The Evolution of Tech Companies' Logos

You've seen these tech logos everywhere, but have you ever wondered how they came to be? Did you know that Apple's original logo was Isaac Newton under an apple tree? Or that Nokia's original logo was a fish?

Let's take a look at the origin of tech companies' logos and how they evolved over time:

Adobe Systems

Source: Adobe Press

In 1982, forty-something programmers John Warnock and Charles Geschke quit their work at Xerox to start a software company. They named it Adobe, after a creek that ran behind Warnock's home. Their first focus was to create PostScript, a programming language used in desktop publishing.

When Adobe was young, Warnock and Geschke did everything they could to save money. They asked family and friends to help out: Geschke's 80-year-old father stained lumber for shelving, and Warnock's wife Marva designed Adobe's first logo.

Apple Inc.

In 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs ("the two Steves") designed and built a homemade computer, the Apple I. Because Wozniak was working for Hewlett Packard at the time, they offered it to HP first, but they were turned down. The two Steves had to sell some of their prized posessions (Wozniak sold his beloved programmable HP calculator and Jobs sold his old Volkswagen bus) to finance the making of the Apple I motherboards.

Later that year, Wozniak created the next generation machine: Apple ][ prototype. They offered it to Commodore, and got turned down again. But things soon started to look up for Apple, and the company began to gain customers with its computers.

The first Apple logo was a complex picture of Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. The logo was inscribed: "Newton ... A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought ... Alone." It was designed by Ronald Wayne, who along with Wozniak and Jobs, actually founded Apple Computer. In 1976, after only working for two weeks at Apple, Wayne relinquished his stock (10% of the company) for a one-time payment of $800 because he thought Apple was too risky! (Had he kept it, Wayne's stock would be worth billions!)

Jobs thought that the overly complex logo had something to do with the slow sales of the Apple I, so he commissioned Rob Janoff of the Regis McKenna Agency to design a new one. Janoff came up with the iconic rainbow-striped Apple logo used from 1976 to 1999.

Rumor has it that the bite on the Apple logo was a nod to Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple. Janoff, however, said in an interview that though he was mindful of the "byte/bite" pun (Apple's slogan back then: "Byte into an Apple"), he designed the logo as such to "prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato." (Source)

In 1998, supposedly at the insistence of Jobs, who had just returned to the company, Apple replaced the rainbow logo ("the most expensive bloody logo ever designed" said Apple President Mike Scott) with a modern-looking, monochrome logo.


Source: Canon Origin and Evolution of the Logo

In 1930, Goro Yoshida and his brother-in-law Saburo Uchida created Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory in Japan. Four years later, they created their first camera, called the Kwanon. It was named after the Kwanon, Buddhist Bodhisattva of Mercy. The logo included an image of Kwanon with 1,000 arms and flames.

Coolness of logo notwithstanding, the company registered the differently spelled word "Canon" as a trademark because it sounded similar to Kwanon while implying precision, a characteristic the company would like to be known and associated with.


In 1996, Stanford University computer science graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin built a search engine that would later become Google. That search engine was called BackRub, named for its ability to analyze "back links" to determine relevance of a particular website. Later, the two renamed their search engine Google, a play on the word Googol (meaning 1 followed by 100 zeros). in 1998

Two years later, Larry and Sergey went to Internet portals (who dominated the web back then) but couldn't get anyone interested in their technology. In 1998, they started Google, Inc. in a friend's garage, and the rest is history.

Google's first logo was created by Sergey Brin, after he taught himself to use the free graphic software GIMP. Later, an exclamation mark mimicking the Yahoo! logo was added. In 1999, Stanford's Consultant Art Professor Ruth Kedar designed the Google logo that the company uses today.

The very first Google Doodle: Burning Man Festival 1998

To mark holidays, birthdays of famous people and major events, Google uses specially drawn logos known as the Google Doodles. The very first Google Doodle was a reference to the Burning Man Festival in 1999. Larry and Sergey put a little stick figure on the home page to let people know why no one was in the office in case the website crashed! Now, Google Doodles are regularly drawn by Dennis Hwang.


