On August 8, 1950, in Corpus Christi, Texas, a legend was born. Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger burger stand.
An ambitious man, Harmon sought out work opportunities from a young age. He worked as a used car salesman, a diamond courier, an aspiring oil entrepreneur, and a bush pilot.
These work experiences weren’t lost on him when it came time to market his burger stand. Whataburger’s color scheme originated from Harmon’s bush pilot career. To help pilots avoid crashing, radio towers were often painted in alternating bands of International orange and plain white. This color scheme allowed pilots to spot the hazardous radio towers from miles away. And if International orange could catch a pilot’s attention from distance, surely it could catch Dad’s attention while speeding down a Texas overpass.
The iconic flying “W” logo appeared in 1972. Like previous logos we’ve explored in this series, the designer is unknown. We do know the wings on the “W” are an homage to Dobson’s bush-pilot roots. It’s a versatile logo that scales well to fit on caps, webpages, and signage. The sharp diagonal lines of the “W” compliment Whataburger’s A-frame entries.
It can be easy to think of logos only in terms of shapes and typefaces. But a logo’s color shouldn’t be taken for granted. In keeping the International orange and plain white, the “W” logo unifies the whole Whataburger brand.
Harmon’s piloting inspired color choice 71 years ago has proven a graphic design and branding masterstroke.
The Whataburger Story, whataburger.com.
Whatalife: Harmon Dobson, the Founder of Whataburger, stmuscholars.org, Courtney Pena, October 2, 2019.