Originally created in 1953 by Art Paul, the magazine’s first art director, in about thirty minutes, the bunny logo of Playboy has become one of the greatest and most influential motifs in the history of graphic design, advertising and popular culture.
The bunny is a traditional symbol of sex and fertility, and it was chosen to be the Playboy logo because Hugh Hefner, the founder of the magazine, believed it personified a certain “playfulness” that suited the adult publication.
Hefner once told a journalist: “I selected a rabbit as the symbol for the magazine because of the humorous sexual connotation, and because he offered an image that was frisky and playful. I put him in a tuxedo to add the idea of sophistication. There was another editorial consideration, too. Since both ‘The New Yorker’ and ‘Esquire’ use men as their symbols, I felt the rabbit would be distinctive; and the notion of a rabbit dressed up in formal evening attire struck me as charming, amusing and right.”
Hefner actually settled on “Playboy” at a friend’s suggestion. He initially wanted to name the magazine “Stag Party” with a buck as its logo. Soon he learnt that a magazine called “Stag” already existed.
A clever marketing strategy has transformed the rabbit head from a dopey adolescent idea to an instantly recognizable symbol of sophistication, pride and style. The classic Playboy logo depicting the bow-tie-wearing black bunny now turns up on every magazine cover, appearing in all sorts of variations and disguises. According to Paul: “If I had any idea how important that little rabbit was going to be, I probably would have redrawn him a dozen times to make certain I was doing him justice, and I suppose none of those versions would have turned out as well as the original. As it was, I did one drawing and that was it. I probably spent all of half an hour on it.”
The Playboy logo incorporates a custom typeface.