Source: IBM Archives

In 1911, the International Time Recording Company (ITR, est. 1888) and the Computing Scale Company (CSC, est. 1891) merged to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR, see where IBM gets its penchant for three letter acronym?). In 1924, the company adopted the name International Business Machines Corporation and a new modern-looking logo. It made employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, meat slicers, and punched-card tabulators.

In the late 1940s, IBM began a difficult transition of punched-card tabulating to computers, led by its CEO Thomas J. Watson. To signify this radical change, in 1947, IBM changed its logo for the first time in over two decades: a simple typeface logo.

In 1956, with the leadership of the company being passed down to Watson's son, Paul Rand changed IBM's logo to have "a more solid, grounded and balanced appearance" and at the same time he made the change subtle enough to communicate that there's continuity in the passing of the baton of leadership from father to son.

IBM logo's last big change - which wasn't all that big - was in 1972, when Paul Rand replaced the solid letters with horizontal stripes to suggest "speed and dynamism."

LG Electronics

LG began its life as two companies: Lucky (or Lak Hui) Chemical Industrial (est. 1947), which made cosmetics and GoldStar (est. 1958), a radio manufacturing plant. Lucky Chemical became famous in Korea for creating the Lucky Cream, with a container bearing the image of the Hollywood starlet Deanna Durbin. GoldStar evolved from manufacturing only radios to making all sorts of electronics and household appliances.

In 1995, Lucky Goldstar changed its name to LG Electronics (yes, a backronym apparently not). Actually, LG is a chaebol (a South Korean conglomerate), so there's a whole range of LG companies that also changed their names, such as LG Chemicals, LT Telecom, and even a baseball team called the LG Twins. These companies all adopted the "Life is Good" tagline you often see alongside its logo.

Interestingly, LG denies that their name now stands for Lucky Goldstar... or any other words. They're just "LG."


Microsoft's "groovy logo" source: Coding Horror

In 1975, Paul Allen (who then was working at Honeywell) and his friend Bill Gates (then a sophomore at Harvard University) saw a new Altair 8800 of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems or MITS. It was the first mini personal computer available commercially.

Allen and Gates decided to port the computer language BASIC for the computer (they did this in 24 hours!), making it the first computer language written for a personal computer. They approached MITS and ended up licensing BASIC to the company. Shortly afterwards, Allen and Gates named their partnership "Micro-soft" (within the year, they dropped the hyphen). In 1977, Microsoft became an official company with Allen and Gates first sharing the title general partners.

On to the logo history:

In 1982, Microsoft announced a new logo, complete with the distinctive "O" that employees dubbed the "Blibbet." When the logo was changed in 1987, Microsoft employee Larry Osterman launched a "Save the Blibbet" campaign but to no avail. Supposedly, way back when, Microsoft cafeteria served "Blibbet Burger," a double cheeseburger with bacon.

In 1987, Scott Baker designed the current, so-called "Pac-Man Logo" for Microsoft. The new logo has a slash on the 'O' that made it look like Pac-Man, hence the name. In 1994 Microsoft introduced a new tagline Where do you want to go today?, as part of a $100 million advertising campaign. Needless to say, it was widely mocked.

In 1996, perhaps tired of being the butt of jokes like "what kind of error messages would you like today?", Microsoft dropped the slogan. Later, it tried on new taglines like "Making It Easier", "Start Something", "People Ready" and "Open Up Your Digital Life" before settling on the current "Your potential. Our passion."

Oh, one more thing: what was Microsoft's original slogan? It was "Microsoft: What's a microprocessor without it?"

... Microsoft's very first advertising campaign "Microsoft: What's a microprocessor without it?," which touted how Microsoft's line of programming languages could be used to create software that would take advantage of the early microprocessors. The first advertisement in the campaign appeared in a 1976 issue of a microchip journal called Digital Design and featured a four panel black-and-white cartoon titled "The Legend of Micro-Kid." The cartoon depicted a small microchip character as a boxer who possessed speed and power but quickly tired out because he had no real training. The other character, a trainer complete with a derby on his head and big stogie hanging out of his mouth, related the story of how the Micro-Kid had a great future but needed a manager, such as himself, in order to succeed. (source: PC Today)


Motorola, then Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, was started in 1928 by Paul Galvin. In the 1930s, Galvin started manufacturing car radios, so he created the name 'Motorola' which was simply the combination of the word 'motor' and the then-popular suffix 'ola.' The company switched its name in 1947 to Motorola Inc. In the 1980s, the company started making cellular phones commercially.

