Wikipedia says the word “logo” is derived from the Greek word “logos” meaning word or idea. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a logo as “a symbol that is used to identify a company and that appears on its products.” It also says the first known use of a logo was in 1937, but it doesn’t indicate which company.
That date seems off by a wide mark in my own marketing experience. We had the first advertisement in an American newspaper in 1704, the first billboards in the 1790s, and the first press release in 1906 – all mediums that require text or print. Form the cave dwellers to the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians – symbols far preceded words. I find it hard to believe that the first logo ever was in 1937.
A logo is not a brand and it is not branding – branding exists in the mind, the idea that something familiar is easier to sell than something that is strange. A logo is symbolic of a brand, and like the artist formerly known as Prince, it cannot be expressed in words. It might be accompanied by a tagline or a trademark, but symbols by definition cannot be spoken.
Many of us learned to read first by associating pictures with words, we have always learn symbols before words, which is perhaps what makes logos a favorite of marketers. There’s something nostalgic about old logos too. This infographic – the evolution of logos traces the history and development of the logos representing several large brands.
Someone should tell Merriam-Webster that the genesis of Coca-Cola’s logo is some 50 years before their historical benchmark. Of all the logos pictured nearby, the evolution of Walmart’s, Apple’s and Google’s strike me as the most drastic of changes in the least amount of time.
Here is the complete infographic:
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