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The Story of The Griffin

UPM's Griffin logo celebrates its 120th anniversary, making it the oldest Finnish business symbol still in use. Today it is an iconic symbol of excellence in the forest industry.

Mythical Creature in the North 

The Griffin is a mythical creature known as a half-eagle, half-lion in various cultures. In legends and folklore, the beast guards the gold of the kings, as well as other priceless possessions. Moved into the far north, this ancient creature watches over the green gold inherent in the forests.

Griffin also has counterparts in Finnish folklore and mythology. Depending on their name, Finnish griffins can either be spirits laying over treasures hidden underground or wizards' henchmen, taking the form of giant birds.

 

From Legend to Business

At the end of 19th century, one of the predecessors of the present UPM, Kymmene Aktiebolag, hosted a competition for artists to create a new, distinctive logo for Russian trade. As we now know, Hugo Simberg's griffin was the declared the winner and Kymmene Aktiebolag purchased the drawing in 1899.

Hugo Gerhard Simberg (1873-1917) was a talented Finnish painter and graphic artist. He is a prominent figure in Finnish art history. Simberg is known for his gloomy style and macabre, supernatural topics. Fittingly, his most famous piece is The Wounded Angel (1903). Simberg was encouraged to follow his symbolistic themes by his mentor, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, a visual artist known for his interpretations of Kalevala, the Finnish national mythology.

Over the years, the Griffin has evolved with us and has become a recognizable, iconic symbol for UPM – an assurance of high quality and responsibility.  It’s not only used in UPM advertisements or marketing and communications materials. The Griffin is an artistic and ornamental motif; the symbol has been hewn in granite, etched on glass, carved in wood and embroidered on wall rugs and fabrics.

 

The Artists That Shaped the Griffin

Hugo Simberg's iconic design has been adapted to suit the changes of the company and to represent the changing times. Four other artists and graphic designers have left their mark on the Griffin over the 120 years.

Esa Ojala, 1989

The Griffin was modernised in 1989 by graphic designer Esa Ojala. Following the merger of Kymmene Corporation and Repola Ltd. in 1996, he designed a new logo for the newly-formed UPM-Kymmene Corporation. Ojala combined the Griffin with the letters of UPM, which stand for United Paper Mills, one of Repola Ltd.'s subsidiaries. Esa Ojala is one of the most prestigious Finnish graphic designers and is still creating today.

Erik Bruun, 1981

Professor Erik Bruun is behind some of the most iconic Finnish illustrations of the 20th century. Many of his works illustrate Finnish flora and fauna. His love of nature and conservation was combined in his work for the Kymi Corporation, producing several variants of the Griffin. They appeared, for example, on Högfors cast-iron goods in the 1970s and Kymi’s paper roll, bale wrappers and labels between 1969-1995.

Topi Valkonen, 1956

In the 1950s, Kymi’s own in-house graphic designer and artist Topi Valkonen gave the Griffin a more
“heraldically appropriate” new look. His design was in use until the 1980s.

Dagmar Kärnä, 1942

The Griffin’s first makeover came in the 1940s, when it was redesigned by Dagmar Kärnä, a technical designer working in the Kymi Corporation’s engineering department.



 
 

Griffin - guardian of the green gold