Bass Brewery was founded in 1777 and went on to become one of the biggest breweries in the world by the end of the 19th century. It became famous not only for the quality of product, but also for its branding, particularly its uncomplicated logo: the dynamic triangle in energetic red, a logo which couldn’t have been simpler, or more effective. The non-representational logo (itself very rare at the time) used to identify the ale on barrels and bottles was famous, and the product was so popular that inferior beers were being sold using very similar branding (which was easy enough to copy even if the beer wasn’t). The need to protect the brand led to Bass Ale becoming the first trademarked brand in the world in 1876.


Looking after brand assets was just as vital then as it is now. The story runs that an employee of Bass queued overnight on the 31st of December, so the brewery could become ‘trade mark 1’ when the Trademark office opened for the first time in the New Year.


After becoming the first trademarked brand, the Bass triangle went on to score priceless product placement in Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère, to be painted at least thirty times by Picasso (more than some of his wives) and to get mentioned in the most important novel of the 20th century, James Joyce’s Ulysses, where it was noted the triangle was “…certainly calculated to attract anyone’s remark on account of its scarlet appearance.” There was a clear relationship between this new idea of a brand and modernism at large.


Bass Ale became an icon, which wouldn’t have happened if Bass remained simply an excellent beer. It needed the visual communication of that pure and passionate red triangle: the eye catching and stylish symbol that created a conversation with the consumer and kick started brand design as we know it today. The logo is an early instance of brand design working hand in hand with product to produce a unified brand that is greater than the sum of individual parts.