Every day we encounter numerous logos. They are emblazoned on to our food packaging, our laptops, our shopping bags, our appliances and even our clothes. But how did we become a world that is obsessed with putting a logo on everything in sight?
Most modern logos tend to incorporate both an image and tag line. If you look in to the origins of the word “logo” you will find that is an Ancient Greek word that commonly refers to words or speech. It is the Greek word “icon” that actually refers to a picture or an image. However, these two things have now become indistinguishable.
To find out where the first logos came from, we would need to turn to religion. Many religious followers identify themselves with a certain logo or symbol. Christians would use the ICHTHYS fish to mark meeting places and tombs during their persecution from the Roman Empire. The OM symbol is widely recognised in the Hindu faith and the Khanda is used amongst Sikhs. Many religious symbols have been around for hundreds and even thousands of years and were some of the first logos used as a type of identification.
Today our money bares the face of our queen, and things were not so different back in ancient civilisations. The Ancient Greeks used symbols on their coins to depict their polis (or state) and the deity’s and patrons that belong to them.
Coat of arms
Coats of arms were originally designed for knights in battle so that they could easily identify allies and enemies. The designs that made up the complete coat were chosen because they were important to the family or town in question. Animals, crowns, keys, stars, and mottos (a bit like a tag line!) can all be found on coats of arms and the style, type and placement of these things would easily identify the wearer. It is the coat of arms that really bought the logo in to general use. By the 13th century, it was not only Knights and royalty that had their own coat, but peasants too.
Trademarks can be dated back to ancient times, with many ancient craftsmen marking their pots with monograms or small symbols. This practice was revived and further popularized by renaissance metal workers, who would watermark their gold, a practice still undertaken today. Trademarks tell us who made the product and therefore what we can expect from it.
The Printing Press
The printing press, invented in 1440 by German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, bought literature to the masses. Previously, all literature had to be hand written and was always on a small scale. The printing press meant that many people could now spread and promote their own ideas, and it opened up a whole new route to market for business owners. Thanks to newspapers and advertisements, they could reach people that previously had never even known of their existence. This is similar to what the internet and social media has done for us today.
Looking back, logos have always been about association. Association with a god, person, location or business. The challenge we face as business owners today is to not only create a logo that attracts our target market but also one that has good associations. The logo is so much more than a nice image that represents a company. It is about causing a sense of recognition, trust and quality in the person that see it.
About the author: This article was written by Erica Jones, who works alongside Stuart Morris, a design company which produces personalised promotional items such as canvas bags and tea towels for businesses, charities and schools.