To consumers across the globe, Apple is synonymous with sleek, sophisticated design. The evolution of the first Apple products such as the Apple I to the recently announced iPhone X is nothing short of extraordinary. This evolution has been reflected in the logo design and whole brand identity of the company, from the overdesigned Isaac Newton logo by co-founder Ronald Wayne in 1976, to the current minimalist flat apple logo that is all too ubiquitous today.
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer. Using money sourced from selling various possessions and scrounging, they managed to acquire the parts necessary to begin manufacture of their first product: the Apple I. Along with friend Ronald Wayne, they began assembling the rudimentary computer in Jobs’ parents’ garage. Over the course of a year, approximately 200 Apple I units were made. It was at this time that Wayne developed the first logo for the company — the aforementioned Isaac Newton under a tree logo.
On April 16th, 1977, Apple unveiled the next evolution of their personal computer — the Apple II. This was a major technological improvement over its predecessor, and as such, Jobs decided the brand’s identity needed to reflect that. Wayne’s logo was deemed both too complex and archaic for the forward-thinking company. It was at this point at which Jobs enlisted the help of graphic designer Rob Janoff to come up with something more contemporary, simple and memorable. This led to one of the most famous logos in the history of the technology industry, the basic premise of which is still in use today.
Adorning every Apple product for 21 years, Janoff’s rainbow logo was a pivotal change in Apple’s design philosophy for which it is known today. The sleek bitten Apple icon was a far cry from the complicated logo it succeeded, representing the huge leap in technological advancement the company had just made with the release of the Apple II.
Many theories have arisen as to why the bite was included, such as it representing knowledge, or a computer ‘byte’. However, Janoff has come forward himself to explain — the bite was simply included as a matter of scale, so consumers did not confuse the apple for a cherry. Another important reason for the updated logo was that the Apple II was the first computer with the ability to display colour graphics — a major leap in computing technology. This advancement was easily conveyed to consumers through the use of the rainbow colours in the logo.
In 1999, Apple began to phase out the rainbow logo in favour of monochromatic icons. A translucent aqua-coloured logo was also used around this time, coinciding with the release of the iMac G3 — effectively the very first iMac. This new product made use of blue translucent plastics, reflected in the new logo.
Throughout the course of the 21st century, Apple have continued to update, not replace, Janoff’s iconic logo. As the company’s design direction evolves, the logo has taken on a variety of looks, all very simple and sleek, to reflect the nature of Apple products and the aura of sophistication they are viewed with by consumers. For example, the ‘glass’ logo introduced in 2001 was primarily used on software — it was in 2001 that Apple unveiled revolutionary new software and hardware — iTunes and the iPod, respectively. This glass logo was used alongside the monochrome logo, which was primarily reserved for packaging and advertising.
Fast forward to 2007, and it’s a new age for Apple. The introduction of the iPhone, and iOS. The smartphone era. This new and exciting market was about to be conquered by one of the most influential products of the 21st century, and Apple updated their brand identity once again to match.
For a start, Apple Computer, Inc. would now become Apple Inc. This reflected the nature of the company changing — whilst the iMac and Macbook were, and still are selling in the millions, the iPhone and other iOS-based products, such as the iPad and iPod Touch, would soon form the basis of Apple’s income. Another update to the brand was, once again, another alteration of Janoff’s logo. This time around, Apple went for a subtle chrome look that evoked the style of the new wave of hardware hitting the market.
This logo remained in use until 2014, and has adorned products that I am sure many of us are familiar with. However, in keeping with trends in graphic design, in 2014, Apple reverted to their simple, flat monochrome logo, as has been the case with numerous companies in the past five or so years. Whilst the colours may have gone, the fact that Janoff’s basic bitten apple shape is still in use, and is universally known, is truly testament to the versatility of his design.