The History and Evolution of Corporate Logos

The History and Evolution of Corporate Logos

When it comes to owning a business, being memorable is key. Whether a client remembers a business’s fast service, its dedicated employees, or an enjoyable experience, there is always an emphasis on making sure that customers and clients don’t forget a company’s name.

A customer that has a good experience with a business will likely want to return, or they may want to share their positive opinion with someone they know. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. If a business is not memorable, it might not be easy to remember its name—and having a forgettable business can be disastrous for success. A business that is forgettable will easily blend into the thousands of others that offer the same products or services, so making a good impression is vital.

Corvette logo on car

There are a few things that a business needs to provide, in order to leave a positive, lasting impression. Important factors include good service, quality products, fast turnaround, and competitive pricing. While these factors have a lot to do with the customer experience, there is one component that is often effective without the customer even realizing it: the company’s logo.

Corporate logo divider


Corporate logos are one of the key components of being memorable to a customer or existing client. A logo is one of the first things people will associate with a business, and an effective logo is often the thing that sticks in customers’ minds when they want to revisit.

A corporate logo has a distinct design, which is reflective of the company and its services. When done right, a logo will be a very powerful tool for a business, and it will create a distinct message about the company and what it stands for. Some of the most popular corporate logos that are easily recognizable today include the Nike swish, the Starbucks siren, the Target sign, the Rolex crown, and the Warner Brothers shield.

Corporate logo divider


A corporate logo is used to communicate what a company is about and what it represents; however, the term “corporate logo” is simply a more modern way of discussing symbols. For centuries, humans have used symbols to communicate, and what we do today for businesses is not much different.

The creation of a logo begins with deciding on the symbols that best represent a company, and often a lot of research goes into finding out about the root meaning of individual symbols before a logo is decided upon.

Nike, for example, has one of the most recognizable logos in the world, even though it is incredibly simplistic.
The idea behind Nike’s logo, however, is made simple on purpose. The “swish” is meant to represent speed and motion, and it is also a representation of the Greek Goddess of Victory, named Nike. Some symbols are more recognizable than others. Before the Nike logo was created, it did not own the same significance as it did once Nike’s success grew.

Nike shoe with logo

Other more recognizable symbols are often used very specifically to convey a certain message. For example, in the past, the image of an apple may have symbolized a biblical verse or a nutrition fad, but now, most consumers automatically visualize the popular Apple company and brand.

The tactic of using symbols has been used for centuries; it’s not just a tactic that has been taken up in the last few centuries by businesses. Centuries before ours, families and royalty were already presenting their family “logos” with specific pictures and shapes to represent what the family valued—e.g., religious beliefs, strengths, home country, etc.

It was during the industrial revolution that companies quickly began to learn about the importance of a single, solitary symbol emblazoned on their products and services. After the revolution, it was much easier for companies to increase mass production and reach more consumers, but that also meant that it was easier to get lost in the crowd of similar businesses.

It was no longer enough to put a simple stamp on individual items; companies began to use a single logo across all of their stages of production, including letterheads, packaging, receipts, and more. The corporate logo began to be a necessary part of gaining and keeping customers.

One of the trailblazers in logo identity was that of Wiener Werkstätte, a marketing business in Vienna. The company was created in 1903, and designer Josef Hoffman proposed that they embrace a complete graphic identity that spanned more than just letterheads and tags. The emblem for their business included four very specific elements that would make it identifiable regardless of where it was found.

A business that made drastic changes to the purpose of the corporate logo was that of MTV, which had its first logo come out in the 1980s. This logo would change the way people thought about its use when it showed up on television screens, and it changed the notion of how a brand can spread to a wider audience.

The logo was not simply a flat, stationary logo, but a three-dimensional figure that moved, spun, shattered, changed color, and performed all kinds of tricks on screen. The logo evolved to suit the needs of MTV’s audience and, as a result, also evolved the way logos were used.

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Apple logo on building

As we dive further into the 21st century, our technological advances continue to push forward. As a reaction to these fast-paced advances, companies continue to evolve to keep up. While corporate logos continue to be at the forefront of businesses, their looks have changed drastically over the last few decades as a means of staying current.

The following are some of the characteristics that have evolved over time, to allow corporate logos to remain current:

Characteristic 13D Designs

Companies that have been around for a long time are likely able to see quite a change from their previous corporate logos to the ones they use now. Specifically, many of the companies that were present in previous decades used two-dimensional corporate logos that have now morphed into three-dimensional symbols.

