Logos have become an integral part of our daily lives, with a saturated world full of different companies trying to cut through the clutter with a brand personality that triumphs over its contenders. But when did the logo become so powerful? And what is the ripple effect on society when a brand we know and love changes their logo?
Times Square in New York City is flooded with thousands of logos, each trying to catch the eye of a potential consumer, with some succeeding and others disappearing into oblivion. With this heavy competition, the logo has become a powerful player in the game of branding, with some being more recognisable than the name of the brand itself, and others being fails that are more laughable than recognisable.
The world’s most recognisable logos come from some of the biggest corporations in the world, including Google, McDonalds, Apple and Starbucks, just to name a few. But how did these logos become so successful? And why have they had such a powerful impact on us as consumers. Let’s take a look at how the logo became what it is today.
The Evolution of the Logo
Today, the logo has become an integral piece of a company’s brand identity, with the power to make or break the brand personality they’re trying to create. But the logo didn’t start out that way. It has origins dating as far back as the Ancient Egyptians who used hieroglyphics to brand and identify the things they owned. Later on, graphic imagery was used in medieval times (owing to low literacy rates) to help people distinguish between the status of different nobilities.
The logo era as we know it today was first introduced in the 1870’s with the first abstract logo called the Bass red triangle
. Due to the introduction of colour printing in the advertising industry, logos became essential for brands if they wanted to be memorable to potential consumers. And they worked.
Today, a logo serves as the foundation for a brand’s entire narrative, with the fonts, colours and tones selected all playing a part in determining the type of story your brand wants to tell. Logos embody the essence of a brand and have to resonate with consumers in some way for them to have meaning. An effective logo design should be unique and simple and should be both distinguishable and easily recognisable.
For example, when you think of Apple, what do you picture? For most, the easily recognisable chrome apple with a bite out of its right side comes to mind first. It’s iconic, but it didn’t always look like that. The Apple logo transformed multiple times since its introduction in 1976. The original logo was an overly-detailed sketch depicting Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Great in theory, but to such a logo like that on every single iPhone on the world? The simple Apple design as we know it now seems like a much more ideal choice.
From the late 1970s to 1998, the Apple logo had a rainbow scheme, perfect for the bright neon colours of the 70s, 80s and 90s. But as the 2000s approached, Apple saw an opportunity to simplify their logo design to match the sleekness and simplicity of their product. Changing colours from translucent, to monochrome, to aqua and chrome today, the Apple logo is easily one of the most recognizable and successful logos in the world.
So why has Apple been so successful after so many logo changes and other brands we know and love haven’t been?
Branding has always had the potential to stir up controversial reactions, and with them, strong feelings that can be amplified by the general public’s opinion. With Instagram and Twitter right at out fingertips, the news of a bad logo design change, and its fans’ outcry, can travel the globe in an instant.
Let's look at some logo changes that didn't sit well with the general public.
In 2016, Instagram’s rebranding of its logo was a milestone for logo design, with a massive shift from skeuomorphism to flat design. The fun, carefully crafted and easily recognisable depiction of a retro camera was stripped down and simplified into a graphic shape filled with a neon rainbow gradient. If you use Instagram, you would know about the outcry that Instagram users across the world had in response to this (what felt like) monumental change.
A wave of ‘I could have done that better’
comments flooded the internet, with some people calling it garish and others saying that Instagram was desperately trying to be cool but failed. But harsh critics were no match for the brand’s power that has ultimately kept the brand alive and thriving for the last nearly five years, despite its logo change.
A more simple age: Are brand logos losing their creativity?
Following the aftermath of the simplicity trends of 2020, many companies and businesses have chosen to rebrand, following the same minimalist aesthetic choices for their brand’s new look and feel. With more companies choosing to simplify the way they portray themselves, does this mean that a new trend in minimalist logo design is on the horizon?
But this poses the question: are logos in danger of losing their personality? With logo designs seemingly becoming simpler and simpler, it makes us wonder whether this minimalist and modern era will cause brands to lose the uniqueness and quirk that once made them so memorable.
The Starbucks logo was once a design full of imagination and creativity, paving the way for outlandish logo design that was fun and light-hearted and, to be honest, much more free. Today, it sits as one of the most recognisable logos in the world, despite its simplicity and minimalist aesthetic.
The original 1971 Starbucks logo design displayed a mythical two-tail mermaid inside a circular ring in a coffee brown colour. The brown colour was an obvious choice, with brown palettes being thought to stimulate appetite. But the mythical two-tail mermaid? Now that was unique. The mermaid’s upper body was completely exposed, baring a fully visible navel which some might have found controversial. And maybe it was. But it was also different and exciting and fun. And consumers loved it.
Experiencing many changes over the next 40 years, the latest version of the Starbucks logo is much more about its future than about its past. Without the detail of the iconic mermaid at the forefront of the logo, it makes us wonder if the new look and feel of the brand just a natural progression of the company as we move into a more minimalist era, or whether it has lost the creativity and uniqueness that made it so iconic in the first place.
Public outcry moving online
In more recent times, another public outcry has caught the attention of the internet with the logo
change of Pringles. For the first time in 20 years, Pringles decided to give its logo a makeover “to better highlight the flavours in every can and showcase his new range of emotions to catch”. So in December 2020, Pringles revealed a brand new version of their logo showcasing Mr. Pringles without his iconic orangish-brownish hair in a much more simplified design.
However, the logo change was not well received. There was an outburst of disapproval circulating on online platforms including Twitter and Reddit, with people calling it bland and basic. Some fans even called for a petition to change it back to the old logo design, being upset with the lack of detail and the “unnecessary minimalism.”
From the beautifully detailed sketch of the first Apple logo and the overly imaginative designs of Starbucks’ mermaid, the evolution of the logo has followed a pattern of simplicity and minimalist aesthetic that has had a significant impact on the way consumers think and shop.
Only time will tell what the next step is in this evolution, and how it will affect us all.