What does logo evolution tell us about our favourite brands?

Today, some of the most iconic art pieces in history aren’t being guarded in some suave gallery in Rome, New York, or Paris. They are instead found on the back of our laptops, in the fridges of our supermarkets, or on the box of a chicken nugget 6 piece.

We’re talking of course about logos, the little graphical symbols that have come to define some of the world’s biggest brands. The deep semiotics that has come to drive the iconography of our society is now more than just a logo.

The first-ever logo registered was by Bass Brewery in 1876, and since then, the function and purpose of logos have drastically evolved, along with design elements too. Every era of design brings new trends, patterns and key discourse around the greatest and most iconic.

Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the evolution of some of the biggest tech brand logos and what they represent

The Apple Story

It’s 2021. Apple is one of the most valuable brands on the planet. Its logo, a flat, grey Apple is universally recognisable and represents a lot for what Apple stands for; simplicity by design and modernity.

But, Apple’s logo did not start out this way by any means. The company’s first-ever logo was a sketch by Ronald Wayne that depicted Isaac Newton, the man who revolutionised science with his discoveries on gravity, an anecdotal nod to Apple’s ambitions at the time.

Whilst representative of some of the company’s values, it went against a lot of others and Steve Jobs was quick to moot the design from the brand shortly after the development of the Apple I computer. The company’s second iteration, the rainbow logo, laid out the vast majority of elements found in the current iteration, except for a slew of colour that was a nod to the upcoming release of the Apple II. The innovative machine was the first modern computer to support full colour, and the logo was an excellent way to stand out and represent this.

But, as times change, so too do logos and as colour became a more common feature of modern computers, Apple needed to change its identity to represent its current values. It didn’t want to be like everyone else.

Apple, like many other counterparts, focused mainly on a slew of 3D logos in the late 1990s and early 2000s in an attempt to adopt a skeuomorphism based identity.

Skeuomorphism is the term used in graphic design that describes interface objects that mimic their real-world iterations, such as the floppy disk representing save and calculator apps representing real calculators with button depth. Gradients, drop shadows and other design elements were added to mimic 3Dness and depth and it was an extremely popular design mechanism in the early 2000s.

iOS 6 was the last iOS version to employ skeuomorphism techniques and is said to have played a major role in the 2D logo renaissance.

Almost overnight, particularly surrounding the release of Apple’s iOS 7 device did 2D, flat logos make a comeback. Today, they are commonplace once more.

Thanks, Apple!

The Microsoft Story

What is so intriguing and unique about Microsoft’s evolution is how the different logos represent the products of the company more than any other company.

The 1975 iteration, closely related to the Aki Lines font, projects a youthful, progressive sensibility at a time where American culture was dominated by Anti-War sentiment, freedom, and the famous hippie movement.

The easy-going attitude of the 1970s was quickly reverted with the turn of the decade, with the 1980s representing the attitude and heavy metal in every way.

The company decided to lose the soft, rounded contours of the original Microsoft logo in favour of something completely different. Aggressive, piercing diagonals and bold single lines.

The longest-lasting iteration of the Microsoft logo was launched in 1987 and was not discontinued until 2011. Famously known as the “Pac-Man logo” for the open end on the “O,” this version was designed by Scott Baker and went on to be synonymous with everything that Microsoft stood for at the time. Both good and bad.

When Apple overtook Microsoft as the biggest tech company in the world in 2010, it had become clear to many that the logo had started to become stale.

Whilst Apple continued to ascend and its identity was revered, Microsoft had become known as a conformist, corporate, and unartistic. Apple summed this identity up perfectly with their Mac VS PC ad campaign:

As this negative opinion started to have real-world consequences, Microsoft needed a shakeup. They introduced their current logo in 2012, offering a sleeker, cleaner, and more simple flat design filled with colour. This identity and design were introduced across the entire Microsoft portfolio from Windows and Xbox UI design to the Office suite.

Microsoft briefly overtook Apple in 2018 and continues to compete on the back of this revitalised identity. Let’s see where this battle of logos takes us next.

The Kano Story

Here at Kano, we’ve also had a number of different iterations of our logo. As our company and brand values changed, so did our logo (you see a pattern there?). This evolution allowed us to best represent everything we stood for.

In a recent blog post announcing our new identity, our lead designer, Kevin Rooney, spoke about the thought process behind the change.

The original logo was a sort of stamp so I tried to get some of that stamp-like quality and chunkiness in there with a dash of cute.

We always want to stay fresh, current, and showcase our values. In those 8 years, Kano has changed. We have always aimed to give you back the power of your tech. For those missions, we need a brand that illustrates that. This is why we thought it was time for a change.

As you can see, the history and thought process behind some of tech’s most recognisable logos is not always as it seems. Which is your favourite logo? What do you think will be the next big shift in logo design? Let us know on our socials!

Technology for creation, not just consumption.