I Invented … the Apple Logo

A few years ago, Matt Rodbard wrote an article on the invention of the Apple Logo in Sync Magazine. The magazine died, the articles got buried, and Matt was kind enough to let me re-publish it here, so that you can enjoy it and it doesn’t get lost.

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rob_janoff_apple_logoIn 1977, Rob Janoff was handed a lousy pro bono assignment … Working for steve jobs.

Name: Rob Janoff
Age: 57
Invention: The Apple Logo

“There were many people who said Apple would go bankrupt if they went ahead with the logo,” says Rob Janoff, the graphic designer credited with thinking up the world-famous emblem. Janoff, 57, first met Jobs while working at Palo Alto, Calif.-based public relations agency Regis McKenna. It was his task to help the sandal-wearing CEO-a good friend of Janoff’s boss-market a makeshift wooden box stuffed with wires, an early prototype of the Apple II. “For inspiration, the first thing I did was go to the supermarket, buy a bag of apples and slice them up. I just stared at the wedges for hours,” recalls Janoff. The fruit of his labor: a simple 2-D monochromatic apple, with a healthy bite taken from the right side. Jobs loved the conceit-only he suggested it be more colorful. Janoff’s boss disagreed, insisting the logo be made all black to save on printing costs. “But Jobs was resolute, arguing that color was the key to humanizing the company,” says Janoff. “So I just put colors where I thought they should be, not even thinking about a prism.” What thanks did Janoff, now the owner of his own Chicago-based graphic design firm, get for all his hard work? “Not even a holiday card.”

Read also: How ZLOK designed the TUAW logo.

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Comments (69) left to “I Invented … the Apple Logo”

  1. Bob Forsberg wrote:

    When Apple was floundering with product distribution and design in the ’90s, I suggested to Steve Jobs at a stockholders meeting that discontinuing the development of all-in-one computers was a bad idea, opening up its own retail outlets would be a good idea and developing an MP3 player couldn’t hurt.

    I didn’t get any cards either.

  2. Pietro wrote:

    Not quite the colors of s prism or rainbow. The blue and purple should be on top.

  3. MacMarketers wrote:

    The green is on the top because it’s the Leaf/Stem. Makes more sense.

  4. Harry Brindley wrote:

    The colour sequence in teh logo is exactly the same as the colours sequence on the ribbon cable that attached the floppy disk drives to the Apple II. Coincidence?

  5. Harry Brindley wrote:

    Correction: Minus the boring brown black and white wires I seem to recall.

  6. benwall wrote:

    Good read. Nice to know the origins of the iconic logo.

  7. jerry wrote:

    Nice to read this – since I got it tattooed on my left upper arm…

    The Rainbow colors even once made a guy try to hit on me in a bar – he thought I was gay since I had a Pride Rainbow tattoo… :)

    Had to make him a bit disappointed. But I got a beer and a laugh!

  8. david wrote:

    I’d always thought that the apple was indeed a gay-symbol and the bite from the apple a reference to the sinn fall, making the apple a develish computer. Didn’t the first Mac also sell for $666,-?

  9. marc wrote:

    Develish computer? what about Steve Jobs? always in Black!

  10. cl wrote:

    @david if it is a reference, it would be more likely to Alan Turing, who essentially invented the modern computer (to crack Nazi codes during WW2), was gay, and committed suicide (after the government persecuted him for being gay — some thanks that was for his helping win the war) by eating from a poisoned apple.

    See also http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/artblog/2007/jun/19/theenigmaofalanturing

  11. Sheben wrote:

    LOL… You have apple’s logo tattooed? Man that really must be the most stupid thing I’ve heard :)
    Anyway the logo is awesome but it really looked like a gay symbol until they’ve changed the colors. The idea of one color is better not just for printing but also it looks better and it can be combined better :)

  12. Evam wrote:

    Interesting detail: The logo is an apple because Steve Jobs was a fruitarian at that time, and an apple was the first thing that came to his mind after a very long, tiring and fruitless (!) brainstorm with his companions. Okay, if no one comes up with something better before tomorrow, it will be ‘Apple’, he decided.

