Christopher Nolan forced to back-pedal on Tenet movie logo

Tenet logo
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

When the highly mysterious (cough...confusing) trailer for Christopher Nolan's latest film arrived in December, it was accompanied by a simple yet effective logo, with the final two letters of the palindromic title flipped upside-down. While this has led to various fan theories about a symmetrical structure for the film itself, the real mystery is how the studio managed not to spot that its logo already existed.

Ensuring that your logo isn't easily mistaken for another is one of the fundamental rules of our logo design guide (which it seems Warner Bros would do well to read). After the trailer was released, a bicycle company named Tenet Components posted to Instagram, complaining about the "apparent negligence" of the logo's similarity to its own:

𝟱/𝟮𝟱/𝟮𝟬 𝗨𝗣𝗗𝗔𝗧𝗘: 𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗜 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝘆 𝟲 𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗵𝘀 𝗼𝗹𝗱. 𝗦𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗠𝗿. 𝗡𝗼𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗪𝗕 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗰𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘂𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻. 𝗜𝗳 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗠𝗿. 𝗡𝗼𝗹𝗮𝗻’𝘀 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘀 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝗮𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘆 𝘄𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗯𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗲. • ORIGINAL POST FROM 2019 -> No, despite the striking similarities, we are not making a movie with Christopher Nolan. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe Nolan was inspired by our branding; regardless the apparent negligence is frustrating to say the least. Thank you to all the people that have reached out in support of Tenet (the bike brand). When we became aware of this, our biggest fear was that many of our peers who haven’t heard of Tenet (the bike brand, shit this is going to get old quick) might think WE stole the logo from Nolan, when in reality, we launched long before this movie was announced. If you would like to share this post to help spread the word, it would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure one day we’ll all look back on this and shake our heads in disbelief. #supportriderowned #damntheman TENET COMPONENTS ™️

A photo posted by @ride_tenet on Dec 19, 2019 at 4:37pm PST

This is where it gets interesting. Rather than faceless legal correspondence from the studio, Tenet Components' owner Tyler Deschaine received a letter (below) from Christopher Nolan himself. The letter assured him that the similarity was coincidental, and noted that Nolan designed the logo himself "over the last six years" (perhaps one of our Photoshop tutorials could have sped things up a little). 

Email screenshot

Tenet Components' email from Christopher Nolan (as posted to its website)  (Image credit: Tenet Components)

Deschaine shared the email in a blog post on Tenet Components' website, along with his reply, asking that Nolan's logo "use a different font or stylisation" to make it more distinct from his own. Lo and behold, the latest Tenet trailer features an updated logo (below) with the same font as before, but the final two letters no longer upside-down.  

Tenet logo

The movie's new logo (Image credit: Warner Bros)

It's refreshing to see a situation like this resolved so amicably, with no apparent bitterness on either side – Nolan's personal offer to stop using the logo seems particularly gracious in a world of lawsuits and cease-and-desists. But it also feels like an admission that, yep, his logo is literally the same as Tenet Components – and the bike company got there first. Perhaps Nolan can take some solace from the fact that he isn't the first to lose a logo race – the US government recently had the Space Force logo swiped by Netflix

Next time it comes to designing a logo, we'd recommend Nolan checks out our logo design inspiration guide. it's full of tips for kickstarting the creative process and coming up with an original design that you won't have to back-pedal on.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.