The stylized "M" insignia (the company called it "emsignia") was designed in 1955. A company leader said that "the two aspiring triangle peaks arching into an abstracted 'M' typified the progressive leadership-minded outlook of the company." (I'm serious, look up the logo-speak here: Motorola History)

Mozilla Firefox

In 2002, Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross created an open-source web browser that ultimately became Mozilla Firefox. At first, it was titled Phoenix, but this name ran into trademark issues and was changed to Firebird. Again, the replacement name ran into problem because of an existing software. Third time's the charm: the web browser was re-named Mozilla Firefox.

In 2003, professional interface designer Steven Garrity, wrote that the browser (and other software released by Mozilla) suffered from poor branding. Soon afterwards, Mozilla invited him to develop a new visual identity for Firefox, including the famous logo.

Update 2/7/08: I goofed on this one, guys: it was John Hicks of Hicksdesign that actually made the Firefox logo, designed from a concept from Daniel Burka and sketched by Stephen Desroches - Thanks Jacob Morse and Aaron Bassett!



In 1865, Knut Fredrik Idestam established a wood-pulp mill in Tampere, south-western Finland. It took on the name Nokia after moving the mill to the banks of the Nokianvirta river in the town of Nokia. The word "Nokia" in Finnish, by the way, means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel.

The modern company we know as the Nokia Corporation was actually a merger between Finnish Rubber Works (which also used a Nokia brand), the Nokia Wood Mill, and the Finnish Cable Works in 1967.

Before focusing on telecommunications and cell phones, Nokia produced paper products, bicycle and car tires, shoes, television, electricity generators, and so on.


Source: Nortel History

In 1895, Bell Telephone Company of Canada spun off its business that made fire alarm, call boxes, and other non-telephone hardware into a new company called the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company Ltd. It began by manufacturing wind-up gramophones.

In 1976, Northern Electric changed its name to Northern Telecom Ltd. to better reflect its new focus on digital technology. Nineteen years later in 1995, it became Nortel Networks "reflecting its corporate evolution from telephoney manufacturing company to designer, builder, and integrator of diverse multiservice networks."


Palm Computing Inc. was founded in 1992 by Jeff Hawkins, who also invented the Palm Pilot PDA. The company has gone through some rough patches in its history: its first PDA called Zoomer was a commercial flop. Next, it was bought out by U.S. Robotics who was promptly sued by Xerox for patent infringement over its Graffiti handwriting recognition technology.

Then it gets convoluted: U.S. Robotics was bought by 3Com, and Hawkins, disgusted with office politics, left to create his own company Handspring. Ironically, not long after he left, 3Com spun off Palm Inc as a separate company. Palm Inc split into two, PalmSource (the OS side) and palmOne (the hardware part). palmOne then merged with Handspring and then bought PalmSource to coalesce back into ... Palm, Inc.!

Got that? No? Never mind. All along this journey, they not only change names, but logos as well. Well, at least the graphics designers got some money.


Source: Xerox Historical Logos

Xerox Corporation can trace its lineage back almost 100 years ago to the Haloid Company, which was founded in 1906 to manufacture photographic paper and equipment.

In 1938, Chester Carlson invented a photocopying technique called electrophotography, which he later renamed xerography (Carlson was famous for his persistence: he experimented for 15 years and through debilitating back pain while going to law school and working his regular job). Like many inventions ahead of its time, it wasn't well received at all. Carlson spent years trying to convince General Electric, IBM, RCA, and other companies to invest in his invention but no one was interested.

Until, that is, he went to the Haloid company, who helped him develop the world's first photocopier, the Haloid Xerox 914. The copier were so successful that in 1961, Xerox dropped the Haloid from its name.

In 2004, fresh from a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for cooking the books, Xerox tried to re-invent itself (complete with a new logo). Four years later in 2008, it tried to get away from the image that it's only a copier company and adopted a new logo. The good news is people don't think of copier when they see the new logo. The bad news is, they think of a beach ball.

