Your logo is the first line of marketing for your company. It’s everywhere from business cards to billboards, so of course creating something different and expressive is the goal of every business owner. You find yourself longing for a symbol that is unique, bold or whimsical—and that represents your company appropriately, of course. So you tell your designer, “I want something like Apple or Nike. Sigh. With his palm on his forehead, he replies, “Can you give me some more details about your company, please? What’s your marquee product? Who is your target customer?” Trust me, your designer gets asked to create a logo of Apple or Nike caliber every single day. There are two fundamental problems with this request: 1) creating a unique logo that doesn’t have an obvious connection to your business can be risky. 2) The Apple and Nike logos are not as arbitrary as most people think—there was a method to the madness.
Origin stories of some unique logos — Apple Original Apple Logo with Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. The original Apple logo: busy and cumbersome. A bitten apple has nothing to do with computers, right? Since an apple has no obvious link to computers, most people assume the iconic Apple logo is completely arbitrary. But when you look at the original logo designed in 1976 by Ronald Wayne, you’ll see that the design included a sketch of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the apple background remove service tree; the one that dropped the fruit that would change science forever. Through this detailed logo, Apple hoped to align itself with one of the premier thought leaders of all time—not a bad move. But the the logo was too busy. Its complex and detailed design didn’t translate well to the various mediums on which it would be emblazoned, like your computer monitor. Apple fell into a common trap of innovative (and non-intuitive) logo design: taking a route that was way too cerebral.
Modern monochrome Apple logo. The slick, clean Apple logo design we recognize today. Not more than a year later, Steve Jobs sought a logo that was more modern. Keeping with the underlying theme of an apple changing the science world, (with a few iterations along the way) the current silver apple logo was born. The bite? Nothing too clever here, at least initially. Rob Janoff, the designer, wanted to make sure people knew it was an apple and not a tomato. That “bite” is a nice play on “byte” was just a stroke of luck. Nike Black Nike Swoosh The iconic Nike Swoosh had humble beginnings. People around the world, of all ages, see the Nike Swoosh and immediately think of the sports apparel and accessory giant—a logo dream come true. But was the logo the handiwork of a major advertising or design firm? Not even close. The infamous Swoosh is the product of an undergraduate design student, Carolyn Davidson, who was tasked by one of Nike’s founders (the original company was Blue Ribbon Sports), Phil Knight, to create a stripe for a new line of shoes that “conveyed motion.” Davidson was paid $35 for the job. The rest is history, sort of. Knight wasn’t originally crazy about the design, but eventually came around, giving the design the ultimate position—company logo.