So why an apple? The history of the apple logo

Apple, always seems like a strange name for a computer company and certainly an original one. It is safe to say, its origins in a logo or brand are among the most talked about and speculated. In this blog I have attempted to do a  bit of reading for you and sum up the many stories, rumours and truths surrounding the famous mark and indeed the name itself.

 

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So to start with, lets look at the original apple logo from 1976. It featured a hand drawn image of  Isaac Newton under the tree where the apple fell and was designed by co-founder Ronald Wayne. It also featured the copy: ‘A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought – Alone’. Perfectly sums up apple right? – especially at the time as lots of what they were doing was so pioneering. The logo did however look a little, shall we say classic, rather than contemporary though. And also the practicality of this being produced on computers was questioned, leading to Steve Jobs deciding a redesign was needed almost immediately.

But lets pause here for a minute. So why the name apple? Obviously looking at the first logo, it would be easy to tie its influence to Isaac Newton, but there a lots of other stories too. Firstly, Steve Jobs liked the Beatles so much that he named it after their record label. I have also heard that Jek Rakin, thought that apples was the perfect fruit and without another name he liked went with that. I also read somewhere that having worked for Atari, he wanted a name that would appear near the top of alphabetical lists. Other ideas suggest apple being the fruit of knowledge, based on the adam and eve story.

One of the most interesting stories I read was that the original rainbow apple logo was a tribute to Alan Turing, an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist, whose concepts played a considerable part in the development of the modern computer system. Turing was homosexual and heavily persecuted for this which was, at the time, illegal in the UK. In 1954 he committed suicide, by cyanide poising. A half eaten apple was found with his body, which was thought to have contained the cyanide. Hence forth a half eaten apple was a symbol for Alan Turing and his life’s work; and thus the apple logo, with a bite out of it was a reference to this. Seemingly the rainbow stripes could also relate to this, being an iconic gay symbol. However, both the company and at the designer however state that there is no real truth in this, as poetic as it is.

Despite the interesting stories, from what I can gather is the truth is much simpler. Apparently it results from Steve Jobs having worked in apple orchards in Oregon and stuck for another name decided to name it after his favourite brand of apples, McIntosh apples. It is spelt differently to the way Apple spell Macintosh for whatever reason, but this seems to be recognized as the most likely origins. Steve Wozniak describes the naming process as a simple one and that “anything that sounded interesting was valid”. So there really was nothing more to it I guess.

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So, moving back towards the logo designs, we come nicely to the iconic rainbow logo, designed by Rob Jannoff, which defined the core (no pun intended) shape of what is still used today. There are many questions as to the bite out of the apple with Janoff himself saying that the bite of the apple was added to ensure it resembled an apple and not a cherry. The bite also symbolised knowledge and was a reference to the computer term byte. The coloured stripes were apparently to make the logo more accessible and emphasise the modern nature of the application of colour on computer screens for the first time. When Jean Louis Gassée (former apple executive) was asked about his thoughts on the Apple logo he answered: “One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.”

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There are countless other stories as to the relevance of the bite, but Janoff describes the process himself as a straight forward one, “when I explain the real reason why I did the bite it’s kind of a let down. But I’ll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience”. He also suggested the striped colours were also about accessibility, “So it represents color bars on the screen. Also, it was an attempt to make the logo very accessible to everyone, especially to young people so that Steve could get them into schools”.

I still love the rainbow logo. For me it evolved apple into such a stylish company and the introduction of the first imacs still followed on from this with the multicoloured backs. I was in art college at the time and look back on this as the time that macs popularity started to gain momentum.

The rainbow logo stuck around for 22 years until Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. One of the main reasons for moving into a somewhat simpler form was apparently the production costs. Producing a coloured logo was much more expensive, especially on the computers themselves. Michael M. Scott of Apple has called the logo “the most expensive bloody logo ever designed”. There was also the style consideration as well however, of the logo looking dated, and a simpler form needed. Since then it has been used in an aqua format and also a glass style. Jobs had the sense however to keep the silhouette and just simplify it in accordance with the more industrial led product design.

