Patricia Salkowicz of St. Paul did a double take as she scrolled through Target’s website recently.
“Isn’t that the old Dayton’s logo?” she wondered as she spotted the All in Motion athleticwear the company rolled out last week.
As they planned the new clothing line, Target Corp. designers envisioned a logo representing “collective, inclusive movement” and wound up finding it in one developed for the Dayton’s department store, its predecessor firm, 52 years ago.
They evaluated dozens of ideas and zeroed in on the concept of forward motion, Courtney Foster, a Target spokeswoman, said. “While exploring visuals that express this feeling, we recognized that the 1968 mark accomplished our All in Motion brand goals,” Foster said.
Some people think the symbol looks like three capital letter D’s. Others see three chevrons turned on their side.
Art Shipman, former creative director for Dayton’s, said the original intent was neither.
“It was meant to be a flower, an amaranth,” Shipman, who is now 95 and living in California, said. “I don’t see any relationship of the flower to athleticwear.”
Stewart Widdess, a former marketing executive for Dayton’s and son of the man who gave Target its name, said the department store had a big goal for the 1968 logo.
“The thought back then was to have the logo replace the department store name, much as the Apple logo is now used often by itself,” Widdess said.
Shortly after the logo was unveiled, Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar wrote a column about it, suggesting, with a bit of snark, that typewriters would need to be adapted with keys that stamped it out.
“In time the company’s scholars believe the Mark will be indelibly stamped on the public consciousness, a badge that will mean Dayton’s to the charga-plate multitudes in the same way that the elephant means Republican, the donkey Democrat and the Crosstown 62 cloverleaf means disaster,” he wrote.
Now long gone, charga-plates were the forerunners of credit cards, metal stamps used by stores and customers for decades.
The original logo was used on Dayton’s bags, boxes, bills, charge cards and delivery trucks. Target’s updated version is imprinted on All in Motion apparel, store displays and hang tags.
It’s unusual for a major brand to bring back an old logo with no major changes, said Joe Cecere, president and chief creative officer at Little & Co., a Minneapolis branding agency.
“The fact that it was Dayton’s main brand and now it’s Target apparel is not common,” he said. “We’ve gone back to old neon signs for inspiration on a typeface, but it’s rare to use it with only minor changes.”
Cecere describes Target’s new athletic apparel logo as “a wink going back to their identity.” Dayton’s opened its first Target store in 1962 in Roseville. By 2000, the Dayton Hudson Corp. changed its name to Target as the fortunes of the department store parent and discounter offspring were trending in opposite directions.
Some may consider the new logo to be a clean copy of the Dayton’s mark, but Cecere said the new version is more condensed. He thinks a year from now, if not sooner, any person will be able to draw the logo on a napkin from memory. “That’s the test of the best brands,” he said.
The All in Motion icon moves left to right with triangle or chevron shapes. “It suggests forward movement. It has a lot of energy to it,” said Shanna Apitz, creative director at Hunt Adkins ad agency in Minneapolis. “It’s reinterpreting retro in a relevant way.”
Meanwhile, the redevelopment of the former Dayton’s flagship store continues to produce moments of nostalgia for people in downtown Minneapolis. When a main skyway through the building reopened earlier this month, passersby noticed a new detail at the entrances: the letter D in the script of the old Dayton’s signs.
This is not the first time in recent memory when Target reached into the Dayton’s archives for inspiration. In 2017, it rolled out a new men’s basics line called Goodfellow & Co., a nod to R.S. Goodfellow & Co., a retailer that was purchased by Dayton’s founder George Draper Dayton.
Salkowicz, who worked in graphic design, said she was pleased to see Target bring back a symbol of its past and homage to its parent.
“Ultimately, we all miss Dayton’s so anything that gives us a nod back to it is welcome,” she said.