Update 2/7/08: And yes, I missed the "Digital X" logo of Xerox. Check out Brand New blog for the entire scoop.

Previously on Neatorama:
- Wonderful World of Early Computing
- Wonderful World of Early Photography
- Lots more neat articles in the "Neatorama Only" Archive

Update 2/7/08: Hello diggers, redditors and readers! For more fun stuff, check out the rest of Neatorama or subscribe via RSS. Thanks for visiting! Update 2/8/08: Here's the Russian translation by Vadime Kuzmitsky. Update 2/14/08: Another one by Alexander Shiryshev

nice idea.
Microsoft had tonnes more logos though didn't they? I'm sure I remember a blue one. It'd be interesting to see the evolution of the windows logo too. And google's original logo was just colored text - there's more info on google's logos here: scroll down to the bottom to see their *reeally* old logos!
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This brings me to mind when I was in the first levels of design school, they told us to study the IBM logo (the last one) as one of the best logos ever designed, because of its simplicity and, as the article says "the solid letters with horizontal stripes to suggest "speed and dynamism"". The horizontal stripes also widen from left to right (or viceversa, can't remember) to emphatyze that.
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I think you need to clarify the Firefox entry a little. The actual Firefox logo we all know and love today was a combination of work by Daniel Burka, Stephen Desroches & John Hicks.

From John's journal entry about it;
"The final chosen design was a concept from Daniel Burka and sketched by Stephen Desroches, which I then rendered using Fireworks MX."

Although it was Steven Garrity who invited John to work on the Mozilla branding team I don't think he can be credited for the actual logo itself.
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There was an early version of the striped IBM logo with 13 instead of 8 stripes. Although eight became the standard, the 13-stripe version appeared on many IBM products in the seventies.
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Dear Xerox,

Your old logo was fine. Whoever told you you should change it probably has shares in whatever printing company you jobbed out the changeover to.


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Wow, I really hope Palm stops changing logos. 3 logos in 3 years does them no good for branding.

I've personally always wondered about the "o" in the Microsoft logo. It's so subtle but it really defines that logo I think.

The new Xerox logo sucks. The sphere looks horribly disproportioned. One of my favorites here (and favorites of all time) is the Firefox logo.

Thanks for the article!
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how about the Worldcom, MCI, Verizon evolution. They turned the star and line around between the first two. Not a big change, but more a significant design morphing.
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Interesting. Good stuff for quiz. As it happens in quizzes, the readers have added or offered a different story in some cases!

Keep it coming. I am always interested in the story behind the logos and their meanings/interpretations (sometimes seemingly contrived!)
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I actually liked the pixelated X logo from Xerox, but I can sort of see why they wanted to distance themselves from it.

The beach ball is an abomination, however.
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It's funny about LG - I asked at Comdex in its last year what the LG stood for, and boy did they get pissed.

I guess the memory of Lucky Goldstar as the star of the old KMart must be too hard.
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Microsoft briefly had the best logo ever:

I have seen it on Xenix manuals and in Creative Computing ads and know they had it in 1980, and I believe 1979 and 1981, but I don't know for sure...
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What I perceived from that excellent article is that the logos have become less artistic over the years. I guess everyone wants to simplify to make their logos easier to remember.
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The rumour concerning Northern Telecom changing the name to "Nortel" is that they wanted to comply with Quebec French language laws.

Northern Telecom is obviously English, however, Nortel could be either English, French, or neither.
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Nice little walktrough there. Some facts I haven't read elsewhere before also. And oh how ugly some of the first versions of the logos where. Like the sound of The International Time Recording Company though. It's just word from being The International Time Travelling Company.
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You think LG are annoyed by being referred to as Lucky Goldstar. I remember the NCR press office being pretty peeved when I continued to refer to them as National Cash Registers, a name they loathed.
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This article feels incomplete, I find it to be a decent introduction to the topic. Nonetheless, thank you.

I agree with commenter Vako, logo design simplification denotes recognizability.