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Apple wrote in a updated corporate identity guideline−document following the exclusion of the rainbow logo the following: “Like our products and our customers, the Apple brand continues to evolve. To reflect this, we’ve made some important changes to the Apple logo and how we use it, and how we expect our channel to use it, too. Don’t worry: We haven’t replaced the logo, just updated it. We’ll continue to reflect who we are and what we stand for as a company in the same timeless symbol: an apple with a bite taken out of it. We’ve reduced some of the clutter in the original design, however, and updated the way we use color and light. In other words, we’ve taken the same standards of style and innovation that make our products and our design unmistakable and applied them to the company logo. Instead of rainbow stripes, solid colors. Instead of just one solid color, a palette of logo colors to suit a variety of uses. Solid colors emphasize the timeless shape of the Apple logo”.

Now, apple has gone even more minimal with the simplistic mono logo which is usually used. It is sometimes used on other products in various other flat colours as well. It goes to show the importance of simplicity in logo design as the same form has been reinvented with such success over so many years. Apple has changed its image and the apple, with such a strong basic shape has been able to work alongside this. So to end this blog I will leave you with some advice from Rob Janoff with regards to logo design: “The main thing is to make it simple, because designers especially young designers tend to over-design or clients want too many things in there. I think people who tried to work a logo too hard, having too much meaning, wind up with something that’s too complex. Logos usually have to be interpreted from very-very small to very-very large and that’s not always easy. So, I think simplicity and readability is key.”

Hope you enjoyed this blog!

Other good references:

http://creativebits.org/interview/interview_rob_janoff_designer_apple_logo

http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/01/the-evolution-of-apple-design-between-1977-2008/

http://creativebits.org/interview/interview_rob_janoff_designer_apple_logo

13 Responses to “So why an apple? The history of the apple logo”

  1. Ryan Price

    I really enjoyed reading that – so, thank you! I’ve never heard the Alan Turing reference before – the interpretation was wonderful! Shame it unlikely to be true… but as a little side-note, Turing was given a posthumous pardon by Buckingham Palace & The Queen no less. His sexuality was irrelevant. His achievements changed the course of the world, that’s how he is to be remembered! Thanks, Ryan 🙂

    Reply
  2. Ahmed

    Awesome artiicle, and you are right simplicity is readability si key. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Quanuck

    I do not believe that the symbol for the bitten apple did not come from the history of Allen Turing. Steve Jobs idolized his ingenuity, genius and talent for putting together the first real computer. The “rainbow” design itself is a tribute to Mr. Turing’s homosexuality and the bite for the reasoning to the end of his life. Jobs might have never admitted to such a fact publically but industry professionals refer to it often.

    Reply
    • rchasteauneuf

      Thanks for the comment. I think it was Janoff, the designer, who said it was not based on Turing, but you may well be right! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
  4. Aman negi

    Nice to listen an apple story….before that I was thiking apple is not a good comp.,but now I read whole story about apple how steve job has done a nice work for apple…when he was thrown from the company…..

    Reply
  5. Alex

    Great article Love read it.
    You closed this with a great quote.
    thanks for share

    Reply
  6. Leanne

    Watched ‘The Imitation Game’ and assumed that was why Apple’s logo was a bitten apple, turns out, I could be right! 🙂

    Reply
    • rchasteauneuf

      yes good film huh… yes I initially thought it was a Turing reference, think I read an article in the Independent about it and it was only when I researched into it, that it appeared that might have been a myth…

      Reply
  7. ChiGuy

    The Apple II and the rainbow apple logo were introduced in 1977. The rainbow flag as a symbol for gays was designed in 1978. End of story.

    Reply
  8. parastish

    see. I don’t want to say that the content is wrong but the main story of bitten apple is derived from India ,,trust me, I’m serious. it was Steve jobs who visited India and its temple in north where he gave an apple to a priest “dharmdas” as an offer and he accepted it. he took a bite of it and returned it to Steve jobs. that reminded him what to choose as its company logo. I know the internet is the biggest via of information and even internet also gets information through someone only so I trust on these stories also.
    I really enjoyed it. thanks for solving my confusion.

    Reply

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