Where did tech firms' logos come from?
5th Nov 2009 | 15:54
The origin of 9 of the most famous symbols in tech
The logos of the biggest tech companies are some of the most recognisable brands in the world. But where do the logos come from? And what do they mean? We reveal the history behind some of tech's most recognisable corporate images.
Adobe was founded in late 1982 by John Warnock and Charles Geschke. Both had worked for Xerox PARC and wanted to develop PostScript – the first major step towards the DTP revolution. The name came from Adobe Creek in Los Altos, California. The fledgling company didn't have much money and employed all means possible to save it - Geschke's 80-year-old father prepared shelving for their office, while Marva Warnock (John's wife) designed the company logo.
Doug Brotz, also from Xerox and Adobe's fourth staffer, said: "Of all the companies that came out of PARC I thought that this one was guaranteed to fail." But after PostScript, Adobe Illustrator appeared with Photoshop following in 1989. The second logo shows a progression from the original while retaining some of the "A" characteristics.
Most people think the original Apple logo was the striped Apple, but they'd be wrong. It was the intriguing black-and-white Isaac Newton 1976 design you can see below. It was drawn by Ronald Wayne, often described as the "third founder" of Apple. He gave up his 10 per cent share in the company for just $800 after only two weeks as he didn't want to get saddled with debt.
Jobs was worried the logo wasn't helping the slow sales of the Apple I. Rob Janoff of the Regis McKenna agency was employed and came up with the iconic logo which was refreshed as the monochrome logo we have today in the late 1990s. Interestingly, rumour has it that the bite out of the Apple is in homage to Alan Turing, a forefather of computer science who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple, but Janoff says he was swayed by the bite/byte concept.
While some might think the Atari logo is supposed to look like an "A", it actually is designed to replicate Mount Fuji. Indeed the logo was known as the "Fuji". Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was a fan of the ancient strategy game Go, played on the lower slopes of the mountain.
Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory changed name several times before it became Canon Camera Co. in 1947. The original Kwanon brand was never released.
And like many other old brands, Canon hasn't changed its logo for eons – the version still in use today was designed in 1955 though a similar design had been used since 1953. Interestingly, the sharpened "C" was bespoke and didn't exist in any standard typefaces.
Stanford graduates Larry Page and Sergey Brin renamed their BackRub search engine as Google, a play on the word Googol (1 followed by 100 zeros). Brin created the first logo using GIMP before an exclamation mark was added to the design echoing a certain other search engine with a funny name.
The still-used and instantly recognisable logo of today was created in 1999 by Stanford Consultant Art Professor Ruth Kedar. "There were a lot of different colour iterations," says Kedar in David Vise's The Google Story. "We ended up with the primary colors, but instead of having the pattern go in order, we put a secondary colour on the L, which brought back the idea that Google doesn't follow the rules." The guy who draws the Google Doodles is Dennis Hwang.
In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen called their partnership "Micro-soft" and came up with the first logo for the future software giant.
As Microsoft aggressively marketed MS DOS in the early 1980s, it came up with the second logo – the one with the striped "O". Colloquially at Microsoft, it was known as the "Blibbet."
In 1987 Scott Baker morphed the logo into today's Microsoft logo with its slashed "O" instead. On a 2005 blog page, Microsoft employee Larry Osterman reminisces: "When Microsoft announced that the would be retiring the blibbet, a number of employees mounted a fruitless 'Save the Blibbet' campaign to retain the corporate icon. Unfortunately, the suits won. "Apparently the slash between the "o" and the "s" is designed to accentuate the "soft" part of the name.
Quite a history lies behind Palm. Established in 1992, US Robotics bought it who were in turn bought by 3com before it was spun off. The company then split and palmOne was then the name of the hardware arm. In between, the founder Jeff Hawkins left to start Handspring.
Handspring and palmOne then merged and bought the OS side of the business back. It's now just plain old Palm. The upshot of the upheaval is that the company had three different logos over the course of three years 2003-2005. Palm says its latest logo is designed to reflect the brand equity still remaining in the blue logo, while updating the typeface to one more suitable for the digital age.
The 1993 rebranding of Samsung was designed as a new era for the company – one that has seen the Korean giant become one of the world's biggest consumer electronics companies. The elliptical design is supposed to symbolise the world moving through space. According to the company, "The first letter, 'S', and the last letter, 'G,' partially break out of the oval to connect the interior with the exterior, showing Samsung's desire to be one with the world and to serve society as a whole."
One of the most recognisable brands in the world, the Sony logo was originally encased inside a square in 1955. But by the 1960s it had broken out and began its gradual modification to the design we still see today. In 1961 Sony designer Yasuo Kuroki was asked to work on a new version of the logo in order for it to be displayed in neon in Hong Kong that year and by 1962 Sony had even come up with corporate identity rules for the use of the logo. Today's version dates back to 1973. In 1981 a change was proposed, but it never happened.
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