Emblazoned across handbags, cars and food packaging, it sometimes feels like logos have taken over the world, crowding every part of our visual horizon
Deconstructing the logo
A simple but effective way for a company to mark its identity, the logo has been around a lot longer than you might think. In the days before widespread literacy, the source of a piece of communication – between rulers, for example – needed to be easy to identify. When the Babylonians carved distinct figures into cylindrical seals, as a symbol of their ruler, they invented the first logo, in 2,300BC.
When Qin Shi Huang unified China in 221BC, he adopted a similar approach, using a distinctly carved square seal in lieu of his signature. The Lydians, who introduced metal coins around 500BC, carved one side with a design to make it easy to identify. The advent of the printing press in 1440 opened this concept up to wider society, allowing thousands to literally make their mark, and by the 19th century, companies such as Coca-Cola were easy to spot at a distance via their distinctive symbols or lettering.In fashion, while people long favoured one tailor over another, it was only in the 19th century that the maker’s name started getting added to clothing, beginning with Charles Frederick Worth, who shrewdly stitched his name into his pieces, both advertising his work and creating a fashion cache.
Yves Saint Laurent invented ready-to-wear in 1966 (an alternative to handmade to order), leading to an explosion of fashion logos. In the 1990s, fashion moved into the mainstream and customers treated brand names as status symbols. Logos resurfaced in the 2000s, dominated by Chanel’s double Cs, Vuitton’s LV and Fendi’s bookended Fs. Now they are on the rise again, with Gucci, Valentino’s (pictured) and Saint Laurent cruise 2019 collection shouting their credentials.