The Apple logo is one of the most popular symbols across the world. It has become one of the
symbols that largely signify the digital prowess of our age and times. At the same time, the logo
has also become associated with the elements of style and class and quality as well.
What is commendable, though, is the way in which the logo – in fact the very idea of the logo
and why it came about – has been used by the technology giant, to project and market itself as
a digital brand.
The following is a semiotic analysis of the Apple Inc. logo and how it has contributed to the
brand’s overwhelming success.
“Apple designs Macs, the best personal
computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife,
iWork and professional software. Apple leads
the digital music revolution with its iPods and
iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the
mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and
App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2
which is defining the future of mobile media and
“Apple is committed to bringing the best
personal computing experience to
students, educators, creative professionals
and consumers around the world through
its innovative hardware, software and
Notice the ideals that the company wants to reflect in its communications to the world, via the
statement in the press releases. The ideas of ‘commitment’, provider of ‘best computing
experience’, to people from different parts of life through its ‘innovative’ offerings, is the image
that the brand wants for itself.
A logo is the first and the most durable ‘memory’ of a brand in the mind of its audience. Besides
being the brands visual and facial identity superficially, the logo also communicates certain
visual messages with the help of the symbols and signs used in it.
Apple has always been known for being a brand that is ‘a class apart’. While it has continued to
make products that are digitally and technologically superior, it has also strived hard to maintain
a sense of creativity and beauty in its products’ aesthetic appeal.
Generally, technology companies have been seen as ‘manufacturers’ instead of creators – a
sense of crudeness and ‘mechanical’ element attached to them because of the nature of their
work and offerings. However, Apple Inc. has been closer to the creative end of the spectrum that
makes products which are more user-friendly – thus letting the brand come across as more
relatable and closer to one’s life.
This gives the brand a human aspect – making it a preferred choice among other mechanical
When Apple came out with Apple iPhone 4S, many wondered why the phone was called ‘4S’ and
not ‘iPhone 5’ as was anticipated. The then-new CEO of the company, Tim Cook had stated that
Apple is a company that is driven by technology but also borders with liberal arts. And because
the new product – though technologically superior than iPhone 4 – was not much of a
development on the aesthetic front. Hence iPhone 4S and not iPhone 5.
Apple was the first brand that started marketing itself without the use of its name. Steve Jobs
was of the opinion that the company should cement its identity in the consumers. The
company’s first logo was designed by Ronald Wayne, also regarded as the third founder of the
Why the name of the branding that exist, were chosen, is not clearly known. But it is largely
believed that Jobs, driven by innovation and excellence, chose the depiction. So much so, that
the company called its range of computers ‘Macintosh’ – a variety of apple. The original logo is a
reflection of the ideals, beliefs and inspiration of the founders.
The logo depicts Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree deep in contemplation. A
quotation by Wordsworth was also inscribed into the logo that said: “Newton… A Mind Forever
Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought” with the company name ‘Apple Computer Co.’ on a
ribbon banner ornamenting the picture frame.
Semiotically, the image of Newton used in the
logo were signifiers of ‘discovery’ and
‘innovation’. Elements of ‘thought and process’
are also brought about the depiction of
Newton and the apple and the entire tale
wherein he discovered the presence of gravity.
The use of the apple fruit has also been touted
to depict ‘desire’ and ‘eagerness’ – because of
the fruit’s appearance in the story of Adam
and Eve and in the Garden of Eden, a source of
lust and knowledge.
The ribbon with the company’s name on it is a
representation of a ‘protector of legacy’ that is
depicted in the picture preserved in an ornate
It was later felt that the logo was rather elaborate, too intellectual and the details were hard to
differentiate and complicating.
Since the original logo was complicated and
not in sync with the company’s philosophy of
‘simplifying life’, it was discontinued.
Apple appointed graphic designer Rob Janoff
to design a simple but unique logo.
Eventually Rob designed the iconic “Rainbow”
logo which was so unique that it remained
almost unchanged for more than twenty
It presents the rainbow colored silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it. Rob himself has
explained that the bite in the logo was originally implemented to represent an apple and not as
another fruit. In a more genius way the bite mark represented knowledge, as in the Garden of
The apple with a “bite” taken out of it
can be understood semiotically. The apple
component of the sign– serves as a signifier. The associations that viewers create from seeing the
ranging from seeing the apple as a basic, everyday object, to deeper cultural connections
to the apple as a symbol of health, and an icon of nature, make up what is signified by the Apple
Apple handed over the company logo to Landor and Associates later in
1984, who made minor modifications to the logo – making it ‘rounder’ and
more coherent visually, unlike the slightly irregular shape of the apple in
the previous logo. Till 1997 the Rainbow logo maintained its sublime
supremacy over any other logo.
In a nerdy apt way the bite represented the (bite/byte), a fitting and unique way of representing
a computer company. As per the company’s demands, the rainbow colour to the logo had
already been added by Janoff to humanize the company. Moreover the rainbow colors were
used in the logo to imply the fact that the monitor could reproduce images in color. Rob placed
green hue on top to indicate the color of leaf. Quoting his words “because that’s where the leaf
Further semiotic analysis may uncover mythical and religious association of a bitten apple,
drawing on the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. From a semiotic perspective, Adam and Eve
eating the forbidden apple resonates with Apple’s early brand positioning strategy as a
rebellious young company, in opposition to the computer giants of the day, such as IBM and
Hewlett Packard. Further semiotic connections include the fact that Adam and Eve gained
knowledge from this transgression, thus the bitten apple can be associated with the promise of
knowledge that Apple products make available to their users.
Certain lines of thought have expressed that perhaps the reason behind Apple’s near perfect
brand identity is its close – co-incidental or intentional – adherence to the ‘Golden ratio’ or the
PHI division. The golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately
1.61803398874989. Studies by psychologists have been devised to test the idea that the golden
ratio plays a role in human perception of beauty. Some of the greatest mathematical minds of
all ages have been known to be students of the same, in search of a mathematical
understanding of the construction of things.
Above is an illustration trying to explain the obedience of the Apple logo to the golden ration
theory. However, because the golden ratio and its contribution to the construction of the
universe and its elements, is a ground of progressing studies and one with not much substantial
grounds, this theory about the Apple logo’s connection to it has largely not been considered.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was bleeding money, and Jobs and Co.
realized that the Apple logo could be leveraged to their advantage.
The rainbow theme was discontinued as
per Steve’s wish to modernize. So a
modern looking monochromatic apple
with a bite came into use. The
monochromatic logo was used on
various products, packaging and
From 2001 to 2003 an aqua themed
version of the monochrome logo was
used and a Glass-themed version has
been used since 2003. Presently it has a
silvery chrome finish which gives a new
Another important and interesting aspect about the Apple logo has been its placement. While
initially the logo was placed on the laptops to face the user when the flap to close (so that it was
upside down to the fore-viewer), it was later reversed and the logo was placed upside down on
the flap – to face the viewer in front of the laptop user. The change was in sync with the change
in Apple’s philosophy of communicating only with its buyers and target audience; to talking to
the entire market at large, to attract more buyers.
The Apple logo has been a subject of much study and intrigue. Its evolutions have been a
reflection of the company’s philosophy and direct objectives with respect to its audiences. The
company has been accused of being obsessed with its logo and the various things about it;
however, it cannot be denied that the brand has managed to forge a unique and permanent
memory in the minds of its consumers – despite the simplicity of the logo.
It has become one of the few unrivalled corporate symbols that have continued to forge
milestones and its identity has managed to remind the user of the very ideals intended by the
brand and of the unique niche space it represents in its category.