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Friday, July 18, 2014

The 6-legged dog: the story of Eni's famous logo

Eni's 6-legged dog, on a gas pump at a station on Rome's tangenziale, 2014

If you've motored around Italy for any length of time, you're familiar with one of the nation's most well-known logos: the 6-legged dog--part dog and dragon, actually--that breathes fire.  It's the logo for Eni--Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi--the enormous Italian oil and gas company, founded in February 1953 and headquartered in Rome.

A bit of romance while filling up
The story of the logo is well known, but too good not to tell again.  In 1952, with Eni's founding just around the corner, the company's CEO-to-be, Enrico Mattei, was convinced that the country needed to be sold on the idea that the oil fields of the Po Valley were sufficient to fuel Italy's industrial boom.  To find the right symbol for that effort, he offered 10 million lire as the prize in a competition to design logos for two products: the gasoline known as Supercortemaggiore, after the best known of the oilfields; and Agipgas, the company's gasoline outlets. The jury was composed of some of the most creative artistic minds of the generation: Gio Ponti, Mario Sironi, Mino Maccari and Antonio Baldini.  







The winner of the Supercortemaggiore contest, chosen from over 4,000 entries, was the 6-legged dog, the vision of sculptor, artist, and designer Luigi Broggoni.  Within months it was widely disseminated, appearing in magazines and newspapers, on billboards, and on the company's gas stations.  



An Agip station at Cortemaggiore, mid-1950s
Indeed, it quickly came to stand for a new type of gas station, high modernist in design and offering restaurant services as well as "powerful Italian petrol."  

Ettore Scola--soon to be directing some of Italy's best known films but then writing copy in Agipgas' advertising department--invented the slogan "il cane a sei zampe fedele amico dell'uomo a quattro ruote": the six-legged dog, loyal friend of four-wheeled man.  Eni has suggested that the 6 legs represent the sum of the automobile's 4 wheels and the driver's 2 legs.  

The dog inside the square, 1972

Broggoni's design has been modified at least twice and probably several times.  In 1972, the Unimark agency, working on turning the logo into a trademark, put the dog into a yellow square with rounded corners, a solution that required shortening the dog somewhat.  In a 1998 or later treatment, the dog came out of the box.

Bill
















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