Evolution of a logo: how did they get from here to there?

Posted by on Jan 27, 2012 in Brands, Design | 2 Comments

When companies update their identities sometimes the changes are so subtle that loyal customers don’t really notice. At other times the reason for a more dramatic change may be a shift in the brand’s direction, a merger, or they simply need a look that is more current.

I’ve put together a collection here of some of the more interesting logo evolutions of famous brands with some history behind them.


In 1886, John Pemberton created the first formula that we know as Coca-Cola. His partner and bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, suggested the name thinking ‘the two C’s would work well in advertising’. An elaborate script font familiar to that era was used to form the name. Coca-Cola has stuck with their signature script logo since 1900 with only a brief departure from it in 1985 when they introduced the new Coke, which wasn’t so well received. When they switched their product formula back to the old formula, which was Coke Classic, they also went back to the script type. I think there was a lesson learned: stick with what people know and love.
FIAT stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Car Factory of Turin), and the company was founded in 1899. The fist logo was created as a design element for a poster to celebrate the formation of the company but wasn’t deemed a suitable emblem for a car. In 1901 a decorative brass plate with the name was used on the first automobiles produced. Except for a departure in 1968, they have stayed fairly consistent with the logotype and kept their unique “A”. 1999 marked FIAT’s 100th anniversary and they introduced a modern version of their 1925 logo, but it was updated again in 2006 using an inner shield that is reminiscent of the 1938 logo design.

Ford Motor Company was founded by Henry Ford along with the Dodge Brothers in 1903. The first logo designed by C. Harold Will, was fairly complex with an elaborate decoration surrounding the type. Ford has stuck with their script font and oval now for 100 years with only subtle changes and updates. The latest variation created in 2003 to celebrate their 100th birthday, uses a brighter blue and a more modern, dimensional oval.

The original company was formed in 1896 and called the Tabulating Machine Company, and in 1911 became Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR). In 1924 the company became an international manufacturing company and used the globe shape to reflect the change. In 1947 the company dropped the globe and full name in favor of the initials. In 1956 Paul Rand designed the first variation of the signature letters we see today. Rand also did the updates in 1972 that incorporated the horizontal stripes which were meant to represent ‘speed and dynamism’.

From 1935 and until recently, Kodak has stayed with the same colors and logotype. They gave the logo a contemporary look in 2006 with a sleeker type font and unusual “a”. Although I like the new logotype, I don’t think this brand update is going to help them now. It’s a shame that a company I grew up with, that was so synonymous with family photos, has filed for Chapter 11.

Mercedes Benz
What is known now as Mercedes Benz was originally two different companies – Benz & Cie. and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG)-that merged in 1928. The three pointed star that originated in 1909 was meant to signify the company’s ‘domination of land, sea and air’. After the two companies merged, the logo was introduced with the addition of the Benz laurel wreath, but it’s the star that has become one of the most recognized corporate identity in the world today.

Pepsi Cola
In 1898 a pharmacist by the name of Caleb Bradham developed the original drink which he named “Brad’s Drink”. I think he realized that name didn’t have a whole lot of pep… pun intended. It was later named Pepsi Cola, after the digestive enzyme pepsin and kola nuts that were used in the recipe. I imagine that the script logotype was abandoned in the 60s in an effort to distinguish Pepsi from its competitor Coca-Cola. A major change to the font has been made very recently which I don’t care for much. I grew up as a Pepsi drinker so the logo I relate to the brand most is the 1973 variation.

A jeweler and engraver by the name of Justin Blazer designed the first trademark for Peugeot in 1850. The element that has remained consistent throughout history is the image of the lion. The company made autos and motorcycles and the variation of the lion on the arrow and the lion in attack were originally used to distinguish the two products. The lion symbol over the years has been simplified and modernized, and become the graphic icon we see today.

It’s fairly obvious why a company named Shell would adopt a seashell as it’s logo but the story behind it isn’t clear. There’s some speculation the shell was taken from the family coat of arms of Mr. Graham, who became director of The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company. In 1907 they merged with the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company to become Royal Dutch/Shell Group and adopted the short form name and familiar shell emblem. The graphic version of the shell logo done in 1971 has certainly stood the test of time. The logotype was dropped in favor of the symbol only in 1999, proof that with a recognizable brand such as this who needs a name?

The company was originally founded in 1937 by a Nazi trade union. The car we know as the “beetle” was actually the brain-child of Adolph Hitler, who wanted to mass-produce a car that everyone in Germany could afford. The original logo was created by Franz Reimspiess–the engineer who perfected the engine for the Beetle in the 1930’s–as part of a company-wide contest. The logo has seen only subtle variation over the years.

Xerox was founded in 1906 as The Haloid Photographic Company, which manufactured photographic paper and equipment. An agency by the name of Chermayeff & Geismar updated the XEROX wordmark in 1961 a while after they dropped the Haloid name. In 1994 the logo changed from blue to red with a new corporate signature and the digital X to symbolize the ‘transition of documents between digital worlds and the paper’. Xerox’s new logo was introduced in 2007 and is the biggest change in its corporate history. This new icon is being met with mixed reviews with some saying it looks like a piece of peppermint candy.
Note: Most of the historical company information has been taken from Wikipedia. Much of the logo research and compilations had been done previously but finding the original sources proved too difficult to give specific credit to any one source.


  1. Barbara Oliver
    September 29, 2013

    Interesting Information! It seems that most logos have become simpler over time. And better, too.

  2. Clarkcreative2013
    October 1, 2013

    That’s true, it seems they have gone from illustrative to more graphic over time.


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