  13. Mike wrote:

    Nice!

    By the way, have you thought of using paragraph breaks?

    Or perhaps using the proper dashes, especially when they but right up against something like sandal-wearing?

  14. mkvf wrote:

    I’d always thought the bite out of the apple, and the name of the company, was a reference to Turing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing#Death)

  15. mkvf wrote:

    Tried to post before, without scripting on, to bring up the whole Turing suicide connection (which has always been one of the few things I like about Apple)

    Turns out it’s just an urban myth.

    http://www.robjanoff.com/interview.mp3

    Quote: “[The bite] just made sure people knew it was an Apple”

  16. Chris C wrote:

    @Harry: Not quite either. The colours on the ribbon cable go black-brown-red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple-grey-white, which is the ordering of the colours in the resistor colour code. So, even dropping the black and brown doesn’t make the ordering match that ribbon cable.

  17. ophiochos wrote:

    Mike, have you thought of spelling ‘butt’ with two ‘t’s?:-)

    The dashes look ok here. en dashes for hyphenating words has a long history.

  18. Stormchild wrote:

    @ophiochos: I think you missed the point about the dashes. The problem is not with the hyphenated words (and those are hyphens, not dashes, and an en-dash is not a hyphen either), it’s with the actual dashes, where em-dashes should be. An interjection begins right after “sandal-wearing CEO”, but it’s marked with a hyphen and not a dash, so it looks exactly the same as hyphenated words (that’s why the dash exists in the first place). “CEO-a” and “boss-market” look like hyphenated words. It’s not nitpicking; it’s an actual problem that affects readability.

    When publishing on the web, where em-dashes may not be preserved, the proper way to mark it is with two hyphens, ideally surrounded by spaces: ” — “. Using a single hyphen with no spacing, as this article does, is just plain wrong.

  19. John_B wrote:

    @Chris C: Yup…
    Bad Boys Race Our Young Girls But Violet Generally Wins (the cleaned-up version).

    @Stormchild: Many, many years ago I took a Pagemaker class where a fight broke out over whether two spaces were required after a period when using a proportionally spaced font. LOL!

  20. James wrote:

    Funny how Jobs insisted on the multi-color logo in the 80′s, only to then switch to the single-color version when he returned as CEO in the 90′s :-P

  21. Brendan wrote:

    Regarding: “Jobs loved the conceit-only he suggested it be more colorful.”

    Would “Concept” fit better?

  22. DRoss wrote:

    @Sheben

    Did your mother forget to slap you when you were an asshole kid?

  23. CSilv wrote:

    @Evam
    Supposedly the other consideration by choosing ‘Apple’ was that it would appear before ‘Atari’ in the phonebook.

  24. rates wrote:

    Wow, he actually start the apple legend.

  25. yet another steve wrote:

    Wow. It’s only like the one of the greatest logos of all time.

    Back in the day, I always thought that one of its strengths was that it worked in both color and b/w.

    Ironically, as Apple has become successful and stunningly profitable, it also dropped the color. But color turned out to be a key selling point of the Apple II.

    But really it just works in soooo many ways. Simple, distinctive, evocative, conveys a core corporate value, fun, energetic, looks good enough that users actually put it on their cars, non-language specific. It’s the logo I compare all others too…

  26. DG wrote:

    @Brendan,
    No, “conceit” works here quite well, as one of the definitions is “an artistic effect or device.”

  27. ALAU wrote:

    Isn’t the Apple logo a tribute to Alan Turing?

  28. Mario Burkhardt wrote:

    Wikipedia notes that the “healthy bite” is due to the “a” of apple computers being overlaid over early logos, and you can still see that it is not completely centered but rather oddly shaped.