The FedEx logo is the closest to perfection I have seen, from all the modern ones:

Furthermore, I kinda like the new spherical Xerox logo, but was unaware that Xerox used to be "Haloid"! *Which reminds me of Montyoums Haloid movie (worth seeing) foremost:
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I'm pretty sure the c1972 IBM logo, which is the same one used now and is known internally as the 'eight bar logo' was also designed to reflect the company's evolution in the computer age. The eight bars represent 8 bits.
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I miss the old pixellated Xerox logo. It was simple, distinctive, and represents exactly where Xerox is in the business world. I never understood the, "we're not a printer/copy company" line. That would like Microsoft saying, "we aren't an operating system company." Microsoft does do other things (I loves me XBox), but they're an OS company.

I've never liked the IBM logo. Design authorities who say that the negative space bands imply speed and dynamism are ignoring what the lines actually look like: scan line gaps in an ancient text-only monitor. When I think of a dated logo, the first one that comes to mind is IBM's.
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I think you've misunderstood the word "backronym". "LG" would be a simple acronym - a backronym is where a word is chosen and then the letters it stands for is shoehorned into it. For example, the "USA PATRIOT act" is a backronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act". It's clear that the title "USA PATRIOT" was chosen well before they picked the words for which it would stand, hence a backronym.
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The current Mokia logo you show here was actually updated about three years ago to use a sans serif typeface for "Connecting People". Check their web site for the more recent version.
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Notice how the trend to simplify branding goes hand in hand with the downward spiral of the average Americans IQ?

Keep it shiny, simple, and whenever possible, just use initials, cause you wouldn't want them to have to remember FULL words - that's all the last few generations can handle.
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The Palm history is not quite correct - PalmSource (the software spin-off) was not bought back by Palm. Instead, Palm bought the rights to the Palm brand and the Palm OS software from PalmSource. PalmSource was instead bought by Access, a Japanese company that made a web browser for mobile devices.
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concerning LG, the "L" is indeed from Lucky brand, but what is "lack hui"? Korean pronunciation for "lucky" is just that, lucky.

i should know. i used their toothpaste since i was a kid living in korea.

stop making things up.
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Wow, thanks for the response, guys! Let me address a few points:

@php captcha: those are fan-made logos, right? I believe the one listed above is the original version made by Sergey.

@Aaron Bassett (and Jacob Morse by email): thank you for the clarification. I've updated the post.

@Ilari Sani: Thank you - I didn't know that, but I think 13 or 8 stripes are almost the same thing when it comes to Big Blue's logo. I wouldn't even notice if you didn't bring it up.

@Kris: can't do all companies, the article is long enough as it is. I almost included AT&T, but we've covered that before on Neatorama.

@anon and luma: LG is not an acronym, because it doesn't stand for anything. But you guys are right about it also not being a backronym. Fixed.

@Plus: did you find the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo? :)

@Anzo: The lak hui bit is from LG itself.
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Nice post.

Nothing beats this old picture of Microsoft though...which shows a teen Bill Gates with Paul Allen and first Microsoft Employees.
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Wonderful but you left out the grand daddy of them all: HP err I mean Hewlett-Packard, or is it "Hewlett (we don't need the hyphen anymore) Packard?"
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Regarding Nortel, you missed a few steps and made a small error: Northern Telecom became Nortel in 1995 (not Nortel Networks), then became Nortel Bay Networks for a few months after it bought Bay Networks in 1998, then became Nortel Networks, and is now, since 2004, Nortel.

None of this helped it in when the bubble burst, thought... :-/
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The Nokia logo dont impress me much. I bought the Nokia 6265i last year ( may 2007 ) and since then I had to return the phone for repair because the stupid phone bugged while powering on and could not be turned off... and today it did the very same thing.

I didn't knew much about Nokia before but now you can bet that I wont buy another of their phones anytime soon.

The LG bit scares me a little...
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I see that you've retracted the backronym thing, but you weren't so off base. It's not the LG part that's the backronym, it's "Life's Good", which is their new tagline.
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"The word "Nokia" in Finnish, by the way, means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel."

Actually, it doesn't. Nokia is a town in Finland.
I should know, being a native finnish speaker.

