Core Identity

David of O Street looks at the life and times of the Apple logo and its era-defining creators -but it's probably not the Apple logo you're thinking of.

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Like most graphic designers I know, I didn’t choose graphic design as my first career. What I really wanted to be was a musician. My design education wasn’t via books or lessons, it was through rummaging through shelves of vinyl in Glasgow’s (once populous) record shops - the library of artwork ranging from those older classic album covers of bands like the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones, to the wonderfully modern creations of Vaughn Oliver for record label 4AD (think Doolittle by The Pixies).

Still suffering from graphic design denial, I really struggled to think of a logoform that inspired me enough to write this piece. So I cast my mind back to those heady days of vinyl collections and rock star dreams. The logo that was frequently spinning in the middle of my record player was the bright green, or sometimes white (more about that later) apple from The Beatles records I endlessly played.

Apple Corp. was bigger than The Beatles, it was a move by the creative forces in the group to nurture, support and inspire a wider circle of bands and performers (I’m ignoring the tax benefits). Badfinger, Ravi Shanker and James Taylor were a few of the bands which Apple Corp. signed, the music given the seal of approval by John, Paul, George & Ringo. Like the US equivalent, The Beach Boys’ Brother Records, Apple Corp. was an attempt by successful musicians to spread their influence in a wider sphere of creative enterprise: to become grown up businesses really.

This blurring of creativity and business still fascinates me. Can the corporate dreams of humble musicians really have resonance in the business world? Can musicians create a brand, a logo, that can survive in big, bad world? Well Apple Corp. and Brother have both managed to be adopted as brands (and weirdly similar logoforms) for modern day corporate behemoths, Apple Mac and Brother Computers. So the answer is probably yes.There is a lot more I could say about the strategic development of the brand, but I’ll leave that for my day job and get back to talking about the aesthetic of the logoform itself. Years before the coining of the term ‘dynamic logo’, Apple Corp. created a logoform that evolved and changed: The green ‘whole’ apple, was frequently changed to a ‘B-side version’ of the (white) apple cut in half; there were limited edition mono and colour versions (the Red Delicious); the conventional logoform + logotype lock ups; and the containing device version, used maximum size on the label, to hold the track listing and small print.

There is a lot we can learn from this playful approach to a logoform. In these days of a forever growing digital landscape, the ‘dynamic logoform’ is more relevant than ever.

Apparently the name, Apple, came before the logo (ironic for a band that famously wrote their melodies before their lyrics), and the visual was inspired by a Magritte painting. Another great example of creative influences spanning music, design and visual art.

In our studio we haven’t given up the dream of being musicians. We still have a stack of guitars in the corner of our studio, they do collect a bit of dust but they’re mainly in tune. It might be a pipe dream, but I like to think that if musicians can successfully morph into businessmen then there’s hope I can make the switch in the opposite direction.