Modern looking symbols quoteThe change can be seen in a variety of company logos, including AT&T, which began with a two-dimensional, dark blue bell. These days, the company is more commonly recognized by its three-dimensional, striped globe, which is a reflection of the tech-savvy company and is a more modern take on branding.

As we continue to see advancements in technology, it will likely be very important for companies to embrace more modern-looking symbols to connect with customers.


Characteristic 2Fonts

Even if customers don’t really notice the effects of a well-chosen font, it is nonetheless a very important aspect of an effective corporate logo. The way things have been going, some of the most effective fonts seem to be those that are simple and clean.

Not only does this make words on logos easier to remember, but it’s also a great tactic for saving on printing costs. The simpler, the better. Two of the most popular fonts businesses should consider using are Helvetica and Gothic, which come across as clean and professional.


Characteristic 3Fast Information

Consumers live and work in a fast-paced world that requires information to be provided instantaneously. With that in mind, companies need to be recognizable by a few simple words or a symbol that is going to be easy to process.

Shortening the words in a logo is key to getting straight to the point, as AT&T has figured out over time. What started as a logo that had “long distance telephone” written into it has now been cut down to simply say “AT&T.”


Characteristic 4Better Print Quality

Getting people to talk about your brand means putting your corporate logo out into the world. But where are you going to display it? And what kind of printing will you need to ensure it lasts? For all businesses, printing quality logos will require quality ink cartridges, high-end printers, and very specific printing materials.

Over time, many businesses have developed smarter ways of sharing their logos, products, and websites by means of better printing quality and more widespread advertising. Depending on where your corporate logo can be seen, it may need a weatherproof material for transportation vehicles, you may want it to be on a sticker, or you might want it on paper business cards. Regardless of where your logo is, having quality printing will ensure that your logo is bright and bold and that there is no wear and tear when your products finally end up in a customer’s hands.

It is also important to note that, with the help of the internet and social media marketing, businesses can now reach potential customers all over the world. The result has been an impressive growth of online purchases, as well as an increased level of expectation for packaging.

What this means is that companies need to invest in effective, interesting, and quality packaging to get their products out to customers. Companies that sell online will require unique and quality packaging that can withstand traveling long distances, connect with buyers, and even offer two or three uses.

Most importantly, the company’s logo needs to be durable and intact, regardless of where the customer is purchasing from. Having quality logo prints ensures that customers will remember that company and continue to come back for more purchases.

Characteristic 5Relatable Characters

For businesses that incorporate a mascot or character into their advertising and corporate logos, many have evolved over time to reflect the popular lifestyle. Logos with characters have evolved to represent more modern themes and opinions in order to stay relevant and relatable.

KFC quoteFor example, Colonel Sanders is the friendly looking mascot of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), but he hasn’t always looked the way he does today. In previous years, Sanders has looked older and more detailed, but today’s versions are much simpler, with cleaner lines, and a friendlier expression.

Not only that, but the Colonel has also changed his look, over time, adding color, more modern glasses, and even an apron to represent the “home style” cooking of KFC. The company has undergone these changes over time, to steer away from the “fried” aspect of their food, even dropping the full “Kentucky Fried Chicken” logo and going with “KFC.”


Characteristic 6Environmentally-Friendly  

As consumers become more aware and forward thinking about their personal effects on the environment, they continue to look to their favorite brands to do the same. Companies that want to make it a point that they’re embracing earth-friendly practices often incorporate this into their modern corporate logos to send a message.

Whether it’s changing their color to green or adding an Earth-themed symbol to existing logos, many businesses are now making it a point to be good to the environment to keep their customers. Logos can often help to send specific messages, and being environmentally-friendly has certainly been highlighted in many recent logo designs. This has been a huge deciding factor for consumers in the last decade, so making these designs clear in a logo can be game-changing.  


Characteristic 7Sticking with Popularity

For very few businesses, change just doesn’t seem to be an option. CBS has been working with the same black eye logo for years, which, when it first came out, was seen as a very modern design. The symbol hasn’t changed since—with no repercussions for the company itself.

CBS logo

Another company that has tried and failed to modernize its corporate logo is Gap. The popular clothing company exploded onto the fashion scene when they used a dark blue box and simple white letters in the center, and so it comes as no surprise that an attempt at a modernized logo was harshly shut down in more recent years. Some things are better left untouched.


Business owners who want to be successful will know that investing in advertising is a huge part of gaining interest and keeping existing customers. First impressions are always the most important, and having a corporate logo that is modern, informative, and unforgettable is key to garnering interest from customers all over the world.

If you’re thinking about creating or updating your corporate logo, consider the information provided to get a better understanding of what makes a corporate logo stand out from the rest.