This article is contributed by Ben Johnson of Logoinn, custom logo design service provider based in the UK.
Have you ever wondered when and why people felt the need to create logos to stand out from others? The history of logo designing dates back more than 2,000 years when the Ancient Greeks used to have ciphers on their coins. They carved in different designs on different coins just to give them an identity and recognition. This practice proved to be very effective in distinguishing between coins from different regions. The importance of logo designing became even stronger in the pre-industrial era, when many people began to get involved in barter trade. At that time, everything that was sold or bought carried a signature stamp that differentiated one trader from another.
The next evolution was that people expanded their trading activities and set up companies for their trading. Just as traders felt the need to identify themselves, companies also wished to have instant recognition.
Logos have stood the test of time and if anything, there is now an even stronger need for logo designing. IBM is a great case study to see how one company has adopted this idea of creating an identity and instant recognition for itself and how much this logo has been modified over time.
The IBM Story
IBM is perhaps the most recognized name in the field of IT products and services. But, people may not realize that it was not IBM when it started its operations in 1888. Its name then was the International Time Recording Company (ITR), whose major products were mechanical time recorders, invented and patented by William L. Bundy. This is ITR’s initial logo with its initial letters, ITR, inscribed on it.
In 1891, ITR decided to make changes in its logo again and came up with this. The changes they made were quite complex and the logo was not easy to understand at a glance. Nevertheless this logo lasted for 20 years till they made a merger with another company.
Later in 1911, ITR was merged with the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company and as a result the company had to modify the logo. Clearly companies must alter their logos to reflect the changes they are undergoing and the evolving IBM is a really good example. When one company merges with another company, they need to create a new identity to signal the change to the rest of the world.
However, in 1924, the company wished to signal an expanded business role. The ornate, rococo letters that formed the ‘CTR’ logo were replaced by the words ‘International Business Machines’ which were written in more contemporary sans-serif type font. The design of it was arranged to have the look of a globe, which confirmed the company’s intention to be ‘International’.
Over 20 years later in 1947, International Business Machines (IBM) decided to eliminate the globe from its logo. Besides this, they also had a major change in their business; they expanded from the punched-card tabulating business to the new world of computers. The typeface of this logo was called Beton Bold. The logo was cut short to IBM alone.
After 9 years, in 1956, Thomas J. Watson appointed Tom Watson Jr. as the CEO. As soon as he took over, he decided to change the logo of the company. He hired Paul Rand, who was a famous logo designer. He asked Paul to make subtle changes to the current logo and make it more solid, grounded and balanced. He wanted a logo, which would be an evolution of their logo and not a design which would look entirely different.
So, IBM retained the basic design of their logo and made a subtle change of filling black color in place of white in the letters to give it a solid look. Later Paul Rand decided to design another logo with horizontal stripes on it which depicted ‘Speed and Dynamism’. He also changed the color as well.
After that the logo has remained basically the same, with just a color change. It was blue previously, and this is now changed to black. However, there have been no design alterations in the logo.
There are several lessons that can be drawn from the evolution of the IBM logo design. There are countless other companies who have also gone through major alterations in their logos. Any business owner must realize that your logo needs to be refreshed from time to time in line with changing business goals and objectives. Only in that way can the world have the best image of your company and what it offers.
The way logos evolve is a fascinating study. If you are struck by other examples of how particular company logos have evolved with time, why not add your thoughts in a comment.