Brands Through The Years: The Evolution Of Brand Design


Cities, companies, and celebrities have paid millions towards getting their brand visual language researched, designed, tested and launched.The visual identity or logo of a company plays an essential role in its marketing and growth. Staying current with the times ensures that a brand remains relevant. Several large corporations have given us great examples of successful (and not so successful) brand modernisations. Here are four well-known corporations who have nailed their brand design.
First served in 1886, Coca-Cola’s official logo was nothing fancy, just its name in black and white chunky sans serif font. The following year in 1987, Frank Robinson, who was working as Coca-Cola’s bookkeeper drew the first traces of the Spencerian script logo which has passed the test of time and remains synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand. Over the decades, Coca-Cola has updated its logo numerous times, most noticeably by adding the red hue that is now iconic with the Coca-Cola brand. The fishtail or arciform logo was introduced in the 1950s and then fazed out for the preferred red disc. The wave was introduced in the 1960s and used until 1985 when the “New Coke” logo was introduced. This proved unpopular with consumers, and the wave was reintroduced and used from 1987. Coca-Cola has made minor changes since then and remains one of the most recognised brands in history.

The word ‘Shell’ first appeared in 1891, as the trademark for kerosene shipped to the Far East. In the early 1900s, the Pecten seashell emblem first appeared. It was an unimpressive inked mollusc shell drawing.

In 1948, the first splash of colour was introduced during the construction of Shell’s first service stations in California. The red and yellow hues are reminiscent of the colours of Spain, where many early Californian settlers were born.

Since then, Shell’s logo has undergone many changes to become what it is today – sophisticated and elegant, with distinctive colours that uniquely represent the oil and gas multinational company. Notice they no longer use the Shell name on the logo – that is powerful brand evolution!


The 1976 original logo was designed by Ronald Wayne who started Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. It was an illustration of Sir Issac Newton leaning against an apple tree and a part of a William Wordsworth poem.

With Wayne gone after he sold his share and forfeited any potential future claim against the new company, Steve Jobs turned to Regis McKenna Advertising Agency to create a new logo. He thought that the original version was too cerebral and he wanted to focus more on the apple. It resulted in the iconic Rainbow Apple logo with a ‘bite’ that was purposefully implemented to emphasise that it is an apple and NOT a tomato.

In 1997, Jobs wanted to put the Apple logo in all their products but thought to place a large rainbow Apple logo on top of the original Bondi Blue iMac, for example, would look childish. So in 1998, they used monochrome styled logos and gave Apple a more modern look and greater flexibility when it comes to branding.

NIKE [4]
The iconic Nike logo called the Swoosh was designed by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student that Phil Knight met while teaching an accounting class at Portland State University in 1971. “Nike” is named after the ancient Greek Goddess of victory, Nike. It was thought that the designer took inspiration from the wing shape of a goddess when she designed the logo. In 1972, the logo first appeared on their shoes and since then has undergone minor changes. Knight paid a total of $35USD for the design. In 1983, Nike sent a lunch invitation to Davidson. Much to her surprise, Knight gave her a gift – an old Swoosh ring with a diamond and an envelope containing Nike stock. The Nike Swoosh logo has become one of the most recognisable globally. The brand mark is so strong that it can stand alone without the name of the company on it.

Named after founder John Cadbury, the Cadbury chocolate company started in 1824 in the United Kingdom. First appearing in 1921, the script logo was based on the then-Director William Cadbury. The logo wasn’t added to the chocolate bars until 1960. Cadbury has undergone minimal brand changes over the years, with all updates keeping to the familiar signature-style look.

Now, after 50 years, Cadbury has redesigned the logo, and according to the company, it is “elevated, authentic, high quality.

I feel the change looks childish, and they have lost the elegance of the previous design. It says so much about a brand’s longevity when it has stood the test of time for 50 years without a dramatic redesign. I would have done just a minor refresh of the brand, taking into consideration techniques developed over the last 50 years.

Evolution of Brand Design: The Story Of A Company Told

The brand and logo design of a company is more than design elements put together. Behind the imagery, the colours, typography, and many design changes is a story that catapults the success of these well-known companies.

How will your brand look in 10 years?





[1] By The Coca-Cola Company – Brands of the World, Public Domain,

[2] By Unknown author – Shell official website, Public Domain,

[3] By Original: Rob Janoff –, Public Domain,

[4] By Carolyn Davidson – Here, Public Domain,

[5] By Mondelez International – Source, Public Domain,



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