Cataloging change on the internet is simple. Thanks to Archive.org and the huge network of online design blogs, almost every minor branding change is reported on and every logo revision archived for the world to see. It’s a high-speed phenomenon that’s almost completely foreign amongst offline businesses; changing a logo once every decade is unheard of offline, yet standard for online players.
We’ve taken a retrospective look at some of the world’s most effective corporate logos and business branding materials, aiming to see how they’ve changed over the last century. Both offline and online companies are included, many of which sacrificed iconic corporate logos in favor of a more modern revision.
1. Yamaha: 1935-2010
Few logos have as much to live up to as Yamaha’s. The Japanese mega-corporation has designed and manufactured almost everything throughout its 120-year lifespan, pioneering CD technology, motorcycles and outboard motors, and most famously musical instruments. Founded in 1887 and most well known for their early high-end pianos, Yamaha’s original logo reflected a defined focus on music.
It wasn’t until after WWII that the company expanded, using left over infrastructure to produce motorcycles and other vehicles. While their logo has retained some music aspects – the tuning fork arrangement is the most obvious – it’s now much more flexible, able to be applied to sporting gear, motorcycles, and consumer electronics.
2. Apple Inc. (previously Apple Computer): 1976-2010
Apple’s original logo may not look the part given the company’s now famous product lineup, but in the mid-1970s it was an interesting piece of corporate artwork. The portrait-style logo was designed by co-founders Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne and replaced one year later by Apple’s iconic bitten apple logo.
But a surprising amount can happen in a year, especially in such a young and soon-to-be influential company. Worried about Apple’s future and scared by Jobs’ erratic spending, Ronald Wayne sold his shares in Apple Computer for a grand total of $2,300. Apple’s logo saw some minor changes over the past three decades, switching from color to monochrome with the release of the iMac.
3. Mozilla Firefox (previously Mozilla Phoenix): 2002-2010
Launched to fight Mozilla’s early software issues, Phoenix was an early experiment in developing a non-commercial web browser. Early versions were as minimal as a browser could be, designed with a focus on cutting out unnecessary features, rather than Mozilla’s standard strategy of incorporating as many features as possible.
Phoenix was renamed ‘Firebird’ in 2003 and ‘Firefox’ in 2004 after complaints from other developer communities. The browser’s logo has changed dramatically since its Phoenix days, though changes to the current Firefox logo have been small and relatively inconsequential. Despite being officially open source, Mozilla have trademarked the Firefox logo; developers may use the background globe in builds, but are required to leave the stylized fox out of modified builds.
4. Microsoft: 1975-2010
Aside from a couple of small slogan revisions, Microsoft’s corporate branding materials have seen few changes since their 1987 redesign. A “Your Project, Our Passion.” tag line now adorns almost every Microsoft logo, often coupled with the Windows promotional logo or branding materials for a specific product.
Despite the company’s lack of visual innovation for the last decade, it’s not exactly difficult to see Microsoft’s early logo evolution. Their first corporate logo wouldn’t look out of place on a 1970s tape deck, appearing almost as dated as rival manufacturer Apple Computer’s amateur first logo.
5. Google Inc: 1997-2010
Google’s logo is one of several in the tech industry that’s almost never stayed static. Holidays, major events, and changes within the company have all resulted in their own customized homepage logos, known as ‘doodles’ within Google’s design team. Google have created their own free doodle gallery, available here and cataloging all event-based logos from 1998 until today.
But aside from special occasions, Google’s corporate logo has remained almost exactly the same since being founded in the late 1990s. The blocky typeface was updated in 1998, and once again in late 2009, but the spirit of the logo has remained simple and almost completely unchanged. Call it a lack of innovation or a mechanical culture all you like; the logo is one of the most recognizable and acclaimed in the world.
6. FedEx (previously Federal Express): 1971-2010
FedEx’s logo changed quite quickly as the company grew. Founded as an overnight airplane freight company and forced through a period of stressful finances, it’s since grown into one of the world’s largest delivery and freight companies. Originally named Federal Express, FedEx now uses both its current and previous trading names in corporate branding and advertising materials.
Unusual for a company its size, FedEx uses a slightly different logo for each division of its business operations. The ‘Fed’ section is either purple or grey, the former being used on company products and infrastructure, and the latter on management materials. The ‘Ex’ section, complete with hidden arrow, varies in color depending on its location; trucks are branded with a red typeface, while local delivery trucks are branded in purple and light green.
7. Coca-Cola: 1885-2010
Coca-Cola’s distinctive logo was designed by Frank Mason Robinson in late 1885. A bookkeeper by trade and tasked with designing the logo for what was then a medical supplement, Robinson used a cursive style popular with 19th century writers to promote Coca-Cola to residents of Atlanta. Barely popular in its early years, the Coca-Cola Company managed to sell just over 25 gallons of Coke in its first year of production.
While New Coke brought about a change in design and an equally disastrous change in marketing materials, Coke’s logo has barely changed since its early days. The cursive script is as recognizable as ever, and is currently almost exactly the same as the logo Coca-Cola used during World War II.
8. PepsiCo: 1950-2010
Rival cola manufacturer PepsiCo’s branding has never been quite as consistent as Coca-Cola’s. The New Coke fiasco of the 1980s excluded, the Atlanta-based cola manufacturer has stuck with red-and-white branding materials for over a century, beating out almost every other big-name branding effort in the process.
PepsiCo’s iconic red-white-and-blue logo design didn’t pop up until the late 1940s, when president Walter Mack rebranded the drink in order to appear more patriotic. The iconic ‘Pepsi Globe’ was revised again in 2008, with different sales regions incorporating lower case text, an edited disc-style graphic, and a lightened color scheme.
9. WalMart: 1964-2010
WalMart’s logo has gone through several changes over the company’s fifty-year lifespan. Its first trading logo was remarkably similar to the one sported today, incorporating a light blue color and sans-serif font. WalMart later changed its logo in 1964 to a ‘frontier’ style, aiming to brand itself as the United States’ premier discount retailer.
Despite being horribly dated today, the frontier-style logo was WalMart’s standard branding material for almost two decades. The company most recently changed its logo in 2008, reversing back to the initial blue and yellow color scheme while dropping the iconic star from its signage typeface.
10. IBM (International Business Machines): 1924-2010
Founded in 1896 as the Tabulating Machine Company and given its current name midway through the 1920s, IBM is one of the world’s oldest technology companies and a legend in the computing world. Keeping its reputation for sluggish action and limited innovation alive, the company’s logo has changed just four times in the last eighty-five years, shifting from a globe-style marquee into the current striped logo.
IBM’s current logo has been in use since the late 1960s, becoming the standard logo of the company in 1972. While ultra-modern design gurus may shudder at the thought of using a logo for over four decades, we can’t help but celebrate it – IBM’s logo is one of the most recognizable and iconic in the world.