Semiotics Analysis of Apple Inc. logo


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Semiotics Analysis of Apple Inc. logo

  1. 1. 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 computing devices” “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 Internet offerings." 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.
  2. 2. 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 and ‘distant’ in terms of user-acceptance competitors. 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 company. 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.
  3. 3. 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 frame. 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 years. 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 Eden. The apple with a “bite” taken out of it can be understood semiotically. The apple the visual component of the sign– serves as a signifier. The associations that viewers create from seeing the
  4. 4. apple 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 logo. 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 was”. 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.
  5. 5. 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 advertising. 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 millennium look. 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
  6. 6. 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. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________