For 70,000 years, people have been using graphic art to communicate information. From animal paintings in caves and on pottery to hieroglyphics and sculptures, each symbolic image and color meant something. In medieval times, heraldry came to be. Designing a single coat of arms was consisted of combining specific colors and shapes that enabled people to identify nobility, opposing armies, and allies.
As the population increased, there was a need for shops to sell needed supplies. As literacy was reserved for the aristocratic few, more and more shops hung signs with symbols on them to show what products were offered within. In 1393, King Richard II of England passed a law that required alehouses to display signs so the official ale taster could identify them and inspect the quality of ale sold in their establishment.
Owners began adding heraldic images to the signs they displayed, and images like the Green Dragon, the Red Lion and the Two Cocks became local favorites. Here’s where brand loyalty gets its start. Patrons gathered at their favorite brewery for a pint and spread the word of the refreshing libations.
The Gutenberg press was invented in 1440, and by the late 15th century, printers had designed logos as a way to identify their work. Logos were designed and used. In the mid-1600s, we’re introduced to prevalent newspaper circulation – with advertisements multiplying rapidly. Incorporating imagery in their ads was a sure way to set a business apart from their competition.
In 1840 chromolithography was introduced in the United States and voila, posters, colored labels and advertisements were printed in color. With the Industrial Revolution and the new technology, more people had money to spend. So more shops opened and branding evolves to accomodate new businesses.
The modern era of logo design got its start in 1885, when Frank Mason Robinson designed the Coca-Cola logo which is one of the world’s most recognized brands today. In 1914, Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic flag. Five circles, each a different color. It is recognized by not just by the image on the flag, but by its cultural significance.
Jump forward a few decades to the 1950s when IBM’s logo was designed by Paul Rand, and businesses began to put more thought into their designs. By 1962, computer art emerged and brought more changes to the logo design industry. And in 1977, the I heart NY logo was designed for the New York State Department of Commerce. And the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designed the Star of Life logo that is displayed on every emergency services vehicle.
Computer-aided drawing (CAD) and computer-aided imagery (CGI) came to be in the 1970s. As personal computers became more popular in the 1990s, more options for logo design became available. Then with the development of Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, the world of creativity exploded, and digital graphic design was available to all. 3D digital logos are created by a style called skeuomorphism, which brings depth to the logo design using gradients, drop shadows, and faux wood and metallic textures. MTV is an excellent example of this style of design.
In the last few years, logo design has evolved one step further. More and more companies realize the need to have multiple iterations or versions of their brand. We now have the technology to make that happen by creating physical models of 3D logos with wood, plastics, and expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam (or Styrofoam as some refer to it). Riding the wave of technology enables us to develop our brands in new and innovative ways. The possibilities are endless!
Fun fact: The top ten most iconic logos of all-time are Starbucks, McDonald’s, Apple, FedEx, Mercedes, Pepsi, Nike, Coca-Cola, Chanel, and Mickey Mouse.