The History of the "Racing Stripe" Emblem and Brand Part I: The United States Coast Guard H. by W illiam
n rhe modern history of rhe Unired Srares Coasr G uard, rhere has been a rapid shifr from misraken identiry and anonymiry ro a recognizable brand identiry. One anecdore provides a perfect example of rhis mistaken identi ry. On ocean station in O crober 1956, the cutter Pontchartrain held responsibili ry fo r coming to the aid of a downed transoceanic passenger aircraft. On rhe 19'\ rhe Pan American clipper Sovereign ofthe Skies lost two of its engin es en roure from H awaii to Califo rnia. After the aircraft radi oed the cutter and dirched n earby, the Po ntchartrain sent our irs small boats and gathered up all thirry-one passengers and crew. N o sooner had one survivor gained the safery of the cutter's deck, than he gratefully exclaimed , "Thank goodness for the N avy!" This case was one of dozens in which the C oas t G uard seemed unrecognizable to the public it served .
USCG Cutter Pontch artrain, 1959
John F. Ke nnedy was acurely awa re of the importance of imagery, having relied heavily on image-building in his successful 1960 presidential campaign. When they moved into the White House in 1961 , the president and the first lady began an effort to remake the image of rhe presiden cy, starring with Jacqueline Kennedy's redecoration of the White House interior and redesign of Lafayette Square, a park locared next to the White House. Kennedy next undertook a redesign of the jet designated as Air Force One. H e felr an initial design and paint scheme provided by the Air Force was too regal lookin g, so on the advice of the First Lady he rnrned to French-born industrial designer Raymond Loewy, whose wo rk had been recognized the world over during rhe posr-war period. Loewy's Air Fo rce One design won immediate praise from Kenn edy and rhe press, and rhe aircrafr becam e an important symbo l of rhe pres ident and the United States in offi cial visits across the country and overseas.
Delighred by rhe look of Air Force One, Kennedy granted Loewy's request for a meeting on 13 M ay 1963. During that meeting and another the subsequent day, the men discussed improving the visual image of the federal government, and Kennedy suggested the Coast G uard as an appropriate age ncy to start wirh. Shordy afrer rhe meetings, rhe design fi rm of Raymond Loewy/ W illiam Snaith, Inc., received a contract fo r a ninery-day feasibili ry study and, in January 1964, the fi rm prese nted its findings to Coast G uard leadership. With its exp eri en ce in d es igning industry trademarks, Loewy/Snaith recommended rhat the Coast G uard adopt an identification device similar to a commercial trademark. The firm believed the symbol should be easily identifiable from a distance, easily differentiared from other government or commercial emblems or logos, and easily adapted to a wide variery of air and sea assers. Th e Coasr G uard established an ad hoc commirree to work with Loewy/Snairh on the proj ect, and on 19 June 1964 the C oas t G uard signed a contract wirh the firm to "accomplish srndies, prepare design efforts and make a presentation of a compreh ensive and integrared id entifi carion plan fo r the US Coast G uard." On 2 1 March 1965 , during an all-day session at C oas t G uard headquarters, representatives from Loewy/Snaith presented their findings to the service, and on the same day the C oast
Guard chief of staff, RADM Paul Trimble, agreed to p roceed with the Integrated Visual Identifi cation Program. During the prototypin g process, Lo ewy/S naith selected a wide red bar to the upper right of a narrow blue bar canted at sixry-four degrees and running from lower lefr to upper righr. The Loewy/Snaith team used its own srylized version of rhe rradirion al C oas r G uard emblem for placement on rhe cen rer of rhe red bar. The overall design came to be known as rhe "Racing Srripe," or "Slash," embl em . The Racing Stripe design was resred on cutters and facilities in rhe C oas r G uard's Seventh Disrricr in rhe Florida area due to rhe grearer variery of sea asse rs srarioned there. The proto rype slash was affi xed to rhe cutrers D iligence and Androscoggin as well as a buoy render, vehicl es, and buildings ar Base Miami . Ar N orrh C arolina's Air Srarion Elizaberh C iry, rhe slash was affi xed ro an HH-52 helicoprer, a Grumman HU-16 ''Albarross" amphibian, and an H C- 130 "H ercules" fi xed-wing aircraft. On 4 M ay 1966, rhe service's ad hoc commirree fo r resring rhe Visual Identificarion Sysrem sent to rhe commandant a favo rable report regarding servicewide use of rhe Racing Srripe. During rhe protoryping process, rhe Coasr G uard's selecrion committee decided againsr rhe Loewy srylized shield and opred fo r rhe service's tradirional shield emblem insread. While rhe plan received the sramp of approval, derails SEA HISTORY 139, SUMMER 20 12