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Great Ideas Written Down On A Napkin

Some ideas have to be written down somehow. These are some ideas that were just written down on a simple napkin. It would probably be best to carry a notepad or sketch pad for random thoughts.

Please note that only the details are written down on the list and no photos are shown of the actual napkin.

The Paramount Pictures Logo

This logo might have been based on a doodle by W.W. Hodkinson at a meeting with Adolf Zukor. The mountain doodled was of Utah’s Ben Lomond. It was based on his childhood memories in Utah. This is more urban legend than a grounded fact.

The Guggenheim Museum design

The museum was sketched on a napkin in 1997. It was a working concept of the exterior of the building. This was based on the statement by Neri Oxman
Architect and Professor from the MIT Media Lab who worked on the project from inception. The building drawn on the napkin was the Bilbao building and the Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry.

The Concept of Southwest airlines

On March 15, 1967, a triangle of San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston was sketched on a cocktail napkin by Rollin King to Herb Kelleher. It was to convince him about convenient air travel at San Antonio’s St. Anthony club and restaurant at a low cost for people who would fly instead of drive. This became the starting concept of Southwest Airlines.

The Song Louie, Louie by Richard Berry

With the aid of a tape recorder by his bedside and some napkins he used to sketch down some notes, Richard Berry wrote the doo-wop song Louie, Louie. He drew inspiration for the song by a lovelorn sailor waiting on to meet his girl back on land.

The Laffer Curve (the basis of Reaganomics)

In 1974, Alfred Laffer sketched the curve an afternoon meeting with Ford Administration. He sketched the curve to explain his argument. It was called the Laffer Curve by Jude Wanniski who was present at the meeting. The Laffer Curve is an economic theory that describes the potential impacts of tax cuts on government spending, revenue, and long-term growth with the tradeoff between tax cuts and tax revenues.

Farrington B (the official credit card font)

The credit card is somewhat the later predecessor of the Charga-Plate which was related to the military dog tag and the addressograph, a heavy-duty cassette feed ribbon press to imprint mailing addresses on envelopes during the late 1890s to early 1920s. The plate which was half the size of the modern credit card held the customer’s name, and the city and state of residence recorded the information by the plate running through the ribbon press. The manufacturer of the Charga-Plate was the Farrington Manufacturing Co. The Charga-Plate helped with early bookkeeping, retailers, and back-office work speeding up the process of recording accounting and payment information. During a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, David H. Shepard sketched some boxy numbers on a cocktail napkin. He explained to his wife sitting with him that the numbers were meant to be as simple and open-spaced as possible to avoid smudges. This was especially helpful for gasoline workers or people in contact with greasy or oily substances.

The Citi logo

The logo for one of America’s largest banks was conceptualized on a napkin. Paula Scher sketched a logo for Citicorp when they merged with Traveler’s Group to form Citigroup in 1998 on a napkin when she was with Pentagram design studio. She started sketching while the new client Citigroup spoke. Five minutes later, she said “This is your logo,” showing them the napkin. It is often called the 1.5 million-dollar napkin.

The CN Logo

The Canadian National Rail logo was sketched by Canadian graphic designer Alan Fleming in 1959. He was known as Canada’s first design guru. He sketched the idea on a napkin during a flight to New York contemplating ideas. The concept of the logo was a train driving straight through the 1960s in Canada and beyond. It was supposed to be both futuristic and mid-century modern and to last 50 years.

The Concept of the Ethernet

Ethernet is a way of connecting computers together in a local area network becoming the most widely used way computers connected with each other since the 1990s’. The early concept sketch by Robert Metcalfe while working at Xerox PARC in 1973. He drew the diagram of boxes pointing out the PDP-11 and pointers to “The Ether.” The ethernet was on the marketplace by 1980. It is one of the most well-known napkin sketches in technology history.

The Seattle Space Needle

The “Space Needle” was first conceptualized on a hotel napkin in 1959. Seattle hotel executive Edward E. Carlson sketched out his idea inspired by a broadcast tower featuring a restaurant in Stuttgart, Germany. He hoped that the structure for the 1962 World Fair would be a permanent centerpiece of architectural interest in the city while being a symbol of Seattle, Washington.


Included by theme of the list.

I [heart] NY logo

The graphic designer who sketched the I Heart NY logo was New Yorker Milton Glaser. He sketched it a part of an advertising campaign to cheer up New Yorkers after years of crime and poverty rattling the city destroying the tourism market because of the preception of the city being seedy and sketchy and not suitable to bring young children. It was a part of the city’s makeover for tourists and for the residents of the city. In his first meeting with the Wells Rich Greene agency in 1976, he produced a torn envelope in which he had scribbled out the logo idea in red crayon in the back of a cab going to the meeting.

Banner Credit: Photo by Nicole Wilcox on Unsplash

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