You’ve seen these tech logos everywhere, but have you ever wondered how they came to be? Did you know that Apple’s original logo was Isaac Newton under an apple tree? Or that Nokia’s original logo was a fish?
Let’s take a look at the origin of tech companies’ logos and how they evolved over time:
In 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (”the two Steves”) designed and built a homemade computer, the Apple I. Because Wozniak was working for Hewlett Packard at the time, they offered it to HP first, but they were turned down. The two Steves had to sell some of their prized posessions (Wozniak sold his beloved programmable HP calculator and Jobs sold his old Volkswagen bus) to finance the making of the Apple I motherboards.
Later that year, Wozniak created the next generation machine: Apple ][ prototype. They offered it to Commodore, and got turned down again. But things soon started to look up for Apple, and the company began to gain customers with its computers.
The first Apple logo was a complex picture of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. The logo was inscribed: “Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” It was designed by Ronald Wayne, who along with Wozniak and Jobs, actually founded Apple Computer. In 1976, after only working for two weeks at Apple, Wayne relinquished his stock (10% of the company) for a one-time payment of $800 because he thought Apple was too risky! (Had he kept it, Wayne’s stock would be worth billions!)
Jobs thought that the overly complex logo had something to do with the slow sales of the Apple I, so he commissioned Rob Janoff of the Regis McKenna Agency to design a new one. Janoff came up with the iconic rainbow-striped Apple logo used from 1976 to 1999.
Rumor has it that the bite on the Apple logo was a nod to Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple. Janoff, however, said in an interview that though he was mindful of the “byte/bite” pun (Apple’s slogan back then: “Byte into an Apple”), he designed the logo as such to “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.” (Source)
In 1998, supposedly at the insistence of Jobs, who had just returned to the company, Apple replaced the rainbow logo (”the most expensive bloody logo ever designed” said Apple President Mike Scott) with a modern-looking, monochrome logo.
In 1911, the International Time Recording Company (ITR, est. 1888) and the Computing Scale Company (CSC, est. 1891) merged to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR, see where IBM gets its penchant for three letter acronym?). In 1924, the company adopted the name International Business Machines Corporation and a new modern-looking logo. It made employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, meat slicers, and punched-card tabulators.
In the late 1940s, IBM began a difficult transition of punched-card tabulating to computers, led by its CEO Thomas J. Watson. To signify this radical change, in 1947, IBM changed its logo for the first time in over two decades: a simple typeface logo.
In 1956, with the leadership of the company being passed down to Watson’s son, Paul Rand changed IBM’s logo to have “a more solid, grounded and balanced appearance” and at the same time he made the change subtle enough to communicate that there’s continuity in the passing of the baton of leadership from father to son.
IBM logo’s last big change – which wasn’t all that big – was in 1972, when Paul Rand replaced the solid letters with horizontal stripes to suggest “speed and dynamism.”
LG began its life as two companies: Lucky (or Lak Hui) Chemical Industrial (est. 1947), which made cosmetics and GoldStar (est. 1958), a radio manufacturing plant. Lucky Chemical became famous in Korea for creating the Lucky Cream, with a container bearing the image of the Hollywood starlet Deanna Durbin. GoldStar evolved from manufacturing only radios to making all sorts of electronics and household appliances.
In 1995, Lucky Goldstar changed its name to LG Electronics (yes, a backronym apparently not). Actually, LG is a chaebol (a South Korean conglomerate), so there’s a whole range of LG companies that also changed their names, such as LG Chemicals, LT Telecom, and even a baseball team called the LG Twins. These companies all adopted the “Life is Good” tagline you often see alongside its logo.
Interestingly, LG denies that their name now stands for Lucky Goldstar… or any other words. They’re just “LG.”
Motorola, then Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, was started in 1928 by Paul Galvin. In the 1930s, Galvin started manufacturing car radios, so he created the name ‘Motorola’ which was simply the combination of the word ‘motor’ and the then-popular suffix ‘ola.’ The company switched its name in 1947 to Motorola Inc. In the 1980s, the company started making cellular phones commercially.
The stylized “M” insignia (the company called it “emsignia”) was designed in 1955. A company leader said that “the two aspiring triangle peaks arching into an abstracted ‘M’ typified the progressive leadership-minded outlook of the company.”
In 2002, Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross created an open-source web browser that ultimately became Mozilla Firefox. At first, it was titled Phoenix, but this name ran into trademark issues and was changed to Firebird. Again, the replacement name ran into problem because of an existing software. Third time’s the charm: the web browser was re-named Mozilla Firefox.
In 2003, professional interface designer Steven Garrity, wrote that the browser (and other software released by Mozilla) suffered from poor branding. Soon afterwards, Mozilla invited him to develop a new visual identity for Firefox, including the famous logo.
In 1865, Knut Fredrik Idestam established a wood-pulp mill in Tampere, south-western Finland. It took on the name Nokia after moving the mill to the banks of the Nokianvirta river in the town of Nokia. The word “Nokia” in Finnish, by the way, means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel.
The modern company we know as the Nokia Corporation was actually a merger between Finnish Rubber Works (which also used a Nokia brand), the Nokia Wood Mill, and the Finnish Cable Works in 1967.
Before focusing on telecommunications and cell phones, Nokia produced paper products, bicycle and car tires, shoes, television, electricity generators, and so on.
In 1982, forty-something programmers John Warnock and Charles Geschke quit their work at Xerox to start a software company. They named it Adobe, after a creek that ran behind Warnock’s home. Their first focus was to create PostScript, a programming language used in desktop publishing.
When Adobe was young, Warnock and Geschke did everything they could to save money. They asked family and friends to help out: Geschke’s 80-year-old father stained lumber for shelving, and Warnock’s wife Marva designed Adobe’s first logo.
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