Apple is one of the best known companies on the planet. Their logo is immediately recognizable, despite being relatively simple and straightforward. The iconic Apple logo has changed several times over the years, but is the current version the best?
It is quite amazing that the Apple name and logo have been able to acquire such massive brand recognition. After all, “apple” is a very basic word, one of the first that children learn to say and spell, and the logo is not far from most representations of the fruit. So…how did we get here?
The first Apple logo looks more like something you’d find in 1876 than 1976. It’s a black and white illustration of Isaac Newton reading a book under an apple tree. As the apocryphal story goes, perhaps the most famous tale in the entire history of science, Newton saw an apple fall from a tree, which inspired the theory of gravity.
This logo was designed by a businessman named Ronald Wayne, who reportedly left Apple just 12 days after the company was founded, though Steve Wozniak says it was after a few months. Anyway, just like Mr. Wayne, this logo didn’t stick around for long.
Just a year after the company’s founding, Apple updated its logo to the iconic Apple silhouette we know today, and a stylized lowercase “Apple” wordmark. The logo was created by Rob Janoff, a graphic designer for the advertising agency Apple hired in 1976.
This logo did two important things for the Apple brand. First, it integrated the “Apple” name, which was nicely placed within a bite of the Apple icon. Second, it showed six bands of colors that represented the color graphics capabilities of the Apple II computer. Both features, the bite and the rainbow, would stick around well beyond this iteration of the Apple logo.
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Seven years later, Apple brought in Landor & Associates, which stripped down the logo to the simple six-color banded apple with a bite taken out of it. The colors and shape were also slightly updated. That’s when the company started primarily featuring the Apple icon without the wordmark. Thanks to a growing fan base and the saturation of the educational market, the logo was able to stand on its own.
The six-color banded apple is considered by many to be the “classic” Apple logo. It was used in some form from 1977 to 1998.
The late 1990s update to the Apple logo was certainly a drastic departure from the colorful logo the brand carried for the previous two decades. The catalyst for change? Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after being ousted from the company in 1986. One of the first things he did was try to reposition the company as a premium, luxury brand. To accompany Apple’s new line of silver computers, the iconic Apple logo has been repainted in solid black.
The black Apple icon is a boring logo to be sure, but it shows just how recognizable the brand has become. Despite some tough times in Jobs’ absence, the company still had enormous brand recognition, and a simple black logo embodied the elegant simplicity it would be known for for the next decade.
In 2001, Apple gave the iconic logo a shiny 3D effect. This version of the Apple logo was a bit more fluid than previous variations. It could be found in various shades, sometimes with shade, other times without. Sometimes it looked like chrome metal. Other times it seemed more like glass.
Apple’s software design took on a skeuomorphic look, the design concept where digital elements take on the appearance of their real-world counterparts, and this logo fits that tone well.
The flat logo never completely went away during the 3D phase, but around 2015 Apple started ditching the glowing effects and went back to the plain flat logo full-time. That is the logo the company uses today.
It is mostly seen in black, white, and gray. However, it does get a burst of color from time to time. While the shape has been slightly refined over the years, it’s still essentially the 1977 Apple logo. That’s impressive.
Which logo is the best?
Now that we’ve seen them all, the question arises: which is the best logo? Personally, I think it’s hard to argue against the six-color banded Apple logo from 1984. It’s the classic silhouette we know and love, with the added bonus of some fun colors.
Many corporate logos these days are very flat and dull. It’s nice to see a bit of color and personality. The best thing about the current Apple logo though is that you can have the best of both worlds. I understand why you might not want a flashy rainbow in every situation. But if you grew up in an area of ubiquitous Macintosh computers in every school, it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic for the rainbow version.
All in all, Apple’s branding has almost always been spot on. They’ve leaned into the Apple theme with the Macintosh, and the “i” naming scheme has become as iconic as the logo itself. Good branding plays an important role in the success of a company, and whichever logo you prefer, it’s clear that Apple passed the brand test with flying colors.
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