Logos are everywhere. A 2016 study by the market research firm Yankelvich estimated that the average person sees over 5,000 ad/logos per day, up from 2,000 just 30 years ago. Logos and brands are big business, with many companies spending upwards of a million dollars to create the logo that will give them the strongest brand identity. Companies need to be noticed, and that is where the logo comes in.
Hey, that’s my cow
The history of the logo goes all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians, who used hieroglyphics on domestic animals to mark ownership. Similarly, the Ancient Greeks and Romans marked pottery the same way. That is how the logo started; as a simply a way to keep track of property.
If you look at the logos from the late 19th century, they are still not much more than a simple mark or symbol to indicate the producer of that particular product. Fast forward to the start of the 20th century, however, and we see the introduction of color printing and the birth of advertising. Both elements helped explode the concept of logos as brand identity. It is during this time that we find the first trademarked logos as well.
Today, complex lives have necessitated the need for simple designs that are easy to see, process, and remember. Intricate logos are simply incongruent with today’s extremely fast lifestyle.
It’s all in the past: the world’s oldest logos
The oldest logo comes from the Belgium Brewery Stella Artois. It was created when the company opened in 1366. Although the logo has undergone minor changes, it has largely remained the same since it was created. The company is still successful today and Stella Artois is considered the most popular Belgium beer in the world.
We don’t see another successful logo until 1886, when London based Twinings Tea created a logo that would go unchanged all the way to present day, making it the oldest unadulterated logo in the world. Twinings is still a popular brand of tea; the company now sells to over 100 countries.
The next company on our list is one that almost everyone will be able to recognize. Levi Strauss & Co. created their logo in 1886. In fact, their logo was so distinctive and memorable that the company was often called the “Two horse brand.” In today’s advertising, the Levi logo is often used without the two horses, although both logos are used interchangeably. Today, Levi remains a popular brand of clothing, although the company sells much more than just jeans.
Another beer company makes the list as the fourth oldest logo in the world. The British beer company Bass created their iconic red triangle-based logo in 1888, shortly after Twinings and Levi. The Bass logo was the first British company to receive a trademark. Although the logo has undergone some minor alterations, the essence has remained intact. Bass beer is now part of the Anheuser-Busch-InBev family.
A petroleum company is last on this list with a logo many Americans might recognize. Shell Oil created its famous red and yellow shell logo in 1904. The logo has remained virtually unchanged ever since. Today, Shell is still one of the most successful oil companies in the world.
To infinity and beyond
In the book “The History of Logos and Logo Design” by Dan Redding, advertising executive Naomi Klein is quoted as saying that many successful brands have already achieved “transcendence from the world of things,” which Redding took to mean that “the dissemination of a brand’s identity has become more valuable than its production of physical commodities.” In other words, it has always been about the power of the logo and it always will be.
Don’t let this article intimidate you, but instead use it as motivation. Creating a business logo that matches what you want your company identity to be is of the utmost importance. Any incongruence between who you are and the identity your customers see will quickly spell doom. Your logo needs to be clear, concise, and memorable. Those that aren’t don’t have a chance at making it through the visual clutter we wade through every day.