It was the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID) that, in 1971, designed the iconic keyhole logo and matching fonts of the name of State Bank of India (SBI) in nine Indian languages, with which the country’s largest lender, with a combined balance sheet of over Rs.37 lakh crore, 22,500 branches, 52,000 ATMs and 2.77 lakh employees, is now poised to enter the exclusive club of global banks.

Banyan tree 

Under the Imperial Bank of India Act, 1920, the British had established Imperial Bank of India (IBI) in 1921 in which were amalgamated the Banks of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. In 1955, following a Parliament Act, SBI succeeded IBI with a new logo, a banyan tree in a round coin form. Subsequently, seven central banks of former princely states became associate banks of SBI, two of which (Indore and Saurashtra) were merged with the behemoth in the last decade. The remaining five (State  Banks of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Jaipur and Bikaner, and Patiala) are set to follow suit by the end of the current financial year.


After nationalization of 14 banks in 1969, when ‘financial inclusion’ commenced with nationalized banks increasingly branching out to unbanked areas and people, SBI, decided to go in for an image makeover. In particular, this change was necessitated as some SBI officials thought that, with new aims, the existing symbol of a banyan tree was “inappropriate” as no other plant can grow under this tree!


“SBI commissioned NID with this professional job and we created the new logo in 1971,” Prof Pradyumna Vyas, Director, told TheHindu BusinessLine on Friday.


Mahendra Patel, former faculty, said a two-member design team was set up for the purpose. Its members were Shekhar Kamath and Vikas Satvalekar, guided by Prof Dashrath Patel, Head of Design Department. It was not a student assignment but a proper professional faculty assignment for which SBI also paid a fee to NID, he said.

Circle-with-a-keyhole symbol 

He said the solid circle-with-a-keyhole symbol, resembling a lock-and-key, was the contribution of Kamath — who is now in Melbourne, Australia — depicting the purpose of the Bank: that SBI, the custodian, would safe-keep the customer’s money. The Bank adopted the new motif on October 1, 1971. Mahendra Patel had also designed the matching fonts of the title of State Bank of India in nine languages which are being used until now.


While the State Bank of Saurashtra, whose employees wanted its merger with SBI in 1962 itself, got finally merged in 2008, State Bank of Indore followed in 2010. The remaining banks are, following a Government of India decision recently, set to merge with SBI by March 2017.