  29. gazhay wrote:

    I thought they changed the colours to mono-colour apple around the time iMacs and G3′s were out.

    The colours were the machines themselves, the apple logo no longer needed to be.

  30. Aanjhan wrote:

    I still remember Rob staring at the half bitten apple for long and then with a smile, said to me “I think I did it”. Little did I know at that time that this “tasted apple” will change the way world sees things.

  31. Andre Friedmann wrote:

    “Pro-bono” is too nice a word and too misleading. And maybe pretentious, too. Instead, the slang word “freebie” as in “my boss paid me to do a freebie for his friend” is more accurate and helpful and descriptive.

  32. Greg wrote:

    I think Jobs was probably right both times on the logo color. In the late 70s, that multicolor logo made sense and was really outstanding at the time. In the 90s, changing it to monochrome only was a way to update and modernize a bit without actually having a huge rebranding. It’s an amazing feat really. Few logos look just as modern now as they did 30+ years ago, but the Apple shape itself really nails that. Sure, there have been changes with accompanying text styles over the years and yes the colors. If you look at the electronic appearance it’s even different again, with a shiny effect going on. But the outline is unchanged because it simply can’t be improved upon in any meaningful way.

  33. Dan wrote:

    To all you who posit that the “Apple Logo = Pride Rainbow”, the Pride Rainbow has a different color order.

  34. Stéphane Mercier wrote:

    In the 70′s, computers were beige and their displayed were black/green.
    A colorful logo humanized the brand and the product.
    In the 90′s, Apple finances were pretty bad and the company was in dire need of business customers attention. The logo had to convey ideas of durability, stability, professionalism, modernity but Apple managed to keep the old logo “humanity” in the 3D colored versions (the rounded bevel and curved reflections toned down the gravity of the monochromatic version)… and the iMac had all the color the Apple brand ever needed.

    Jobs was right both times about the logo and it shows his capacity to adapt to his times.

  35. Darel Finley wrote:

    I think the outline has changed very subtly since the company was founded. The leaf is now just two semi-circular curves, but it used to be a little more complex than that. And the shape of the apple’s body is slightly different.

  36. ndelc wrote:

    Interesting article, although, something about the timing seems off. It says, “It was his task to help the sandal-wearing CEO-a good friend of Janoff’s boss-market a makeshift wooden box stuffed with wires, an early prototype of the Apple II.”

    When I was about 11 years old, we got our first Apple II – I think it was 1981 – and I distinctly remember the computer box and some sort of paperwork having the original Newton-under-the-tree logo. I remember studying it, and poring over every detail. For some reason I was fascinated with it.

    I think I correctly recall the rainbow Apple logo being on the Apple II user guides, but I don’t remember if that was our first one or the second one we got a year or so later.

    However, nearly 30 years later I’m a graphic designer myself (thanks completely to Apple and my very early exposure to computer painting and drawing apps), and I realize that Rob Janoff’s logo is one of the greatest logos ever designed. It absolutely could not be improved upon in any way.

  37. Josh wrote:

    I thought they stole the apple logo idea from Vespa scooters: http://vespausa.com/apples.php

  38. Rich wrote:

    apple computer for $666 the market stops falling at 666 a couple weeks ago, maybe it’s not such a bad number after all.

  39. Stevie wrote:

    I’ve loved Apple so much that I had the Apple logo tattooed on my neck in the late 80′s. Everyone always comments on it.

  40. Fritz wrote:

    Really? Is this news worth reporting? If Jobs dies from pancreatic cancer, is there really a future for Apple? And by the way, people don’t “beat” pancreatic CA”, the prolong it, like Jobs was able to do. Most folks, like Patrick Swazey, deteriorate quickly and move on……………….. pretending this isn’t an issue is ridiculous……………the man is dying! Apple people, prepare yourselves!

  41. danang wrote:

    Even i’m no mac user, i’m agree this apple logo is one of the famous logo on earth, the simplicity is mostly one of the beauty. This article gives a brief though too. But “pro bono” seems to much lousy though.

