History of Logo Design

The concept of logos as an identifying mark has been around since antiquity. Over the last 2,000 years, logos have changed according to available technology in printing, the arts and the field of design.

The Oldest “Logos”

A logo can be defined as a mark used by people, organizations and companies. It provides identification and recognition by others in the community.

So, in a sense, logos have existed since 2300 BCE, when cylinder seals were used in Mesopotamia. These seals were made from limestone and were used to form impressions in clay. The seals provided a type of signature and were also used to identify specific communities or leaders.

Developments in metallurgy led to coins that were also used much like logos. As early as 600 BCE, coins were created with insignias and images that represented the city, kingdom or ruler where they were issued. Since each kingdom had its own coins, they became a symbol, or logo, to allow people to identify their origins.

The Industrial Revolution, Printing and Art

During the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s and early 1900s, printing technology improved dramatically. Typography began to become much more stylized; instead of traditional typefaces used in books, artists began to create much fancier version to be used on posters.

Printing and lithography opened up a whole new world of art. Instead of being just a form of expression for artists, art began to be viewed as something that could be applied to more common purposes, such as posters, magazines and books. The expanding middle class was ready to bring art into everyday life. The artists and printing presses wanted to be recognized for their work, and started using trademark images such as this one from the Chiswick Press.

Modern Day Logos

The first modern day logo to be copyrighted was the red triangle logo of the Bass company in 1876.

The modernist movement of the 1950 lent a completely different style to logos. Popular artists such as Paul Rand and Saul Bass brought sleek simplicity to logo design and had tremendous influence on future artists.

Logos in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s

As technology continued to increase, designers began creating more complicated logo designs. Though Rand and Bass continued to design modernist-style designs (like Rand’s IBM logo), the field was opening up to small designers who brought current culture into logo design. Logos often featured multiple colors and sometimes even used more than one font. The use of perspective made logos appear to be rendered in 3D.

Logos for the Internet

The trend back to more simple logos became popular with the dawn of the age of the Internet. As people began purchasing home computers, and companies began creating their first websites, it quickly became apparent that logo design needed to be flexible enough to accommodate different sizes of screens.

Today’s consumers use a variety of devices to access the Internet—everything from a PC hooked to a 42-inch monitor, to a small 5” screen on a smart phone. Logos must easily go from one size to another through formatting, and still be distinctive on tiny screens.