For cutting edge design inspiration, we study a combination of top-performing companies and innovative start-ups. In particular, we often look to tech hubs for the latest trends. As a result, we’re better equipped to recommend bold, eye-catching design concepts to our clients.
To further train my creative eye, I analyzed eight technology companies to see how their logos have evolved over the years. A logo is an essential brand image that should communicate core company values.
View the timelines below to learn about the design history of Apple, GE, Google, IBM, Instagram, Intel, Microsoft, and Twitter.
Apple: From Storybook to Sleek
The original Apple logo looks like a page from a children’s fairytale book. It showcases a detailed scene of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an Apple tree. On the border, the logo reads:
“Newton… A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.”
In 1977, Apple streamlined its logo by creating a simple but colorful icon. There are many legends about the symbolism behind the iconic Apple bite. According to the designer, Rob Janoff, the bite was merely intended to ensure the apple would not be confused as a cherry.
Over the years, Apple has experimented with bevel and shadow effects. The current Apple logo is simple and minimal. According to The Express Tribune:
“One of the main reasons for coming up with the monochrome logo was that the new Mac computers were being manufactured with metal casing instead of the plastic one and the sight of a rainbow logo on a metal computer did not fit well.”
GE: From Art Nouveau to Smooth & Elegant
The original GE logo had an art nouveau style with long, organic lines. Over time, the GE logo has become more circular, fluid and smooth.
In 2004, GE underwent a significant rebranding. The new logo incorporated the color blue which communicates trustworthiness, intelligence, and commitment. In addition, GE’s tagline changed from “We bring good things to life” to “Imagination at work.”
Google: From Playful 3D to Approachable
According to Neatorama, the first version of the search engine was named “BackRub” for its ability to analyze back links to determine the website relevance. It was later renamed Google as a play on the word Googol which means one followed by 100 zeros.
The original Google logo, with 3D lettering, is similar to the old style of Microsoft WordArt. In 1998, Google created its first modified logo. According to the Google Doodle Archive:
“Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the 2nd ‘o’ in the word, Google, and the revised logo was intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were ‘out of office.'”
These doodles decorate the company logo to celebrate notable events. Over the years, Google’s logo has become lighter, simpler and more approachable. Google’s current logo features a custom geometric sans-serif typeface called Product Sans.
IBM: From Antique Monogram to Modern Classic
IBM’s first logo dates back to 1888, making it one of the more seasoned logos observed. The name evolved from International Time Recording Company, to Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, to what it is today, International Business Machines. Each name change demanded the logo to evolve as well.
The first IBM logo was created in 1924. According to IBM, “Watson Sr. chose a more contemporary sans-serif type versus the ornate, rococo letters that formed the previous “C-T-R” logo. The words “Business Machines” were intended to suggest a globe, girdled by the word ‘International.’”
The logo now isn’t incredibly contemporary, but it has a classic modern look that represents the longevity of the company’s existence.
Instagram: From Symbolic to Simplified
Instagram’s original logo symbolized a polaroid camera, which ironically came out in the 1940s, and has progressed to the simple, updated logo it is today. Believe it or not, people were not totally on board when Instagram first made the change to the current logo.
The company explains that their vintage icon needed a refresher to better reflect the users and time. The elements that were kept were the rainbow colors and the camera lens. No matter how the company and logo develops, these features will most likely be included to carry the continuity of the brand.
Intel: From Original to Today
There hasn’t been much change from the original Intel logo to today. Intel has only had two logos since the company was founded in 1968. The first had the dropped “e” and the second and current has a “swoosh” around Intel. The update happened in 2006 when then-CEO Paul Otellini announced the strategic shift at Intel.
This logo has always been blue and has always included the company name. This is one of the least changed identity marks, along with GE and Coca-Cola. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!
Microsoft: From Disco to Clear & Flat
The original Microsoft logo featured disco-style font. During the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft made flat design popular. Today, this style represents fast loading time and responsive websites.
The 1982 logo was a favorite among many Microsoft employees. According to Neatorama:
“In 1982, Microsoft announced a new logo, complete with the distinctive ‘O’ that employees dubbed the ‘Blibbet.'”
Five years later this was simplified to as slash and often referred to as the “Pacman” logo. Today, the Microsoft logo is colorful, simple and clean.
Twitter: From Nothing to Mountain Bluebird
The original logo, the blue word “twitter,” was created in one day, which remarkably lasted for four years. It’s hard to imagine Twitter without a bird, but in those first four years of Twitter’s existence, one didn’t exist. Larry the Bird came about in 2010, but his look or name didn’t last for long. The Twitter Bird replaced him, and the icon replaced the brand name.
The icons start out plain, gets more sophisticated, and then retreats toward plain again. Twitter is now one of the most easily recognizable brands in the world, due to a little, blue bird.
Final Identity Thoughts
All of these tech companies have evolved their logo over time to accurately match their brand and values. Some have changed drastically, while others have barely changed. Some companies have updated their logo many times, while others have only refreshed their marks only a couple times over many years.
A company must do what’s needed to truly represent themselves to their audience and what they feel comfortable portraying.
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