From Jack Daniel’s to Jeep to Jurassic Park, all have used the letter “J” as a part of their visual identities to evoke various emotions. Symbolic of joy and good times, the letter was virtually nonexistent up till the 15th century.
In branding, the letter J can express different emotions when used with various colors. When used with yellow or orange color palettes, J could signify happiness and energy. Again, combining the letter with black or grey could evoke reliability and professionalism.
From representing infinite possibilities to joy to reliability, the letter J is truly a jack of all trades.
Developed by Kenneth E. Iverson and Roger Hui, the J programming language is used in statistical and mathematical programming. It is also used in formulating algorithms and solving extremely difficult problems.
In mathematics, the letter is used to represent one of the three units of quaternions and in Physics; J is used as the symbol for current.
Fun fact: Letters I and J were interchangeably used up until the 15th century.
Apart from the above, J is used to symbolize joule—a derived unit of energy in the international system of units.
Letter J has been used in unique ways since its introduction in 1640.
Gian Giorgio Trissino
An Italian Renaissance humanist, philosopher, poet, linguist, grammarian and poet, Gian Giorgio Trissino was the one to distinguish between I and J. As mentioned above, the two letters were used interchangeably to mean the same things. Trissino realized that the two alphabets had extremely distinct sounds and put forth the theory in an essay titled, “Epistola del Trissino de Lettere nuovamente aggiunte ne la lingua Italiana.”
He, like Dante, believed in the enrichment of the Italian language which led him to form interesting ideas and theories. In order to polish the language, he believed that distinction between letters like I and J, and U and V was essential.
Originally, the Phoenicians used the letter “I,” which sounded like the Y in “yes,” as a pictogram to represent a leg with a hand. Later, Semitic groups adopted the letter to represent the word “arm.” In Semitic languages, “I” was pronounced with a heavy “Ja” or “Ya” sound.
In the Roman numeric system, I and J began their journey as the same character. Later, J was used to conclude a series of ones. For example, “xiii” in the Roman numeric system means number 13; however, the last “i” is generally replaced by “j” to conclude the series of ones—xiij.
From its quiet beginning as a Roman numeral to finding its permanent tenth position in the English alphabet, J has an interesting history to tell.
According to several ancient texts, the Ja or Ya sound was used together with the names of different deities in chants or prayers. In ancient Mayan and Indus civilizations, the “Ja,” “Ya” and “Ha” sounds were regarded to raise cosmic powers within oneself if chanted the right way.
The idea of one God who was omnipotent, omnipresent and all powerful was central to these civilizations; however, they believed that the all-powerful God could assume any shape and present him/her/itself in any way he/she/it wanted.
According to various esoteric teachings, Ja sound has the power to invoke divinities from alternate realities of existence.
Some of the biggest brands in the world today use the letter J as part of their visual identities. Let’s look at what the letter symbolizes:
- Reliability: The letter J adds the sense of being reliable especially when combined with colors such as black, white and grey.
- Wholeness: Apart from reliability, the letter also evokes a sense of completeness. Brands that deal with family products can use the letter to evoke wholeness. Brands such as Johnson & Johnson and JBL have a pronounced J in their logos.
- Powerful: The letter stands for power and substance. Brands that want to depict power and appear superior over other brands can use the letter J as their visual identity.
- Independence: When used with certain color combinations and symbols, the letter J can portray independence.
Apart from the above, the letter symbolizes the following:
- Clear Intent
Jack Daniel’s, one of the top selling whiskies in the world, is known for its unique taste. In 2017, Jack Daniel’s Black Label sold over 12.5 million cases.
Fun fact: According to Peter Krass, the author of “Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel,” though the birth of Jasper Newton (Jack Daniel) may be debated, certain records prove that he was born in January 1849.
Though Jack Daniel’s date of birth may be debated, the taste of the legendary whiskey remains unchallenged.
The iconic black Jack Daniel’s logo was introduced in 1911 to honor Mr. Daniel’s after his demise. Like its legendary taste, the logo too has achieved a celebrated status. Though the logo has gone through several redesigns, its iconic black and white color scheme has been left untouched.
Founded in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Co, the company started out with manufacturing motorcycle side cars. The company started producing the Jaguar model after its association with Standard Motor Co.
Today, Jaguar is known for its luxurious and high speed cars.
Fun fact: From 2000 up until 2008, both Jaguar Cars and Land Rover were owned by Ford. In 2008, both were sold to Tata. Tata merged the two to form a new design in 2013—Jaguar Land Rover Limited.
The present emblem saw the light of day in 1945; albeit, with a few design upgrades in 2001 and 2012. The image of the jumping Jaguar, known as the “Leaper,” is one of the most iconic visual identities in the world. The 3D silvery grey Leaper oozes elegance, making it the symbol of high-end style.
Steven Spielberg, director of iconic Hollywood movies such as E.T. and Saving Private Ryan, made the multi-Oscar-winning film Jurassic Park. Known for breathtaking visual effects and outstanding sound design, the film became one of the highest-grossing films ever at the time. The record was held by Jurassic Park until the release of Titanic in 1998.
Fun fact: The film won several awards, including 3 Oscars for superior visual effects and sound design.
Chipp Kidd, the designer of the famous Jurassic Park logo, first visited the Museum of Natural History for inspiration. After taking a look at the bones there, he purchased a book that depicted dinosaurs. He used the information to come up with the logo for the movie.
A silhouetted dinosaur skeleton within a bloody-red circle forms the centerpiece of the emblem. Though the logo has been updated with every sequel, the central element of the design has remained the same.
Founded by James Bullough Lansing, JBL began its journey in 1946. Prior to forming JBL, Lansing and his business partner, Ken Decker, formed the Lansing Manufacturing Company which manufactured various sound equipment for films, chief among them was Shearer Horn—technically superior sound boxes. Following the success of Shearer Horn and the death of his partner, Lansing formed the “James B. Lansing Sound” which was further shortened to “JBL Sound.”
Jerome Gould, a legend in the design world, has the distinction of creating one of the most iconic emblems in the world. Gould is also credited with designing the instantly recognizable Pepsi logo.
Gould created the iconic exclamation point above the letter J, taking the wordmark to the next level.
Later, Arnold Wolf, the president of JBL, redesigned the logo. Wolf tweaked the fonts and placed them in a rectangular box. With Gould’s innovative redesign, the iconic logo gained its legendary status.
Jeep’s history begins with its participation in World War II. “The Spartan, cramped, and unstintingly functional jeep became the ubiquitous World War II four-wheeled personification of Yankee ingenuity and cocky, can-do determination,” notes Doug Stewart.
During World War II, the Jeep became the chief light 4-wheeler for the US Armed Forces and the Allies. Following America’s example, major arm forces across the world adopted the Jeep as their primary light four-wheel-drive.
From its inception, Jeep was meant to be tough which is why its makers did not think it appropriate to decorate it with over-the-top design elements. The makers were focused on giving Jeep its off-road image, and with the wordmark, Jeep found its visual identity. The simple and minimalist design has stuck with the iconic brand; albeit, with a few design upgrades now and then.
Just like colors and symbols, letters have a significant role when it comes to designing. Be it packaging designs or website landing pages, be it logos or billboards, letters play a definitive role in creating brand identity.
From symbolizing power to portraying clear intention, the letter J has the potential to bring stability and depth to your brand.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.