The Bayer Cross has been around for some 114 years, but even the Group’s archivists can no longer say for sure who designed the logo all those years ago. Even with some minor design tweaks in recent years, the Bayer Cross has been a bastion of consistency. The logo was recently modified again slightly to be better suitable for the internet.
We have altered the Bayer Cross for the digital age,” explains Uwe Schmidt, head of Corporate Branding. “However, we didn’t want or need to change very much, since the Bayer Cross is one of the most widely recognized trademarks in the world.” As well as being one of the most visible. Across the globe, Bayer Crosses light up the night sky in 47 countries. The Shanghai cross has a diameter of eleven meters, for instance. However, Bayer’s factory in Leverkusen boasts the largest one of all, with a diameter of 51 meters, 300 tons and a total of 1,712 light bulbs.
“As well as being a technical marvel, it is also a little piece of home,” says Thorsten Thran, who conducts checks on the cross in Leverkusen five or six times a year. Thran has been the engineer responsible for the gigantic lighting installation since 2009. “I’ve had my eye on the Bayer Cross for much longer than that,” he says, as he points to a spot a few hundred meters away from the roof. “My childhood home was over there,” he tells us. “I could see the cross from my bedroom. And I would often try to convince my parents that it wasn’t bedtime because the cross wasn’t lit up yet.”
Our logo conveys the positive values that people associate with Bayer.
“Our logo conveys the positive values that people associate with Bayer,” says Uwe Schmidt. For that reason, the symbol has never been extensively redesigned. The lettering, which was previously angled, was straightened in 1929, almost in a clear Bauhaus style. Blue and green were added to the Bayer Cross in 1989, and these colors were incorporated into the circle in 2002.
The latest incarnation of the logo is very recent. Uwe Schmidt and his team have only just unveiled the new logo, which is now fit for the future. The difference lies in the details: The color gradients in the circle are now gone, giving the lines clear definition. This makes it ideally suited to be used in a wide range of digital media, and initial feedback has been very positive. “The new logo comes across as fresher, more modern and up-to-date,” explains Schmidt.
But the cross still shines on the roof in Leverkusen today, just as it has been the case for the last 60 years. Thorsten Thran glances at the steel cables stretching out before him in the howling wind. Up here, 70 meters above the ground, each individual part of the mesh structure sways to and fro. Special bayonet connectors are the only things keeping the bulbs in place, and they would simply fall from the sky if they were just screwed in. “When the wind blows, the mesh moves up to five meters in each direction, and in a force twelve wind, multiple G-forces whip everything back and forth. The sign experiences all kinds of weather here, and yet everything remains as solid as it was in 1958.”
The LEDs installed in 2009 were replaced with a new generation of LEDs in 2016, radiating even greater harmony. “This sent a clear message about environmental protection,” says Thorsten Thran, and it led to an almost 90 percent reduction in energy consumption. Today, when the cross is lit up, the 1,712 lights consume the same amount of electricity as three electric kettles. Nonetheless, Thran still has to think about the future. If, one day, LED lights are no longer manufactured, he’d have to find alternatives quickly. “Well, not that quickly,” Thran reassures us, pointing to the crate of replacement bulbs. “I think these will last us another ten to fifteen years.”
The History of the Bayer Cross
The Bayer Cross was registered 114 years ago, on January 6, 1904, in the German Imperial Patent Office’s trademark registry under serial number 65777 with the reference F 4777. It is no longer possible to definitively determine its designer.
The company archives contain two different accounts of how the logo came to be: In one, Hans Schneider, an employee of the Elberfeld research department, is the creator. In the second, a Dr. Schweizer, an employee of the New York subsidiary, designed the logo. At the end of the 19th century, it was his job to impress American physicians with the products from Germany. Since English-speaking doctors had trouble with the company’s long name, “Farbenfabriken vormals Friedr. Bayer & Co., Elberfeld,” Schweizer developed an appealing company stamp in the shape of the well-known cross, which he initially used on letterheads and then later on printed material and brochures.
This logo replaced the original Bayer trademark, which depicted a twin-tailed Bergischer lion and harked back to “Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. Elberfeld’s” roots. The cross logo took the world by storm and is now inextricably linked with the Bayer Group, principally due to an ingenious marketing concept: From 1910 onwards, tablets were embossed with the logo to protect them from being counterfeited. For consumers, this turned the cross into a guarantee of superior quality.