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History of the six-legged dog

The six-legged dog has been our logo since the company was founded. Its evolution is a journey to the heart of Eni.

by Eni Press
15 December 2019
8 min read
byEni Press
15 December 2019
8 min read

An open competition to design a logo

Enrico Mattei’s great faith in Italy and his confidence in the country’s energy and natural resources, first in its oil fields and then in its gas reserves, is a story many have heard. No less important, however, was his belief in the creative abilities of the Italian workforce. 

Eni's founder wanted to use a competition for ideas, open to everyone in Italy and promoted in the magazine Domus, to design a logo. It was from this public appeal that the six-legged dog was born. Initially meant to represent only Agip’s Supercortemaggiore brand petrol, its popularity meant it went on to become the symbol of Eni itself.

The six-legged dog is the faithful friend of the four-wheeled man.

by ETTORE SCOLA

A petrol logo becomes a logo for the whole of Italy

Launched in 1952, the competition focused on the advertising campaign for two key Agip products: Supercortemaggiore petrol and Agipgas natural gas. The winner would design two roadside billboards, two logos and a petrol pump. 

The competition was open to everyone in Italy in a bid to convey a message of trust and openness to the whole population, and had a total prize pot of 10 million Lira, roughly equivalent to €160,000. Leading figures from the worlds of art and communications made up the jury, including painter Mario Sironi and Gio Ponti, one of Italy’s most famous architects.

The response was astonishing. More than 4,000 sketches were submitted and it took 14 meetings for the jury to decide the winner. Alongside the amateur illustrators and graphic artists who submitted entries were some big names in post-war Italian art and creativity including Armando Testa, Fortunato Depero and Marcello Nizzoli.

In September 1952 the committee chose Luigi Broggini, an important Italian sculptor who had lived in exile in Paris and Switzerland during the Fascist years, as the winner. 

His six-legged dog was seen as a visual synthesis of the strength, energy and optimism that were driving Italy's economic miracle. Enrico Mattei himself was a big fan of the logo – and Italy took warmly to the symbol. The impossible six-legged animal called to mind the chimaera of ancient mythology and soon became familiar across the country.

 

A symbol of the global economic boom

Broggini submitted his design under the name of Giuseppe Guzzi, as he had something of an intellectual aversion to putting his name to a promotional or commercial product. Although the artist's true identity was known by some, it was only after Broggini's death in 1983 that his son officially confirmed it. 

It did not take long during Italy’s boom years for the six-legged dog to become a  symbol that announced two things to visitors to Italy: petrol stations and their accompanying quality cafés showcasing Italian ingredients. 

As Eni grew, expanding beyond Italy into Africa and the Middle East, geologists, engineers, drillers and technicians moved with their families to Egypt, Iran, Libya and Tunisia. Wherever they went, the familiar six-legged dog flew above them every day on the flagpoles of platforms and oil fields, becoming a unifying symbol for Eni's men and women and their shared passion for overcoming challenges and making an Italian company a global player.

The 1970s and '80s: Bob Noorda's 1972 redesign

After Mattei’s death in 1962, Eni began a process of internal review, looking in particular at the way it presented itself both within Italy and to the world. 

It was important to show that Eni was not just about fuel for cars, but that it was a major Italian business with a strong social and cultural sensibility and a mission to provide a wide range of services. Bob Noorda, the designer who oversaw two redesigns of the six-legged dog, in 1972 and again in 1998, summed it up saying: “The risk was that everything smelled of petrol.”

The desire for modernisation was so strong that the first redesign project initially involved creating an entirely new logo and coordinated group image. Studio Grafico Unimark and Noorda were entrusted with this task in 1972. But studying the logo and how it was perceived, the team realised that the dog was deeply rooted in the collective Italian imagination. 

The plan to find a new image to replace the six-legged dog was abandoned and it was decided instead to standardise the existing image, choosing colours, shapes and backgrounds to make it easier to use the logo in advertising and ensure it was immediately recognisable.

A new corporate identity

All the companies in the Group adopted the new image immediately, strengthening their sense of unity of purpose. It was a unified corporate identity that at last crystallised Mattei's pioneering spirit in one image. Besides the dog, which was now shorter and framed by a yellow background, the name of the company  appeared with a capital ‘E’. The shape of the logotype itself mimicked the shape of the six-legged dog and the red dot in the ‘i’' was like a flame, explained Noorda. The company logo was no longer an ordinary symbol, it was a proper name – a decision that would raise awareness of Eni’s overall corporate identity. 

 

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In step with the times: Bob Noorda's second re-design

In 1992, the Italian government decided to privatise Eni, attracting the support and backing of both ordinary Italian savers and institutional investors who were betting on the strength and prospects of a company that was determined to make history in the global energy sector. Eni was listed on the Italian Borsa and the New York Stock Exchange in 1995 and went from being a national hydrocarbon company to an international corporation.

This change demanded a restyled image reflecting a rebirth as an agile, modern company in line with its new global position on the stock exchange. Noorda was called on once again to rethink the corporate image of the modern Eni Group.

The new graphic project was a process of progressive abstraction, based on simple elements that were also strong and evocative. The challenge was to bring together the different aspects of the Eni brand and show the unified character of the Group. The dog was removed from the yellow background with its black borders and rounded edges - very much associated with the petrol stations - and combined with the Eni logo within a perfect square. At the centre, a red horizontal line separated the dog and the Eni logotype. The dog was imperceptibly shortened to make it the same length of the Eni logotype and the word ‘Group’ was added, completing the transition to a corporate brand designed to encompass all the Group's activities.

A continuous transformation: the openness of 2010

In 2010 the six-legged dog was once more restyled, based on the concept of ‘openness’.  

For Eni, the combination of the six-legged dog and the company name is the perfect symbol of what we see as our unwavering openness to new scenarios, adventures, and industrial and financial operations. The restyled brand became a synthesis of every one of the company's ‘vital organs’, from petrol, gas and electricity distribution to production fields and its listing on the stock exchange.

Today, the single name and logo reflects the goal of greater cohesion between the different sectors and a greater cultural standardisation. Above all, it has helped establish an even stronger company identity, born of an inspiring past and a great tradition. This shift can be seen in the 2010 advertising campaign, in which Eni's six-legged dog emerged from the box towards a new identity that projects dynamism and an exciting future.