  42. DeadFish Man wrote:

    The “pro-bono” thing was not all that unusual as some people think. Although a developer by trade, I come from an artistic background, having attended art classes for years and as such I was always the guy in charge of the art duties or at least in the art team of some small companies that I worked for before.

    And yet I was asked to “create stuff” to my bosses’ friends frequently. Logos, CD covers, artwork for multimedia tutorials and/or websites, you name it; I did it all. I am not proud of most of that stuff but wish that I received the credit for some of them. At least the guy is being acknowledged for his creation here… ^_^

  43. Jamie wrote:

    @Fritz: The man doesn’t have pancreatic adenocarcinoma like Swayze; he had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor which is completely curable with surgery.

    @Everyone: Must we critique the choice of words of an article that was written over a decade ago?

  44. Barkley Anderson wrote:

    I’ve met Rob and his story about the Apple logo is very interesting. He particularly laments the herculean efforts to reproduce the rainbow colored mark in 4 color offset printing. Those who’ve done any print pre-press work can imagine how difficult this would’ve been.

  45. Yooch wrote:

    At least he got some recognition along with the card.

  46. LW wrote:

    Not quite the colors of s prism or rainbow. The blue and purple should be on top.

  47. Dirk wrote:

    Where to find a website with every Apple logo that ever was?

  48. businesslogodesign wrote:

    It is nice to know that you re-invented or invented the apple logo

  49. Sweater Meat wrote:

    The bite out of the apple means:

    Did you ever fart so hard you ended up in another zip code?

  50. Keyser Söze wrote:

    @yet another steve: “Wow. It’s only like the one of the greatest logos of all time.” So you’re saying it’s a copy? Or are you talking like a twat?

  51. Wizan Zaini wrote:

    Will the black apple stands for another 10 years? I think current black version is practical, economical and powerful!

  52. Cachondas Chicas Jovencitas wrote:

    well.. it’s like I said!

  53. 暴力摩托下载 wrote:

    it’s like I said

  54. Rockwell rk5107k son wrote:

    nice to known you, please bookmark this page in digg or mixx because I can find it easily

  55. thelogohunt wrote:

    HAha. Thats nice really unique one :D

  56. logo designing wrote:

    thanks for posting this article. nice article

  57. Oliver wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline… Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my message if you do!

    I would appreciate if someone here at http://www.zlok.net could repost it.

    Thanks,
    Oliver

  58. UB wrote:

    I love it, Apple…

  59. Ryan Moser wrote:

    Janoff is my hero and inspiration!

  60. MEHMET BİROL wrote:

    bu logoyu türkiyede bir bilgisayarın arkasında gördüm bu bilgisayarın markası hakkında bir mesaj yollarsınız sevinirim

  61. kleiver wrote:

    no por no no tengo juegos para mi hermanas

  62. ? person wrote:

    no rob janoff didnt make the apple logo Mark anderson did

  63. Saleh wrote:

    Great things, always start simple.

  64. Mummy Ninja wrote:

    Ohh… now I know he’s the genius behind the Apple logo design! :D

  65. jehzlau wrote:

    Wow! Rob Janoff is a great inspiration for designers like me. Hehe.

  66. VladMikheyev wrote:

    In Russia we always thought, that the Apple logo was a reference to the Beatles, to that famous urban myth about Lennon biting Yoko Ono’s piece of art – a fresh apple – at the Indica Gallery in London.
    I’ve heard, Jobs was a Beatles fan.
    …rest in peace, dear Steve…

  67. Janin wrote:

    Those badly placed hyphens broke my reading too. At least use spaces?

  68. Richard wrote:

    Beatles had it first. In this instance Jobs, the designer & the agency were rip off artists.

    Doesn’t change the fact that Apple Computers were every bit as world changing as the Beatles & their Apple label.

  69. buhuu wrote:

    buhuu. Here’s a cookie.

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