A trip down memory lane into obscure logo trivia..

So You Think You Know LogosFound on the intertoobz this morning – Neatorama‘s evolution of tech companies logos, a very well researched and presented history of some of the most famous logos around. I’ve pinched a few to show you here, but there’s lots more at the link. I found the genesis of the various Apple and IBM logos (below) interesting and particularly vivid examples of how logos can morph from one form to another.

The Apple Logo.

The first Apple logo was a complex picture of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree and inscribed thusly: “Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” Designed by Ronald Wayne, one of the original founders, the logo made its debut in 1996 (in a decision he probably regrets to this day, Wayne sold his stock – 10% of the company – to co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs for a paltry $800, thinking that Apple didn’t have the goods to succeed).

Evolution of logos - Apple

Jobs – ever mindful of branding – thought that the overly complex logo had something to do with the slow sales of the prototype Apple I, so he hired Rob Janoff of the Regis McKenna Agency to design the iconic Apple designers and tech-geeks have come to love. Accordingly, Janoff came up with the rainbow-striped Apple logo – used from 1976 to 1999 – and described by future directors of Apple, based on the high reproduction costs, as the most “expensive” logo ever produced. Keep in mind that this was before the days of reasonably priced process printing and four color logos were an indulgence that few companies could afford.

I remember this version vividly – I proudly plastered this multi-colored design on the rear window of my 1993 Chevy Lumina van and saw it every time I looked in the rear view mirror, a constant reminder of my fanboy loyalty to my old Macintosh 6100/66 (complete with 66 megahertz of raw processing power!) I always thought that the bite out of the apple had something to do with Adam and Eve (and the tree of knowledge) but Janoff admitted in an interview that, while being mindful of the “byte” pun – Apple’s original strapline was “Byte into an Apple” – he carved out the chunk t0 “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.” Funny enough, when Coleco made their short-lived foray into the newly expanding desktop computer market in 1983, they called their new model The Adam (as in “Adam ate the Apple”.) Such bravado wasn’t to play out – The Adam weakened Coleco by absorbing much of the money it had made from their phenomenally successful Cabbage Patch Kids and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1988.

In 1998 Apple replaced the rainbow logo with a modern-looking, monochrome logo, which other than the occasional gel treatment, has remained the same ever since. Early last year, Apple dropped the word “computer” from their name to better reflect their relentless, and successful, move into the wider field of consumer electronics.

Evolution of logos - IBM

The IBM logo.

The IBM logo boasts a somewhat convoluted history, going back to the late eighteen hundreds. Not going to be easy, but I’ll try to summarize as quickly as possible – the design started its evolution in 1888 as the brand mark for the International Time Recording Company (ITR, est. 1888) complete with the three letter acronym style still favored by the company today. In 1911 ITR assimilated the Computing Scale Company and re-emerged as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (keeping with the acronym theme, referring to themselves as CTR). Jumping on the burgeoning technology market, the company renamed itself as International Business Machines Corporation in 1924, and decked out their moniker with a new globe-themed brand under which to promote their products of the day – employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, meat slicers, and punched-card tabulators.

It wasn’t until 1947 that IBM changed its mark back to a simple typeface design featuring the three initials of the company that, other than stylistic changes, have remained ever since. In 1956 legendary logo designer Paul Rand revamped the logo into “a more solid, grounded and balanced appearance” while still signifying new leadership of the company – Paul Watson taking over from his father Thomas J. In 1972, IBM commissioned Rand to spiff up the logo and to incorporate elements that suggested “speed and dynamism.” That subtle change involved the addition of pin-stripes which remain to this day. Whew. Quite a history for a logo that most of us take for granted, having seen it on business machines and computers dozens of times.

All in all, kinda neat stuff for readers interested in the history and evolution of logos and there’s much more at the link to Neatorama. Other evolution case studies cover Google, Canon, Nokia and Microsoft.