Who wouldn’t want to be more like Apple? They are, without a doubt, one of the most successful companies of our time. What’s more, we all admit that it is the power of their brand designs that has helped them to reach such giddy heights over the last 37 years.
It is hard to think back now to a time when the word ‘Apple’ only meant the fruit. But in 1976 ‘Apple Inc’ was a tiny start-up fuelled by the belief of their co-founders and a DIY, instinct-driven mentality – something which isn’t a million miles away from the realities of most start-ups and small businesses.
So how do you take that first step towards replicating Apple’s success?
With a killer logo design.
So let’s take a look at the ingredients that made up Apple’s logo design recipe for success. It can actually be boiled down to a simple 7 step logo design guide.
The 7 step guide to an ‘Apple’ logo design
Controversial as it may seem, I don’t think that the current incarnation of the Apple logo is the one to study. For start-ups and small businesses looking for a logo design guide to emulate Apple’s success we need to look at their logo back when they were just another tech start-up. The now infamous rainbow Apple logo design.
Simplicity is King
This was actually a hard learnt logo design lesson for Apple, believe it or not. Have you ever seen their first logo? It was laughably bad.
Not long after this logo made its debut, Steve Jobs commissioned graphic designer Rob Janoff to come up with something that, you know – actually looked like a logo?
Janoff knew his job and he did it well. He took all of the information he knew about Apple and condensed it right down into the simplest possible format.
If there is one thing you take away from this logo design guide, make it this – keep your logo design as utterly simple as possible.
But, if you really want a logo as successful as Apple’s then there are a few other things you want to make sure are still captured within that simplicity.
One of the biggest selling points of every small business anywhere is that you offer a more human, friendly and personal service. You might as well play to that natural advantage in your branding.
Probably the biggest marker that distinguished Apple from Microsoft is that Apple was a brand that people could relate to on a more personal level. Microsoft was a machine. Apple had a heart and a sense of humour.
The big element in the Apple logo design that emphasised this aspect was the use of rainbow colours, making the logo feel accessible.
However, I’d argue that the biggest advantage of those rainbow colours (and why I think any small business is better off looking at the older version of the Apple logo design as a guide for their own) is because it stands out a mile from other logos.
Could it fail to capture your eye? Not a chance.
Nowadays this is less of a concern for Apple – everyone knows who they are, and seeks them out as the market leader for their products. But for a small business or start-up this is a vital point. By hook or by crook your logo has to grab the attention of your ideal customers.
Now I’m not suggesting you go and produce a multi-coloured version of your logo (it’s likely to be a bad idea, trust me). But doing something to make sure you are standing out from your competitors is a key ingredient to a successful logo design. Whether that is having a red logo when all your competitors use blue, or a different layout or quirky icon/ character is up to you – but make sure you do something to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Tell a story
There are many rumours as to how Apple got its name. Obviously the very first logo is a strong indication that a link with Isaac Newton is the primary reason, but apples are also symbolically linked to Alan Turing, Adam & Eve and the tree of knowledge. So they are pretty symbolically ripe despite being but a piece of fruit.
The stories behind the apple are a godsend for marketing campaigns, and they make it easy to consistently spread the values of the brand across all advertising and imagery.
Stories are the most powerful means of communication. They have real staying power and help your customers to connect with you. Of course it isn’t always possible to get an appropriate story or symbol dropping out of the sky – but there are things you can do to tease your imagination to produce ideas with real potential (and your designer can help with the rest).
Being playful isn’t necessarily about being quirky. Even if you are a corporate company it pays to be witty or to have intelligent, clever design.
For apple, the bite taken out of the logo can also be seen as a play on computer ‘bytes’. Although there is an argument that the bite was actually first put in by the designer to scale the apple (so it didn’t look like a cherry). Even so, the play on words and images has had real staying power in Apple’s logo in positioning them as a clever, playful and imaginative company.
Communicate your top selling point
There is one thing about the original rainbow logo which is easy to forget nowadays. Back then, it communicated Apple’s number one selling point over their competitors – Apple computers could display colours whereas other PCs couldn’t.
If you have such a strong USP which it is at all possible to display visually – do it. The purpose of your logo is to communicate who you are, and (ideally) why your customers should buy from you. It’s a lot to ask – but the best logos do do it.
Every business needs a logo that will last – something modern that will take your company forward for years to come. Simplicity is the surest path towards this goal, but you can also spot modern execution.
When Apple were developing their rainbow logo design they needed a modern design that would last. And it certainly did – 20 years later it was still being used.
In 1997 Apple was a very different company, and Steve Jobs decided that some tweaks to the company logo were very much needed. They went for the crisper, even simpler logo design that they have today. They did lose some of the excellent points of the rainbow logo – but these were points that no longer had to be made. By this point everyone knew who Apple was and what they stood for.
Living by Apple’s Guide – More Luck than Judgement?
Every small business will have a different journey to success. There are certainly many ways that we can be guided by the success of Apple’s logo design, but at the end of the day we do have to accept that a lot of success in logo design can come from luck.
Luck that you stumble on a name, idea and image that can be simply tied together while conveying all the benefits you provide for your customers. Is it possible for all small businesses to achieve this within their budgets? No. But if you apply a lot of the same thinking to your logo design and to your brand then you will end up with a very strong design that outsells your immediate competitors.
And that is a very reasonable starting step for success.
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