The Birth Of The Iconic Apple Logo

apple logo

It's not uncommon for things to just fall into place. A simple concept with a quick turnaround, and it just works.

While you may not know the name Rob Janoff, we are convinced that you are familiar with his work. What basis do we have for this? He designed the distinctive Apple logo, which is still used to represent one of the world's top corporations today.

Apple logo 2021

More about the Apple logo story may be found on Rob's website, but it goes something like this:

‘The initial identity development was to coincide with the introduction of the brand’s first personal computer, the Apple II. The entire design process with the upstart client only took about two weeks. After the agency’s initial meeting, Janoff went to work developing the Apple icon based on his examination of physical cross-sections of real apples. A single design illustration was then created of a ‘rainbow-striped’ apple. 

The design with its multi-colored stripes was promptly approved for production by Steve Jobs. Production artwork was then developed for print ads, signage hardware emblems and software labels on cassette tapes, all in preparation for the launch of the Apple II in April of 1977 at the West Coast Computer Fair. For the next 20 years, the now famous ‘rainbow version’ logo adorned all Apple products from its computer products to the Newton PDA. The only concept ever presented to Apple was an immediate success!’

‘The creative director thought I had a good way of simplifying and visualising difficult electronic concepts. I knew all the tech kind of stuff went on in Silicon Valley but I was never enough of a computer geek to really understand how it worked.’ – Rob Janoff

rob janoff

Why is it that the logo is so popular and has stood the test of time? It all boils down to the fact that it covers all of the essentials of logo creation.

apple logo deconstructed

  • It's simple, straightforward and clean
  • It didn't follow the  trend of the time of increasingly intricate/fussy designs
  • Its use of color (now and then) ato both the market and the product offering.
  • It hasn't changed much over the years – in fact, the primary design hasn't changed since the beginning – allowing the corporation to establish unrivaled brand recognition.
  • It wasn't overly literal — it was an apple, but instead of selling fruit, it was selling computers;
  • It didn't imitate anyone else's work.
  • It couldn't have too many fonts - in fact, the logo doesn't have any words at all because the design didn't require it;
  • It functioned and continues to work in a variety of contexts and sizes (from items to billboards) without sacrificing readability;
  • It provided a distinct point of differentiation.

‘A lot of people ask me what it’s like seeing your logo every time you turn around. It’s a fabulous experience and it’s rare. I don’t think a lot of people get that opportunity. Watching what I created in the ’70s go through changes is kind of like having kids and watching them grow up. I’m terribly proud of my kids and I’m terribly proud of the logo as well.’ – Rob Janoff

The Shell logo is another fantastic example of a single design idea evolving over time and market changes (below).

shell logos

Although hardly all, if any, logo design procedures are as straightforward and quick as the one for the iconic Apple logo, it does demonstrate how a great, professional design can withstand the test of time and develop with the market.

About the Author
Jamie Kavanagh
Author: Jamie KavanaghWebsite:
Jamie, an engineer by education is our primary technical writer and researcher. Jamie also runs Coastal Content, a content marketing, copywriting and web design company based out of Cornwall in the United Kingdom.

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