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Tech titans who changed their logos

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Making the switch

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Any time a company changes its logo it's a risky move that could easily turn off its customers.

Ask Gap, which in 2010 dramatically altered its iconic logo and quickly had to revert back to the old one after it was bombarded with a maelstrom of negative online feedback from disappointed customers—some who swore never to return to the retailer.

Enter Yahoo, who recently announced that it is planning on changing its logo.

The move might be good for the Web company, said Ira Kalb, a professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at USC, who typically suggests companies avoid such dramatic ploys because they're usually rooted in all the wrong reasons.

"Yahoo hasn't had that great of an image," Kalb said. "Their image is they're outdated and an also-ran on the Internet—so I think from a psychological and image standpoint [the logo change] is a good idea."

Kalb, who has expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing, said that marketers need to pay attention to the sensitive nature of the human brain which has evolved to protect us.

"The brain likes to relax," he said from his office in Los Angeles. "When you make a change you make the brain uncomfortable. When people feel uncomfortable they don't feel comfortable to buy."

There are many tech companies, however, that have successfully made the leap, seemingly convincing their customer's brains that the new logo is a positive change.

Click ahead to see some examples.


By Tony Pierce
Posted 13 Aug. 2013

Xerox

Image source: Xerox

Like many companies that have been around for nearly a century, Xerox has gone through several logo changes as their company evolved. The current red lowercase style was introduced in 2008 and yet still seems new to consumers who grew to know the brand by its logo that remained virtually unchanged since 1961.

However, Xerox wasn't originally even named that. Haloid is the company, founded in 1937, which created the revolutionary copy machine.

"The first use of the "XeroX" word, spelled with capital X's on both ends, was actually a trademark, not a logo, of The Haloid Company to promote a new line of products the company would soon have available. This was done in 1948 in preparation for the announcement of the Model A, or 'Ox Box' Copier utilizing xerography," Ray Brewer, Xerox Historical Archives manager explained.

"In 1950, that image, the XeroX in a rectangular black box, was again used only as a trademark for differentiation of a separate line of products from Haloid. It was placed on documents and used on the Model A Copier. The official company logo/name was still "Haloid" in the rectangular maroon box. The Haloid name was used as the company identifier predominantly (meaning either alone or above the XeroX word in the same box) until after the launch of the 914 Copier in 1960. Then the company became known as simply Xerox," Brewer said.


Adobe

Image source: Adobe Systems Inc.

Even though it hasn't been around as long as Xerox, Adobe Systems has seen a few changes in its logo. Like in many start-ups, the original logo was created by someone near and dear to one of the co-founders.

"The first Adobe logo was created by Marva Warnock, [Adobe co-founder] John Warnock's wife, who was a graphic designer," Adobe spokeswoman Christie Hui said. "The logo was refreshed internally in 1992 to its current version, which features the stylized letter 'A' from the original logo she created."

Nokia

Image Source: Nokia

The Finnish communications giant got its start as a paper company near the town of Nokia not far from the Nokianvirta River. Thus its first logo in 1871 was that of a scary-looking fish. Even though the company got into the communications business in the 1910's, they kept the creepy fish logo until the 1960s.

Steve Hall, who helms the long-running advertising blog Adrants, thinks the change was a wise one. When presented with Nokia's original logo, he said it made him think: "Looks like an interesting restaurant."

Not exactly the reaction you're fishing for when you're in the fiercely competitive cell phone business. So they wisely changed their logo.


Motorola

Image source: Motorola

Motorola is another tech company that has been around the block and has gone through some branding facelifts as its business has transitioned from radios to TVs to computer chips. The classy script of 1947 was soon replaced in 1955 with the distinctive "M" in the center of the colored circle (usually black, blue or red).

When Google bought the flailing Illinois tech company in 2011, it altered the logo to include many colors as the outline of the circle and the words "a Google company" lest anyone forget.

Kalb said there have been both positive and negative reactions to the added verbiage.

"The bad is Google has this Android platform and they've sold it to other companies. Those companies are scared that [now] they won't get the same high-quality technology from Google as Motorola might get," Kahn said. Those other companies may fear that Motorola might get special, more-integrated versions of Google's technology, he added.

However, "Google has a good image, so it lifts up the Motorola brand and it will probably work for the consumers," Kahn said.

Google

Image source: Google Inc.

Speaking of Google, the Internet giant routinely plays around with its easily recognizable logo via the Google Doodle, something Kalb would usually dissuade. But because it is clear that the actual logo is not being affected, the professor finds no problems with it.

"People are accepting it because they know it's a temporary change that signifies a certain event," Kahn said.

Google team leader Ryan Germick agrees.

"We love celebrating major milestones and special people—especially the quirky and unexpected. Often, the people or moments we showcase are exactly what inspired Google to build the technology we do (such as the inventor of the zipper, Star Trek, Ada Lovelace, etc.). And we love seeing that 'Oh cool!' moment when people are inspired and delighted by them, just like we were," Germick said.


AT&T

Image source: AT&T

Even though the American Telephone & Telegraph company was formed in 1885, the company didn't introduce its first bell logo until 1889. Angus S. Hibbard, the company's general superintendent, conceived the design.

However, the 1900 version was the first to be used throughout the AT&T-owned Bell System.

According to an AT&T spokesperson, the 1900 logo "conveyed the growing interconnection between local and long-distance service."

It's quite different than today's iconic globe logo which was created when SBC Communications and AT&T merged in late 2005.

