Logos and Brands: What History Can Teach Us

dthdththdth Every parent dreads the question: “Where do babies come from?” Once the subject is broached, we usually manage to get through it because it is a subject with which a parent is familiar. What does a graphic designer do when asked the question: “Where do logos come from?” In this case, it is an interesting question that can prove useful. A simple question can become a teachable moment about the history of designing and using logos. To track the history of logo designing is to track the history of business itself. To understand the role that logos and branding play in the 21st century, we need to know the history and evolution of the logo. Once Upon a Time The use of logos and brands has its origins in the most ancient of times. The very term is an abbreviated form of the word logogram, which has its origins in the Greek word logos, meaning word. A logogram was a sign or character that represented a word or phrase. So, the logo is, simply put, a visual symbol that communicates a specific phrase or target word to the observer. Ancient pictograms and hieroglyphs are some of the best known examples of logos. These signs were vital in a world that was non-literate. Back in the day, the sign or logo outside your shop was all you had to explain what kind of business you were running. A Rose by Any Other Name The name itself gives us clues as to the origin of a brand. Once our ancestors gave up the good life of hunter-gatherer to become agriculturalists, they would brand their mark into the hides of their animals so they could identify them. This is how Farmer Bud knew which sheep and cattle were his, and which belonged to Farmer Mack. The logo told others what it was that you did, such as leather working or herbal medicine. A brand was a unique mark that distinguished you from your competitors. These roles are basically still true today, and it is a nuance that too many business owners do not fully understand. Logos Communicate, Brands Identify During the Medieval period, we can see a few examples that illustrate a blurring of the line between a logo and a brand. It was during this time that the two began to be pulled into one design. Heraldry, or sigil, as it has become known in the popular Game of Thrones series, was a singular design that came to identify the house to which you belonged or were fighting for. It evolved to also communicate to the world your message about the values and characteristics of your house. The imagery you used in your house logo conveyed to the world what you were all about. In business, logos and brands remained relatively separate and interchangeable for the most part. As the world continued to evolve and business changed to keep up, this began to change as well. Along Came the Printing Press Before the days of print communication, owning and running a business was a totally different animal. You were probably the sole provider of your service or product in your local area. You may or may not have had a solitary local competitor nearby. When the printing press came along, all of that changed. For the first time, people had a simple way of finding out about businesses and services available across the area, in the neighboring country, and even the rest of the known world. It became more difficult to distinguish oneself, but the potential benefits went through the roof. Creativity Fills the Void It didn’t take long for forward-thinking entrepreneurs to sink their teeth into the idea that effective design and creative communication could bring in nice chunks of business. Thus, advertising was born. As time marched forward, a pattern began to emerge where communication logos and identification brands started to overlap and merge characteristics. Repetition and consistency were the keys to being memorable and remaining popular in a larger market. If you had a logo that was both identifying and memorable, you had a leg up over your competition. Not only did your success hinge on effective communication of your message, your logo had to be a singular, memorable, unique identifier of who and what you were. The Logo in the 20th Century By the 20th century, competition had become fierce. The importance of an effective logo was undeniable. Business budgets for advertising and marketing grew bigger, and the modern industries of graphic design, advertising, and marketing were born. The rest is, as the saying goes, history. To start making your own company’s history, contact Innovative Marketing and Design today.

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