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NBC debuted as a radio network in 1926, with a logo depicting a microphone surrounded by lightning bolts, superimposed over a map of the United States of America.
The "NBC" letters appeared in an arc above the graphic.
In 1931, NBC introduced its second logo – a square with a diagonal NBC text in it, and lightning bolts around the "B". This logo was later adopted in 1944 for use as the original logo for the newly formed NBC television network.
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In 1943, NBC introduced its third logo, a microphone surrounded by lightning bolts, which was a modification of the original 1926 logo used by the NBC radio network. Lightning bolts were also part of the logo of corporate parent RCA, as well as that of one-time sister company RKO Pictures. The waves placed on the left side were meant for the radio network, and the right waves were meant for the television network.
In 1953, a stylized xylophone and mallet was introduced, symbolising the NBC chimes, which were first heard on NBC radio in 1927 as a seven-tone sequence. The current tones – which were first adopted in 1929 as a simplified cue for identification of its radio affiliates because of issues with orchestrating the seven notes properly – are only three notes, G, E' and C'. There is some indication that the xylophone logo was used at 5:32 p.m. Eastern Time on December 17, 1953 to announce the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) approval of the new color standard, which would go into effect 30 days later. This logo debuted in December 1953, during the Tournament of Roses Parade.
In 1956, John J. Graham and Herb Lubalin of Sudler & Hennessey designed a new symbol for the network: an abstraction of an eleven-feathered peacock indicating richness in color. This brightly hued peacock, which NBC called the "Bird", was adopted due to the increase in color programming. Several modifications were made by NBC before the emblem made its first on-air appearance on May 22.
Starting in late 1959, an animated logo joined the Peacock, appearing at the end of every show. Starting with the "N", each letter would grow from the other, forming a stacked typographic logo featuring an "NB" ligature with the "C" forming the base. This would be known as the "NBC snake". Several versions of this exist; the first is the snake forming in front of a multicolored background while an RCA TK-40 or TK-41 camera passed by with a jazz rendition of the NBC chimes, while the second consists of the snake forming against a color-changing background, going from blue to green to red, on each note of the regular, automated NBC chimes. The logo was also designed by John J. Graham.
NBC updated its image in October 1975, with the introduction of an abstract "N", a bold, bright and contemporary design consisting of two trapezoids – one red and one blue. One of the technological innovations of this logo was its use in the first electronically animated ident for an American television network.
In February 1976, Nebraska ETV, the PBS member network for Nebraska, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against NBC. The new NBC logo was virtually identical to the logo that Nebraska ETV had been using since 1974, with the only cosmetic difference between the two designs being that the right trapezoid of the NBC logo had blue coloring. An out-of-court settlement was reached in which NBC gave Nebraska ETV over $800,000 worth of new equipment, including a color mobile unit. It also paid Nebraska ETV $55,000 to cover the cost of designing and implementing a new logo. In return, NBC was allowed to keep the "N" logo.
The Peacock returned as part of NBC's branding in September 1979. The "N" and the Peacock were combined together to create a design called the "Proud N", designed by Lippincott & Margulies. On several occasions, the new, simplified Peacock was used on its own, starting with the new "Proud as a Peacock" advertising campaign; however, the "N" and the Peacock were usually combined together between 1979 and 1986.
On May 12, 1986, during the finale of the NBC 60th Anniversary Celebration TV special, past and present NBC stars stood on stage to introduce a new logo: a simplified peacock icon, ending the arranged "marriage" of "N" and Peacock. The peacock's head was now flipped to the right, as to suggest it was looking forward to the future, not back to the past. Incorporating the six primary and secondary colors in the RYB color palette, this Peacock, redesigned by Steff Geissbuhler at Chermayeff & Geismar, remains one of the world's most recognized logos. The network maintains specific guidelines for the logo, including proper colors for reproduction, using either RGB, CMYK or Pantone colors.
On September 13, 2011, NBC introduced a 3D glass version of the logo for use in promotional advertising and idents. However, the 2006 color bug used for HD programming and elements of the "More Colorful" rebrand remained in use. After its introduction, a few NBC stations incorporated the glassed variant to their station logos, with Chicago O&O WMAQ-TV becoming the first to do so in February 2012.
On September 30, 2013, NBC slightly revised its peacock, reincorporating the "NBC" wordmark below the logo in the same font variant introduced by NBC Sports with the 2012 relaunch of the Versus cable sports channel as NBC Sports Network. This modification was extended to the in-program logo bug on June 10, 2013.
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