"The new globe is three-dimensional, representing the expanding breadth and depth of services that the AT&T family of companies provides to customers, as well as its global presence. Transparency was added to the globe to represent clarity and vision," the AT&T spokesperson said.


Microsoft

Image Source: Microsoft

Like many original logos, the first Microsoft logo, which was used from 1975 to 1979, looks nothing like the one we see today.

"The multiline logo, with 'Micro' on the first line and 'Soft' on the second, reflected how co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen came up with the original company name, 'Micro-Soft' which represented both microcomputers and software," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

In 1980, the software giant changed their logo to something that looked like what you'd expect on a hair metal band's record cover. In 1982 the company improved on it again. But in 1987, they found something that they stuck with for 25 years.

On Aug. 23, 2012, the company unveiled the new, more colorful logo that they continue to use today.

"It was the perfect time for a change, as Microsoft was preparing to release a new version of nearly all of its products," the Microsoft spokeswoman said. "The refreshed logo is a natural evolution of the work the company is doing to deliver a consistent experience across all of its products and services. As part of that effort, the company had an opportunity to evolve how it visually connects its product brands to the company brand."

Canon

Image source: Canon Inc.

When Adrants' Steve Hall saw photo giant Canon's original logo, he wondered: "Have I stepped into a yoga studio run by a lobster that looks like Buddha?"

The Japanese company explains on its website that in "1933, when Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory was established, the name given to cameras manufactured on a trial basis at the time was Kwanon. This title reflected the benevolence of Kwanon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and embodied the company's vision of creating the best cameras in the world. The logo included the word with an image of 'Kwanon with 1,000 Arms' and flames."

In 1935, the company changed its name to Canon, a word that has meanings ranging from "holy scripture" to "criterion or standard of judgment," which is just fine for the brand.

"It effectively captures Canon's corporate spirit, which aims to set a global standard for advanced technologies and service while becoming a criterion in the industry to which others will aspire," Canon explains on its site.

Their most recent logo was created in 1956 and hasn't been fiddled with since.

Cisco

Image source: Cisco Systems Inc.

Most people know of Cisco as one of the largest employers in San Jose, Calif. But the networking powerhouse was founded in San Francisco in 1984. Legend has it that as the founders were driving north to Sacramento to file some documents they were inspired by the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, which explains the very simple, wordless, original logo that represented the company through 1990. In an interview in 2006 to redesign the Cisco logo, Jerry Kuyper, said the original bridge was difficult to work with.

"The previous logo had caused reproduction challenges in its ability to be scaled down and applied on small devices. This was a driving factor in exploring new alternatives," Kuyper explained. "We examined bridges of varying complexity with the goal of reaching a simplified bridge that was easy to reproduce. At one point we were working on directions that were reduced down to five elements. There it was clear the bridge had lost its essence. As Cisco continues to move into consumer businesses it is even more important that the logo can be reproduced across a wide range of media, from product identification to various screens."

For 16 years the company chose to add their full "Cisco Systems" name to the logo but in the fall of 2006 it performed the latest makeover by dropping the "systems" and simplifying the bridge.

Apple

Image source: Apple Inc.

The company that experienced perhaps the most radical change from original logo to current one is Apple. The company's first logo was designed by one of the original three co-founders, Ronald Wayne. Wayne isn't the household names that Steve "Woz" Wozniak and Steve Jobs are because he quickly traded in his 10-percent share of the company two weeks after it was founded for a measly $800.

But during his short time at the company he designed one extremely detailed logo: that of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree which is about to drop an apple on him. If he had kept his share he would be a billionaire 35 times over.

Apple didn't keep Wayne's logo for even a full year. Jobs ordered a new, simpler logo. He soon got the iconic rainbow colored apple with a bite taken out of it.

Jean-Louis Gassée, the former head of Macintosh department, famously said that "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."

Apple has only had three logos. Wayne's, the colorful apple, and in 1998 the company lost the colors and went to either a solid black or a simple white apple.


IBM

Image source: IBM

IBM went through several name changes from its humble beginnings in 1888 as the Bundy Manufacturing Company. BMC turned into International Time Recording Co. in 1889, then the Computing Scale Company (1891), and then Computing-Tabulating-Recording (1911). In 1924, the tech company adopted the name that eventually stuck: International Business Machines Corporation.

According to the company's website, "the ornate, rococo letters that formed the 'CTR' logo were replaced by the words 'Business Machines' in more contemporary sans-sarif type, and in a form intended to suggest a globe, girdled by the word 'International.'"

That logo was simplified to merely include the three initials in 1947. In 1972, the industry titan settled on the iconic logo we have seen on computer hardware ever since.

Facebook

Image source: Facebook

Way, way back in 2006, when the burgeoning social network was still called "the facebook," there was a man's face on its homepage. It was digitized in such a way that Mashable incorrectly identified the gentleman as the famous actor Al Pacino.

But alas, J. Geils Band fans knew the truth, it was lead singer Peter Wolf's face being covered by zeroes and ones, literally.

The NY-based design company Cuban Council came up with the lowercase style that hundreds of millions of users see every day.

On Facebook's website, CC explains how it went down: "Back when nobody gave a toss about thefacebook.com, we were visited by one Mr. Zuckerberg at our SF offices. Quizzically, he asked us 'Tell me... guys, what is 'design?'" In response, we pulled out this awesome kick-ass logo from our backpacks, flicked it casually across the table and said ... 'Mark. Dude. Does this answer your question?'"

In 2013, Facebook did a light touch-up on the main "f" logo by flattening it out and removing the now-forgotten blue bar near the bottom of the brand.