Good article though, would have been better without disinformation with no facts to back it up.
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Great post, thanks for sharing.
The word "Nokia" in Finnish, by the way, means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel.
Pine Marten in finnish language is 'Näätä'. Nokia is not an animal. It's just a small town in Finland.
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The evolution of the logo of Kodak (my previous company) is available here:

I worked there when the last one started... It was a huge work...
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Not exactly a tech company, but FedEx (which of course started life as Federal Express) supposedly paid millions of dollars for the logo that contains an arrow between the E and the x. Check it out. Some people say there are two arrows, but I can't see it.
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The word "passion" originally meant "suffering", as in the "passion" of Christ.

I love to think about Microsoft's current slogan (Your potential, our passion) this way: "Your potential. Our suffering"

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Actually, for a number of years in the 1960s the official spelling of XeroX was, well, "XeroX." For many years at Xerox Square, that big black monolith you see in downtown Rochester, there was one of the few remaining 914 copiers down in the lobby.
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Nokia has redefined the font in the Connecting People slogan in recent years so that is not the current logo.

I'm Finnish and I didn't even know that Nokia means anything. There is just a town called Nokia in Finland.
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If I remember correctly "Nokia" was one of the many derivatives of "Notko" meaning dale or gully. -- I was checking for origins of "Noko", so I my memory is little vague on this.
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Re: IBM striped logo (8 or 13)created by the late renowned graphic designer, Paul Rand -- "Diego", Feb 7, believes "The horizontal stripes also widen from left to right (or vice versa, can’t remember) to emphasize that." I think someone's pulling your leg about tapered stripes, Diego. Mr. Rand designed other enduring logos for clients including Westinghouse, American Broadcasting Company, United Parcel, Cummins Engine Company (and more).
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"Nokia" DOES NOT mean a weasel - it's just derived from that weasel. It doesn't mean anything. Nokinäätä is the weasel, and Nokianvirta and Nokia are just derived from it.

I'm also a Finn.
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Uh-oh. Somebody better tell XeroX about a little country called Kyrgyzstan ( Nice flag, huh? Same thing happened to NBC 30 years ago, when they "unknowingly" ripped off the logo from Nebraska public TV. Ooops (
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Hey Now Ned,
Great post very interesting. I nevery knew the 1st google doodle was burning man. The images are great too.
thx 4 the info,
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Great post. It's fun to see the evolution of all these logos. Some additional info re: Microsoft logos. I was personally involved in the blibbett logo creation; it was introduced in 1981. There was at least one other corporate logo between 1975 and the blibbett logo. The "best ever" logo that Chris mentions was the Microsoft Consumer Products logo. MCP was a short-lived division of Microsoft created in 1979 and responsible for creating/marketing products through retail.
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If you want a combination of logos and company mergers + spinoffs, I would vote for Standard Oil and AT&T.

Here is an att site to get started:

and standard oil (only the history, no logos):
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Great article. I love the way that the logos evolve with the business - this common theme of simplification. some of the early logos, particularly apple's, are beautiful but way too intricate.

I sometimes wonder about the relationship between marketing and business growth. you rarely see successful companies that don't have good marketing materials. what's the relationship? Way to simplistic I know, but which comes first??
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Thanks for the tech logo evolutions. Logos can make or break a brand, and the original Apple logo, wow, no wonder they didn't sell much back then. This is definitely food for thought as I contemplate a logo for my new website.
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Bere Says:
"“The word “Nokia” in Finnish, by the way, means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel.”

Actually, it doesn’t. Nokia is a town in Finland.
I should know, being a native finnish speaker."

# Jukka-Pekka Keisala Says:
"Pine Marten in finnish language is ‘Näätä’. Nokia is not an animal. It’s just a small town in Finland."

Actually we don't know what it means. The etymologists suppose it to be derived from the same word root as this animal.
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I forgot to say: thank you for the nice article. I just love all of those Kwanon/Canon logos. (Well ok, the very first one is not graphically very interesting...)

Also the Globe logo of IBM is nice, actually the best of the company's logos!
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Re: Xerox

"xerography" is from the Greek meaning 'dry writing' but how do you make a name out of 'xero'? HQ were in Rochester NY, also Kodak's head office. KodaK - XeroX was what they came up with in the end.

Marvellous article by the way!
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