ratio of
3.77:1 compared to 3.06:1 for the original
(taking the Atari GmbH flyer in this
article as a reference).
the temptation to replace the Infogrames
Atari logo with the classic one, as this
would not be representative of the current
state that we were aiming to portray.
Infogrames tried to create a third form of the
logo. Here's a scan from the packaging of V-Rally
3. Conceptually it's clever, but the Fuji symbol
is 30% wider than the letter "A" that
it replaces in the middle, leading to a graphical
imbalance (and record aspect ratio of 4:1),
and another failed idea.
lost the plot?
By now just about every
Atari fan knows that Infogrames made the bold
move of officially changing its name to Atari,
so once again we have a company not just a brand.
If the name change didn't stir emotions then
surely the decimation of the logo sent shockwaves
through the scene.
the screen-shot of the Atari global web site
as of May 2003. Most immediately striking about
the logo is the flared bottom of the central
prong. One can't help but ask what in the
world is that all about. Closer inspection reveals
that the Atari name has been aligned with the
sides of the Fuji again, but it still has the
wrong aspect ratio. It wouldn't be as conspicuous
were it not for the fact that on the very same
page, in particular the welcome headline, there
is text written in the traditional, narrower Atari
the reasons for these changes, whether it came
from management to distinguish the new Atari
from old, or some trendy designer's eagerness
to impress, fact is, try as you may, you
can't improve on perfection.