Did you know that logos started as far back as the 13th century, originating in Greece? The history of the word logo is even Greek. Logo is actually a shortened version of “logotype” or “logogram”. The Greek translation of “logos” is “word” and the translation for “gram” is “what is written”. So roughly speaking, a logo is defined as “a sign or character representing a word”.
This was first put into use in ancient Greece and Italy when they were a form of a cipher with the initials of a name, similar to a modern-day monogram. The first logos were used to represent rulers and particular dynasties and were a distinguishing mark for all property owned by the ruler, including money.
Logos in the Middle Ages
From there, the early ciphers evolved into distinct trademarks for traders in the 13th century and because it worked so well, the practice continued to spread through the middle ages. It was around this time that people like blacksmiths and masons adopted the use of logos to help distinguish their work from others. The unique markings helped distinguish products and work that were higher quality, thereby providing an early trustmark for consumers.
Logos in the 1700’s
Logos as we know them today began showing up in Europe and the U.S. during the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century. With new technology and mass production, logos served as a way to identify products quickly. And like in the middle ages, logos continued to serve as a guarantee of quality. It was also during this period that company names began to be added to the logo.
Logos in the 1800’s
The 1800’s were all about branding and we can thank Marcus Samuel of England, who sold shell-covered boxes for logos becoming an integrated part of a branding strategy. As his business expanded into new areas, it retained the shell insignia as part of it’s identity and the shell in the Shell Oil logo is still in use today. There are actually quite a few logos from the 1800’s that are still used in some form today: Prudential Financial with their Rock of Gibraltar and General Electric Co. with their script “GE.”
As of today, logos are one of the most common and critical pieces of business branding. There are logos that are recognizable all over the world and provide people and instant connection to a particular brand. Companies like Apple, Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Starbucks have logos that are so well known that no matter where you see the logo, as a consumer, you know what to expect.
Logos are so prevalent today that without even realizing it, we see thousands of logos each day. Did you know that the two million registered trademarked logos in U.S. and hundreds of thousands of new ones registered each year? It’s an amazing testament to how important logos have become in this day and age.