In this article, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the process behind the creation of the world-famous Apple Logo. Credited with this iconic piece of graphic design history is Rob Janoff, an American graphic designer also known for his work with the likes of IBM, AT&T, Kraft and Kleenex.
Rob Janoff was born in Culver City and initially showed a keen interest in Industrial design when he studied at San Jose State University. It was after deciding that wasn’t his true passion that he decided to switch to graphic design as his main focus. This incredibly brave move reminds us that you shouldn’t always be discouraged by the risks involved in changing your focus to be more in line with what you are most passionate about. If Janoff hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have the incredible Apple logo we do today.
It was after Rob Janoff had begun work in the famous Silicon Valley, during his time at Regis Mckenna (an advertising agency over in Palo Alto) that he was chosen as the designer for the Apple corporate identity. According to Rob Janoff’s website,’The choice was based on his extensive work for tech clients, and his strength in abstract conceptual visualization.’
The very first logo for Apple Computers was created in 1976 by Ron Wayne. The original concept for the Apple Logo we all can instantly recognise today started when Rob Janoff met with Steve Jobs in 1977. At this point, Apple was still a very young company and nobody was aware of just how much of a category king this brand would grow to be.
Take a look at the original Apple logo design by Rob Janoff below.
— Rob Janoff Studio (@robjanoff) July 17, 2019
Interestingly, the design process for the Apple logo started off with Rob Janoff studying real-life cross sections of Apples! Having received no real thorough brief for the project, Janoff was equipped with a simple bit of direction from Steve Jobs… ‘“Don’t make it cute.”
The design features rainbow stripes, which was a nod to the fact that the new Apple computer (Apple II) launching around the same time featured a coloured display. The bite taken out of the Apple shape has since generated a lot of interesting theories, but in an interview with The Drum, Rob Janoff explained “It was a no brainer. And the bite was necessary to ensure the fruit was easily identifiable.” In an interview with Forbes, Rob Janoff also went on to explain that it had a metaphorical meaning of a bite of knowledge that users would get out of the computer.
Amongst many things we can learn from this great graphic designer, we learn the power of observation. Starting off with very little direction, Rob Janoff turned to a simple experiment with physical apples to create a world-famous logo. What does the natural shape of the Apple look like? And then using that simplicity to highlight the contrast between the natural and organic fruit, and the then somewhat scarily modern computer device. Through the use of the familiar Apple shape, Janoff successfully presented the new Apple II as something friendly and approachable. In this lesson, we also see the need for simplicity. What better logo design for the brand than an Apple? It sounds unbelievably simple on paper, but it summarised the entire brand so well that that same outline has been used ever since.
How can we apply that as designers and marketers? It’s good to bear in mind that overcomplicating a design process won’t necessarily equate to better results, and that at the basis of all great graphic design there is simple, clear communication. The goal of every project we work on should be to communicate an idea or a message to an audience that is full of different kinds of people, and for it to be understood by every single one of them. One better than that is to spark some emotional response, but clear and simple communication must come first.
Another key takeaway from a review of Rob Janoff’s work is that giving graphic designers greater freedom to design can be beneficial. Talented graphic designers have been educated to take a complex message or idea and simplify it through visuals to a point where everyone can understand the message, so letting them recommend how to do that is a great idea. We saw this in action when Rob Janoff was given a simple design brief that left much up to his own discernment, which led him to create the perfect corporate identity.
As a brand, Apple have never strayed far from the original corporate identity that Rob Janoff started to sculpt. We learn from that the power of consistency when it comes to brand identity. Whilst of course your visual identity should be updated as styles and trends progress, staying true to your brand’s overall identity is important so that you can remain recognisable and memorable to your audience. The hard work of building up brand awareness can be ruined quickly by messy, inconsistent graphic design.
Rob Janoff was without a doubt an inspirational character for graphic designers and marketers alike. Studying these masters of graphic design both past and present not only helps us all to sharpen our skills, but it gives us greater knowledge into the events and moments that sculpt the modern graphic design we love so much. For more articles like this, check out the full Design Cloud blog today.