What was the first logo of the camera brand Canon? Why did it fail?

In 1934, the Japanese company Precision Instruments Laboratory launched its new product line under the brand name “Kwanon,” which was the name of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. According to Buddhist records and texts, Kwanon has 1000 hands and a ring of fire behind her that symbolized compassion. The Japanese company with the Kwanon brand name did not gain success in the western market, and the primary reason for that is that the brand’s logo cannot connect to westerners and was not appropriate for international markets since it has close ties with Buddhism, a religion not found in most western countries.

Reasons for failure

The first reason for the failure Kwanon brand was that the west was not completely aware of Buddhism, so they did not understand the meaning behind the name. Secondly, the typography of the word Kwanon did not draw much attention in Europe and the United States, and it seems like the word itself is “alien” to them. Due to these reasons, the picture of the Goddess was removed a few months after the brand was officially launched, and the typeface for the brand name was modified so that it could be easily read or deciphered. In spite of these attempts to change the font style or font size of their brand’s logo, the word Kwanon was not really comfortable for the people to pronounce. The company ultimately changed its brand name to Canon, and with the change of name, they were able to tap the international markets with its products successfully.

Origins of Canon and its Cameras

The Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory was founded by Japanese businessmen named Takeshi Mitarai, Saburo Uchida, Goro Yoshida, and Takeo Maeda. During the company’s early years of being a start-up, they were unable to produce their own optical glass for their cameras, so they opted to buy lenses built by Nippon Kogasu K.K., which would later be known as Nikon Corporation.

The first camera developed by the company was “The Kwanon,” a 35 mm focal-plane-shutter camera created as a prototype camera in 1936 and was considered the first in the Japanese market. Four years later, the company was able to build the country’s first indirect X-ray camera. Kwanon didn’t stop producing innovative cameras, as in 1959, they created the Reflex Zoom 8, the first movie camera in the world that has a zoom lens, which is a camera accessory that allows the user to zoom in on specific frames. Over the years, the company is able to produce more than 100 different models of cameras, and they were able to follow the trends that became popular in the mainstream.

Besides cameras, the brand has also produced projectors, calculators, printers, camcorders, wireless presenters, scanners, and even virtual reality headsets. However, most of the said products are not developed by Canon anymore, as they tend to focus on making the quality of their cameras better.

Changes in the Logo

Upon receiving massive success in Japan, the company wanted its Kwanon brand to become known in the world. As stated earlier, the name “Kwanon” did not become popular in the west because of how peculiar it is to pronounce, and because of the obscurity of its meaning. The company decided to change its brand from “Kwanon” to “Canon” in 1935 because the latter is easier to read and remember. The first Canon logo introduced in the same year was created by a designer who is a specialist in advertising for the company. This first logo has a thinner font style than the one we know today, and the letter C on it is slightly curvier than the modern Canon C.

In 1953, Canon changed its logo again, opting for a bolder font style that can be seen more prominently in their camera. As people who look at the company’s camera in stores and in the hands of photographers can easily see the bolder Canon logo, it indirectly caused the brand to become much more known to the international market.

To make the logo even more noticeable, Canon modified the logo again in 1956, and this time, it has a much thicker font style than the previous iteration. This logo is still being used by Canon today, and it seems like they won’t change their logo anytime soon.