Very Brief History of Logo Design and Advertising

It seems like it would be an impossible task to pinpoint the exact origin of advertising, and more specifically, the use of a logo to make an affiliation with a name, company, or brand. However, this task may be easier to trace than one might think. Hieroglyphics were used by the Egyptians around 2613-2160 B.C.E. (1). This method of writing using pictures was one of the first known forms of written communication. The Chinese also have implemented the use of pictograms, which are very similar to hieroglyphics and use picture symbols to communicate a message.

Hieroglyphics and pictograms have been used for thousands of years to communicate messages but when were logos first used to represent a specific name or brand? The exact answer to that question is not known, however during the Middle Ages trade guilds began using “trademarks” to brand and identify their products. After that, printers and publishers began to create symbols to identify a piece that was printed by them (2). In 1729 the Pennsylvania Gazette was the first paper to feature pages of “new advertisements” (3). Although many publications banned advertisements, this eventually would catch on and be responsible for some of the first ad agencies. The first ad agencies were early resellers of the newspapers that could utilize the blank space in the pages.

The use of logos to advertise a brand is somewhat different that using a symbol to identify the producer of a product. Logos are intended to be memorable and identifiable. Legendary graphic designer Paul Rand once said, The effectiveness of a good logo depends on: a. distinctiveness b. visibility c. usability d. memorability e. universality
f. durability g. timelessness” (4). A logo is supposed to reflect the company, person, or brand that it represents. This is why it is vital to have a designer or firm that it aware of these important aspects of design execute the design for a logo.

At Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Agency founder David Ogilvy says one of the keys to his companies success is that “Every advertisement is part of the long-term investment in the personality of the brand” (5). Ogilvy & Mather is one of the 8th largest advertising agencies in the world with over 450 offices worldwide. David Ogilvy started the company in 1948 with a staff of only two. The company is famous for many popular advertising campaigns including recent popular video and print campaigns for IBM, Dove, Saltander bank, and Perrier just to name a few. A quick visit to the Ogilvy & Mather website and it is easy to see why the company has achieved such great success. There is no need to read a bio about the company to see what the company is really about. It screams innovation and creativity at the first glance of the website. It is companies such as these that inspire and motivate new designers to achieve that same success.

Graphic Design trends come and go but a good design will always be a good design. If a designer does not stray far from the elements of design which are; line, shape, size, texture, color, and value – and keeps the basic principles of design such as; balance, proportion, and rhythm in mind, then they to can create an effective logo. It is very interesting to see how we evolved from the very beginning of logo design (trademarks and printers marks) to the modern aged multi-billion dollar advertising industry.


Works Cited

  1. “The Evolution of Handwriting & Gutenberg’s Attempt to Copy It.” An Introduction to the History of Graphic Design. Web. 15 July 2011. <>.
  1. “A History of Symbols.” An Introduction to the History of Graphic Design. Web. 15 July 2011. <>.
  1. “Advertising History.” An Introduction to the History of Graphic Design. Web. 18 July 2011. <>.
  1. “A History of Symbols.” An Introduction to the History of Graphic Design. Web. 15 July 2011. <>.
  1. “Ogilvy & Mather | Ogilvy & Mather.” Home | Ogilvy & Mather. Web. 15 July 2011. <>. 4th paragraph.

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