History of Logos


Logos are so embedded in our society that we recognise them unconsciously. No one wonders what a big golden M is doing stuck on a pole, instead we say “Ah, there’s a McDonalds.” Nike no longer needs to apply their name to products, one look at the world famous tick and you know exactly who produced that shoe.

The term logo originates from ancient Greek and means word or speech. Today’s use of the word has a logo being defined as an image that pertains to a product, company, campaign, event or concept. This could be in the guise of a badge, symbol, sign or trademark.

It seems a more appropriate name would be a melding of the words logo and Icon. For those into their web design the Favicon (which is the tiny image to the left of the URL-mine is a large red E)  the file extension is called an .ico so it seems that I’m not the only one thinking in this vein.

Ancient History of Logos

The practice of using logos dates back to ancient civilisations:

  • Egyptians branded animals with hieroglyphs to prove ownership.
  • Chinese used personalised Chops to differentiate an author of a letter or contract.
  • The Ancient Greeks and Romans put logos on the bottom of their pottery to identify the maker.
  • Religions adopted symbols for better recognition – Christianity with the crucifix, Judaism with the Star of David, Buddhism with the Om.

The modern history of logos used to identify a product or company can be traced back to the 1300’s. Trades started using marks to identify their products. Paper makers used a water mark, Blacksmiths etched a symbol into metal and gold objects and Potters would press a thumb print into the bottom of their wares. In this way a trade could be instantly recognised. The most widely recognised form of trade branding today would be the medical association’s caduceus – a picture of a serpent entwined on a staff.

Logos in the Middle Ages:

  • Coat of Arms
  • Wax Seals
  • Figures on Coins
  • Silver Hallmarks

Over time and with the rise of the industrial revolution, merchants increasingly required symbols for identifying their products in a rapidly growing market. Industrialisation created the manufacturing of goods and services on a mass scale. There grew a need to differentiate their product from others.

An effective logo not only identified a product but could promote it in a certain light and make it look superior to the competition.

Within the current business world, logos are a tried and tested method in an over blown advertising world and as such everything seems to be a cleverly placed ad. We cannot go a day without being used as a promotion aid ourselves. Think about the Adidas stripes on your shoes, the Levi’s arches on your jeans pocket, the brand name emblazoned on the front of your t-shirt.

Logos have been a vital part of society for thousands of years and their importance isn’t going away anytime soon.

Take a look around the room you are sitting in now and see how many logos you can spot.

You may be surprised.

Inspiration - 4 Dec 2011 - by Rob Jennings

About Rob Jennings

When he found himself embroiled in a conversation with someone talking about their ‘customer-centric core competencies’ he realised it was time to create a Web Design Agency that was less about self promoting buzz-words and more about people and giving them the tools to understand the web.

The idea behind We Push Buttons was to create an environment where business owners can learn about building their organisation, whether it be with an outstanding website, SEO or any other marketing ideas. Coming from the art industry and online retail background he knows first hand the needs of growing a business in a tough environment.