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The Evolution of the Apple Logo

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The company has gone from hippie nerd to the ultimate in futuristic chic -- but has its time at the crest of industrial design coming to an end?

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Like a crazy aunt in an attic, the very first Apple (AAPL) logo is out of sight but not completely forgotten, an embarrassing yet endearing reminder that the people who first started up the company back in 1976 were goofy hippy nerds.

Designed by co-founder Ronald Wayne – the guy infamous for giving up his 10% share of the company for $800, and then forfeiting the right to any future claims against Apple for an additional $1,500 – it featured a woodcut illustration of a bewigged fellow – Isaac Newton – sitting under a tree with an apple poised precariously above his head. Around the borders went the words "Newton --- 'A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought --- Alone.'" It looked like something that crazy aunt might label her jars of huckleberry jam with, rather than the face of the future.
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It didn't take long for Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and their new investor buddies to toss out that unfortunate first stab at branding, though. By 1977, graphic designer Rob Janoff had delivered the now iconic apple-with-a-bite-out-of-it (which chimed with the company's then slogan "Byte into an Apple").
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The rainbow-striped apple logo lasted for 22 years, until Jobs' prodigal return in 1997, when, as part of his company-wide revolution and rethink, he handed it over to Jonathan Ive for a makeover.

Ive, a British-born designer who'd first joined the company in 1992, was plucked from the ranks by Jobs to become the senior VP of industrial Design (a decision many consider one of the most important moves ever made by Jobs). A minimalist, Ive was and still is heavily influenced by the work of the German industrial designer Dieter Rams, whose work for the electronics firm Braun, full of simple curves and bare-bones elegance, haunts Apple's design innovations.

Ive made his mark immediately, stripping the logo of its rainbow, simplifying it while retaining the by-now familiar silhouette. Since then, it has mutated in size, colour and function – a glowing blazon on the MacBook, a quiet icon on rebooting iPod screen but never lost its essential shape.
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Ive went on to be sole or principal designer on the company's most loved products – the iMac, the PowerBook G4, the MacBook, and oh yeah, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He's perhaps the second-best known individual connected to Apple, and the backroom genius (he works in near isolation with a small team few Apple employees have access to) who has inspired much of the cult-like fandom the company currently enjoys.

And now, rumors swirl across the Tech world that, as Jobs goes, so will Ive. The story, according to media reports and much fevered speculation, is that Ive wants to move back to the U.K. so his children can attend a British school. And that the Apple board, unhappy at the possibility of his removal from their Cupertino nest, is in opposition. A family friend is quoted in a recent Times U.K. piece: "Unfortunately he is just too valuable to Apple and they told him in no uncertain terms that if he headed back to England he would not be able to sustain his position with them."

Much is made of the fact that an Apple stock option grant worth some $30 million -- given to Ive in 2008 as a "golden handcuff" deal -- has just matured. It seems unlikely that Apple, about to lose its charismatic figurehead -- whose appearance at the recent iPad2 launch was enough to send stock up by $3 a share -- would fire their second most valuable asset. It would be about as sane a decision as reviving that first, crazy aunt logo and going into the huckleberry jam racket.


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Click here to return to "The Mythology of Apple" and our complete list of Apple stories.

Why is Apple so important to us? What's next for the iconic brand? Click here to continue reading from our series on the mythology of Apple. You'll also find a link to our video, "Is Apple a Religion?"


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