Niall O’Loughlin of 99designs shares some important lessons from the history of logo design.
Some organisations stumbled across the perfect logo for their brand and barely changed it while others found the need to make alterations to change with the tastes of their target audiences.
- The beginning of simplicity (1930s-1940s)
- Enter sans serif (1950s-1960s)
The introduction of colour printing and the rise of the advertising industry saw an explosion in logo design as companies allowed their imaginations to run wild.
It was common for brands to freely utilise heraldic and agricultural symbols to advertise any product.
However, as the lifestyles of the general public became more complex, it was necessary for brands to embrace simpler designs in order to make their logos more recognisable in a faster moving world.
Major brands such as Caterpillar, Kodak, IBM, Pepsi and VW all changed their logos with serif face font becoming the most popular choice.
The new logos were not ‘better’ than their predecessors. Indeed, in pure art terms, the early logos were probably superior. But the simpler designs allowed brands to become better known and that is of course the whole point of logo design.
A number of large brands decided that serif was passé and marketed themselves as being more ‘futuristic’ by embracing sans serif in their logo designs.
In the 1950s, Lego and Shell were among the first to transition to a simpler sans serif logo and were followed in the 1960s by Pepsi, Chevy, Wal-Mart, Caterpillar and others.
As was the case with the first change, sans serif logos were in no way superior to their serif counterparts but they were marketed as such.
In advertising, it is all about perception and these brands made it seem as if serif design was out of date.
As a result, brands became terrified of being labelled ‘behind the times’ and followed suit even in cases when their existing logo was absolutely fit for purpose.