Fascinating Stories Behind the World’s Oldest Logos – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) — The oldest registered trademark in the United States dates back to 1870, when it was filed by paint manufacturer Averill. Against the background of Chicago, an eagle is depicted with a brush in its beak. The words “Durable, Beautiful, Economical” appear in a banderole. It has, to modern eyes, a very peculiar feel.

Five years later, the English Bass Brewery registered Europe’s first trademark, a simple red triangle that feels contemporary by comparison. It can even be seen on beer bottles featured in paintings by Édouard Manet and Pablo Picasso, and serves as the Bass logo to this day.

These two very disparate concepts, only a few years apart, beautifully capture the eclectic essence of logo design.

And while rudimentary logos — such as those on ancient Greek pottery — had been around for thousands of years, modern logo design didn’t begin until the mid-19th century, said Jens Müller, author of “Logo Beginnings,” a new book detailing the early history of logos. .

“It starts in the 1850s, with industrialization and branding,” Müller said in a telephone interview.

At that time, Müller added, trade in manufactured goods began to move beyond regional distribution. Logos arose as a necessity to identify, differentiate and elevate a product from its competitors, or to tell its story and provenance. Once brands and the symbols they represent emerged, efforts to legally protect them from imitation soon followed.

Intriguingly, the two earliest trademarks from America and Europe also represent the two most basic types of logos: figurative and abstract. Each logo can be attributed to one of these groups, according to Müller, although there are many subcategories as well.

The word mark is a type of logo that consists solely of text, such as a company name or a monogram. Other types of logos include the emblem, an often circular stamp-like arrangement of images and text, such as the BMW logo; the mascot, an image of a character that represents the brand, such as the KFC logo; and the logo, which is based on an icon or similar graphic element, such as the Apple logo.

“You could say there are generally about 25 to 30 categories that all logos fit into, whether they were made in 1870 or 2021,” Müller said.

To reach this conclusion, Müller examined nearly 10,000 logos. “One thing I didn’t expect was the high number of handwritten word marks, such as the signature of a company founder. The best known are the Ford or Kellogg’s logo, which are still used in their original form.”

Iconic branding

Perhaps the most famous wordmark logo is the Coca-Cola logo, introduced in 1886 and designed in Spencerian script—a popular writing style at the time—by Frank M. Robinson. Robinson was the bookkeeper and business associate of the drink’s inventor, John S. Pemberton. It survives practically unchanged and was trademarked in 1893, when the words “trademark” were added to the long tail of the first “C”.

That explicit reminder had a reason to be: the Coca-Cola logo would soon be besieged by imitators. In 1923, the company published a collection of injunctions against competitors who had created similar logos for their products. It had 700 pages.

By then, the importance of branding and logos had become apparent. A 1930 Louis Vuitton ad is dominated by the “LV” sign itself, with the two letters surrounding an image of several pieces of luggage arranged in a similar configuration. “That’s a great example of a company that discovered early on how important branding is, and that they could sell their wares so much better with their iconic branding on it,” Müller said. “It’s from years before the golden age of advertising (1960s to 1980s), but it shows how companies came to understand that much of their value comes from brands and logo design.”

Minimalist design

A major trend in the history of logo design has been the evolution from graceful, figurative signs to a more deliberately reduced, streamlined aesthetic – although this only started in the early 20th century.

A classic example of this streamlining is the logo of the American multinational 3M, known for the brands Post-It and Scotch tape. The company’s full name is “Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company,” which was reflected in its earliest logos, before being shortened to “3-M” in the early 1900s. In 1977, New York agency Siegel+Gale made the logo even simpler by using the ever-popular Helvetica font and the color red to come up with the version of the logo that’s still in use today.

“That’s a great example of logo modernism, but also of branding that has really been reduced to the most minimalistic design,” said Müller.

Müller says wordmarks are still very popular today, as they can avoid confusion in a world filled with too many logos. “Many companies now prefer to use their name as branding rather than an abstract design, so the likelihood of someone raising their hand and saying, ‘We have the same logo’ is smaller.”

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about logo design is that it defies a clear narrative, Müller said: “I think the fact that there’s not (just) one single way things have evolved may be why there’s I’ve never had a book like this before – because it’s hard to tell this story in a very clear way.”

“Logo start,” published by Taschenis available in Europe and the US.

Top image: The General Electrics logo, unchanged to this day, was drawn on a building at the New York World’s Fair, ca. 1935-45.

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