About The Westinghouse Sign

The Westinghouse Corporation has used the “Circle-W” symbol, designed by the well-known graphic designer Paul Rand, as its corporate logo since 1960.

For a number of years, there were animated versions of the logo on billboards. The one I was familiar with had three copies of the logo, and was located by the Long Island Expressway, at the exit for the Queensboro Bridge. Apparently, there was a 9-logo sign in Pittsburgh for many years. There is a Wikipedia entry for the sign for more information about it—it seems that I wasn’t the only person who found the clever patterns programmed into the animation fun to watch.

I originally assigned the animated Westinghouse Sign to a class in “GUI Design” in the spring of 1997. In December of 2004 I received an email request for information about the code for the sign. Java had changed between 1997 and 2004, so the original code no longer compiled (and was a mess anyway). But I kept that message in my email inbox. In April 2009 I finally got around to re-visiting the project, and implemented the sign using JavaScript and the HTML canvas element. The canvas element is supported by virtually all browsers other than Internet Explorer, and is slated to be part of the HTML 5 specification. Meanwhile, the sign works only if JavaScript is enabled and the user’s browser is Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari.

The current animation is semi-random. My “next” project is to construct a visual editor so visitors can edit and save their own animations. Let’s see, it took 12 years to get this far …

At least I got that email message out of my inbox.