We here present a brief history of logos, emphasizing the most important periods in the evolution of history.
If we trace the word “logo” we may go back to ancient times. “Logo” comes from Greek, and according to its etymology it meant “word” or “discourse”. It later acquired the meaning of identifying brand and symbol, apart form that of name. An example of the use of logos in the Classic period can be found in the coins used by the Greeks and Romans, where logos represented governors or cities.
The creation of logos increased during the Middle Ages. In that period, those devoted to commercial, artistic or ecclesiastic purposes spread. During the Low Middle Ages, (i.e. late middle ages) logo design improved, particularly that of logos used by merchants in distinguishing goods. Other logotypes of the time, were filigrees on paper (done by paper manufacturers and used mainly by the nobility), marks of smiths on their works as well as mason’s marks. The use of colophons was a novelty, the signs of the printer, editor, printing place and date included at the end of books.
In spite of these historical antecedents, the logotype as we know it today, appeared during the Industrial Revolution, i.e. since mid XVIII century (in Europe and the Unites States). In those days, the capitalist economy, - which had began with Modern Age, since the turn of the XV century – was in the height of development. With industrialization came the most important social, economic, cultural and technological changes in history .
Middle and Modern Ages have huge differences. Mediaeval economy was characterized by handmade products. Craftsmen manufactured the whole product and their signature was a sign of quality, origin and reliability. Consumers were well acquainted with the production of each craftsman and their signature was a guaranty against eventual complaints (which could, additionally, be brought personally before the product manufacturer). The Industrial Revolution brought about big changes in production. Thanks to the new technology which was not only developed but also specialized (given the division of labor) production became mass. The number of items produced grew abruptly, and began to be traded nationally and internationally.
It was then that the logo, strictly speaking, appeared with two objectives. On the one hand, logos were created for the purpose of differentiating similar products within the same commercial area. Given that during the XVIII and XIX centuries most of the population was still illiterate, it was necessary to use logotypes for the people to differentiate products. In order to avoid confusion with the competition, manufacturers included images and emblems on packages.
On the other hand, the logo served as a guaranty of quality for mass products, formerly provided by the signature ( and by personal contact) of the craftsman. Manufacturers later began to add the name of the company together with the icon, with a distinctive typography. In many cases, the names of the companies were the surnames of the owners (such as Kellog’s or Levi’s). As time went by, many of these brands became really famous.
In nowadays consumer society, logos have become indispensable items for both companies and consumers. The variety of products and services in the market is actually outstanding and due to the high levels of competition it becomes indispensable for companies to have a distinctive logo. With just a visually attractive and memorable logo, companies may gain a solid market position. As for consumers, logos become symbols through which they can identify the wide range of products that flow each day.
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