Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Orange County logo

A circa 1960s decal of the Orange County logo.
The much-used Orange County logo, with three oranges in the foreground and fields and mountains in the background, is a mystery. It seems I'm asked about its origins every few years, which usually leads to a long email or phone conversation, or, in one case, to an article in Orange Coast magazine. I have cribbed from all of those explanations for this blog post which, I hope, will either stave off the next identical round of questioning or (better yet) will inspire someone with MORE of the story to come forward.
1948 version of the County logo.
The earliest use of the logo I’m aware of (so far) is on the cover of a 1948 book of County Ordinances. (Shown above.) In that version, one of the mountains in the background is pretty clearly Old Saddleback – a detail that’s usually screwed-up in later versions. The text in the ring surrounding the artwork reads “County of Orange, California,” in a font that seems more a product of the 1930s than the late 1940s. Of course, it’s possible the artist just wasn’t up with the times.
Tustin's City Seal -- Which came first?
And as Phil Brigandi points out, the logo has design elements reminiscent of the old Irvine Ranch logo and the Tustin city seal. (Shown above.) But that may just be a coincidence.

Dylan Almendral of the Santa Ana Public Library's History Room makes the excellent point that the county logo also bears some striking similarities to the medal issued to Orange County veterans of World War I.  It certainly could have played a role in inspiring the later design.
"Victory medal" issued to local veterans after World War I.

Although the county logo appears on county government letterhead, publications, vehicles, etc., it has never been officially adopted. It even appears on the center of our county flag, which was officially adopted in 1968. Meanwhile, the official county seal (shown below) remains a single orange with three leaves, as approved at the very first Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug. 5, 1889. (I have yet to see an attractive colorized version of the seal. Most have the orange looking like an angry meatball.)
The venerable Orange County seal -- Still in use where legally required.
Since nobody really owns the Orange County logo, it shows up in the damnedest places. In recent years, I’ve seen our County logo tattooed on the heads of gang members, appropriated as a corporate logo for sandbag manufacturer, and sold on hats and shirts in the display window of a Santa Ana head shop. It is nothing if not versatile.
A particularly unfortunate version, with doggy-doo-like mountains.
Happily, over the last year or so, I've started to notice some of the crummier versions of the logo being replaced with better ones in both government and civilian use. Either my years of kvetching finally had some impact, or perhaps folks just have better design sense these days. Either way, I welcome the restoration/improvement of a symbol that's pretty attractive when executed properly.

No comments: