The Evolution of Logo Design: Past, Present & Future

We all know that logos are one of the most powerful assets of a brand. Many companies are recognizable by their logos faster than their names. But have you ever thought where logos come from? Well, it’s an interesting and valuable question to think of? Interesting, because the response tracks the history and growth of the business itself, and useful, because knowing the path and journey of a logo will help you understand the role of a logo for a brand in the 21st century.

Many people have a belief that logo design is a new concept. But that is not the truth. Logos have been around us since the ancient era in Egypt. Let’s take a look at the world of logo design including its past, present and future.

Ancient Egypt

The term ‘logo’ was invented in ancient Greece. It is an acronym of the word ‘logotype’ which originates from the Greek word logos meaning ‘word’ and typos meaning ‘imprint.’  Although logos are popular symbols of mass communication today, the use of symbols to express possession and significance in ancient Egypt is a practice that comes from the 3200 BCE.

Around 400 BCE, ancient Greek rulers first marked coins with their own pictures. This was not merely to lift the ego of a king. The face of a ruler on coins legitimized domestic issuers and those involved in business transactions.  Faking of currency was a punishable death. In the 17th century, Falsifiers were hanged or killed brutally in England.  The next century,  with this optimistic warning, Benjamin Franklin started printing 20-shilling notes with the quote, “To counterfeit is death.”

Ancient Egypt Branding Lessons:

  • Symbols were used to express possession. Early Egyptians were the first popular civilization that used a mixture of pictorial and abstract symbols to express meaning in a widely recognizable manner.
  • To be able to connect successfully to the audience gives a brand a degree of authority and power. Credibility is often synonymous to association.

Medieval Times

You might have speculated that the daily staples like bread and beer were the primary items that required the use of a legal trademark. In medieval times, bread and beer were the mainstays of the daily lives of people. Hence what made sense was to start preserving the authenticity and value of goods being produced through legal means at that time. The initial law governing the quality, price, and size of bread produced in England was enacted by King Henry III. Bakers stamped their products with distinctive markings to make sure that the breads that were loved could be uncovered back to their original bakeries. A Germany brewery, Löwenbraü, maintained its trademark and use of lion’s head emblem backdated to 1383.

Prior to the industrial era, craftsmen manufactured products in what was called ‘crafts guilds’ where they would toil alongside a large workspace known as the ‘craft hall.’ Rather than individual craftsman, the guild association sought to preserve its prestige by creating its products along with a ‘hallmark.’

This desire to guard the customers’ and the credibility of manufacturers was so intense that even today, it continues to exist with a modern term known as ‘quality hallmark.’

Medieval Times Branding Lessons:

  • Marks safeguard consumers from buying poor quality products. With the Bakers Marking law of 1266 and other related laws, it was possible to trace bread, beer, and other supplies to those places where they came from. This helped protect consumers in case of inferior quality.
  • Marks safeguard businesses from breaking laws. It gives manufacturers leverage for guarding their brand images from being harmed by imposters.

If you compare the usage of today’s logos with medieval times, you will find many similarities. But the arrival of digital technology has modified things drastically. Let’s move a further couple of centuries forward and see how logos have been influenced by innovation and how advertising affected businesses.

Logo Design during Industrial Revolution

In the era of the industrial revolution (18th century), logo design and branding became even more powerful. Companies gradually started to adopt the culture of branding in one way or the other. Despite producing goods on a large scale, retailers and businessmen had to discover methods to make their products distinctive. With the introduction of technology, logo design became even more popular. The increase in visual arts and lithographic process added to the further growth and popularity of logo design. In 1890s, logos found their path into corporate branding.

Fun Fact: Did you know that it was Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (German politician), who first explored the concept of color psychology?

Twentieth Century 

Between 1910 and 1913, in the U.S.A and Europe, commercial logos became quite common. In 1914, when Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic flag, logos reached the commercial market. This takes logos back to their roots —which predates many modes of trade returned to their original tribal identity and social communication — drawing attention to the fact that logos are not only a saleable mark but also have extreme cultural importance. It might have been one of the first times that the customers’ of the new generation found themselves thinking about logos in this collective way.

It was in the 1950s when the period of creative and thoughtful logo designs began. In 1956, Paul Rand created the iconic logo for IBM. In place of the letters ‘I’ and ‘B’, he created an image of a human eye and a bee. The letter ‘M’ was created in the same manner as what we see today. In the history of logo design, this was seen as a turning point by many historians. Companies started realizing how effective symbols could be and started shifting from simple utilitarian logos to more brand-relevant logos.

In the 1970s, technologies like CGI (Computer-generated imagery) and CAD (Computer-aided design) were developed. In the 1990s, personal computers got famous, and in the early 2000s, InDesign and Photoshop were developed by Adobe.

Present Logo Designs:

In the 2000s, with the rise of Web 2.0, we saw a minor transformation in logo design trends. Although Web 2.0 generally related to a shift in website and technology development, it also brought about a visual reformation. Their round lettered, bright colored and gradient logos with multiple layers became popular. As digital technologies were making the whole world more comfortable, mimicking a 3D environment in a 2D space was no longer necessary.

Then there came a trend of minimalism. At the first glimpse, minimalism and flat design may seem like going back to a less developed state, but such styles consisted of elements that made use of stylistic dropped characters such as textures, shadows, and gradients. These characters tend to lift content and other graphics on a printed page or computer screen. Although, what minimalist logos and flat logo designs really achieve is a simple, more contemporary look and minimal disruption to the essence of what is to be conveyed.

Future of Logo Design:

Nowadays, designers have become more proficient and everyday new technologies are introduced. Because of these facts, logo design has now become a much stronger and crucial part of every business or marketing strategy. Talking about the trends, well, in the coming years, thin line, motion graphics, raw hand-written, retro style, and gradient styled logos are expected to rule the logo design industry. Designers will use some unexpected typographies that have never been seen before.

Create your Logo!

Logo design has come a long way. With open modernization and a mutual approach, the dynamics of the graphic design industry has changed over time. And when it comes to open modernization, the one name that comes to mind is Designhill. It is the World’s No.1 freelance graphic design platform that lets marketers get connected with thousands of freelance graphic designers all around the world. The platform also offers various AI-powered tools and their logo maker is one such useful tool that helps users create sensational logo designs within a few minutes. With Designhill, you can be assured that you are at the most radical period of change in the logo design history.