As the industrial revolution converted western societies from agrarian to industrial in the 18th and 19th centuries, photography and lithography contributed to the boom of an advertising industry that integrated typography and imagery together on the page. Simultaneously, typography itself was undergoing a revolution of form and expression that expanded beyond the modest, serif typefaces used in books, to bold, ornamental typefaces used on broadsheet posters.
The arts were expanding in purpose—from expression and decoration of an artistic, storytelling nature, to a differentiation of brands and products that the growing middle classes were consuming. Consultancies and trades-groups in the commercial arts were growing and organizing; by 1890, the US had 700 lithographic printing firms employing more than 8,000 people.
Innovators in the visual arts and lithographic process—such as French printing firm Rouchon in the 1840s, Joseph Morse of New York in the 1850s, Frederick Walker of England in the 1870s, and Jules Cheret of France in the 1870s—developed an illustrative style that went beyond tonal, representational art to figurative imagery with sections of bright, flat colors. Playful children’s books, authoritative newspapers, and conversational periodicals developed their own visual and editorial styles for unique, expanding audiences.
As printing costs decreased, literacy rates increased, and visual styles changed, the Victorian decorative arts led to an expansion of typographic styles and methods of representing businesses and leading to the creation of unique logos and marks.
By the 1950s, Modernism had shed its roots as an artistic movement in Europe to become an international, commercialized movement with adherents in the United States and elsewhere. The visual simplicity and conceptual clarity that were the hallmarks of Modernism as an artistic movement formed a powerful toolset for a new generation of graphic designers. Modernist inspired logos proved successful in the era of mass visual communication ushered in by television, improvements in printing technology, and digital innovations.
The current era of logo design began in the 1870s with the first abstract logo, the Bass red triangle.
As of 2018, many corporations, products, brands, services, agencies, and other entities use sign/icon or symbol or a combination of sign and symbol as a logo. As a result, only a few of the thousands of ideograms in circulation are recognizable without a name. An effective logo may consist of both an ideogram and the company name (logotype) to emphasize the name over the graphic, and employ a unique design via the use of letters, colors, and additional graphic elements.
Ideograms and symbols may be more effective than written names, especially for logos translated into many alphabets in increasingly globalized markets. For instance, a name written in Arabic script might have little resonance in most European markets. By contrast, ideograms keep the general proprietary nature of a product in both markets. In non-profit areas, the Red Cross (varied as the Red Crescent in Muslim countries and as the Red Star of David in Israel) exemplifies a well-known symbol that does not need an accompanying name. The red cross and red crescent are among the best-recognized symbols in the world. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their Federation as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross include these symbols in their logos.
Branding can aim to facilitate cross-language marketing.Consumers and potential consumers can identify the Coca-Cola name written in different alphabets because of the standard color and “ribbon wave” design of its logo. The text was written in Spencerian Script, which was a popular writing style when the Coca Cola Logo was being designed.