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The Histories Of 11 Super Famous Logos, From Apple To Levi’s

Logo Life, a new book by Ron van der Vlugt, compiles the stories behind 100 notable logos. Here’s a taste.

Try as you might, it’s impossible to avoid the influence of advertising in the modern world. Starting as early as age three, kids can recognize and match logos to their respective brands, whether the Disney Channel or Camel. Since we’re surrounded by them every day, brand marks form an indelible part of our collective visual memory. And while they may seem like immutable features of the cultural landscape, they actually evolve with changing times, as companies pour millions of dollars into rebranding efforts in the hopes of appealing to current tastes. Logo Life (BIS Publishers), a new book by Ron van der Vlugt, compiles the stories behind 100 famous logos, from Apple and Adidas to Nike and Volkswagen, providing graphic histories of some of the world’s most influential companies.

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[Paul Rand’s 1981 “Eye, Bee, M” poster for IBM]

Just how much a few of the logos have changed will surprise you. Apple’s, for instance, began in 1976 as an ornate 19th-century-style tribute to Isaac Newton, complete with a flapping banner–a far cry from Steve Jobs’s simplify-everything ethos. That was replaced by the iconic rainbow Apple, which Rob Janoff originally designed using pencil and strips of paper. Just as noteworthy is how little others have changed over the years: Braun has barely redesigned its insignia since introducing it in 1934, perhaps realizing that redesigns aren’t always improvements–something that such entities as the Gap, NASA, and Dunkin’ Donuts have failed to grasp.

In recent years, logos have also evolved to reflect a brand’s strength. High-profile companies like Nike and Starbucks have dropped their names from their marks, acknowledging that their corresponding swoosh and mermaid had become so visually recognizable that they could stand on their own.

[A cheeky 1970s Levi’s ad]

Van der Vlugt doesn’t claim Logo Life to be the definitive reference book of the best logos of all time, although certainly many of them made the cut. Nevertheless, it’s a highly useful, deeply informative survey of graphic design’s role in shaping companies’ identities, and even in defining moments in popular culture.

Buy Logo Life for $20 here.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining FastCompany.com, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.

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