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Lets first begin with an already existing analysis – albeit a bit outdated, done by Jean-Marie Floch in his book Visual Identities (p.
Immediately after starting work on Apple II, Steve Jobs himself overlook the design of the new logo, this time done by the professional designer, Rob Janoff of the Regis McKenna agency. Usually, when a logo is launched or a styleguide established, basic corporate values are also set. In fact, despite the inversion of the differential visual traits of their logos, their narrative contents are identical: they both give accounts of the production of added value, contribution to the history of IT, commercial transaction and client benefit, they both give accounts of the origin and acquisition of the cognitive wealth represented by computers and IT. But lets test the connection between the visual invariants of the Apple logo and its message – how would Apple represent a world without freedom and conviviality, a non-alternative world? Its opening sequences show rows of people with shaven heads, uniformed, marching through dark tunnels that join big grey buildings, each looking straight ahead with an empty gaze. We see here the same phenomenon observed by Levi-Strauss when describing masks of native American communities from the Northwest Coast, i.e. This helps us observe that the IBM and Apple cultures are based on two opposite axiological values, two different philosophies of knowledge. Bitten apple and rainbow are read in a judaeo-christian sense, where the apple references the story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, and the rainbow references the Flood and the moment when Noah comes to the end of his trials. The difference is significant: Apple proposes basic values and IBM practical values, IBM being a service provider. Having in mind the Floch’s analysis above, what can we tell about these logo changes? The obvious answer would be computers and consumer electronics, and Apple’s website seems to confirm this theory, as witnessed by a screenshot of its front page. Other possible explanation for the distinct duality in their new logos would be further affirmation of their basic premise, simple-to-use and powerful. In this period, his first significant design was a 1998 all-in-one iMac, available in the total of 13 colors, followed by 1999 Blue & White Power Mac G3, 1999 iBook (5 colors) and 2000 Power Mac G4 Cube. Finally, in 2007, we see this partial incongruency in their visual identity finally brought to an end.
Lets briefly recapitulate now – what changes has Apple seen in its visual identity since 1995, when Floch finished his examination? First, there was a brief return to core values, reconsolidation of design and establishment of a unified, widely dispersed visual identity.
Looking at the bigger picture and examining possible socio-geographical causes for this change, we see that this was in no means an anomaly.
For those who still doubt that Apple is not in the business of selling computer Volkswagens and that they are not about hippy values, freedom and democracy any more, let perform a quick final test of our conclusion. 1976: April - Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak form the Apple Computer Company, on April Fool's Day. 1976: October - Wozniak remains at HP, but is soon convinced that he should leave and join Apple Computer.
1978: Apple Computer begins work on an enhanced Apple II with custom chips, code-named Annie. 1978: Apple Computer begins work on a supercomputer with a bit-sliced architecture, code-named Lisa. 1980: September - Apple Computer sells over 78,000 Apple II computers during the fiscal year.
1981: September - Apple Computer introduces its first hard drive, the 5MB ProFile, for US$3499.
1981: Apple Computer officially reintroduces the Apple III, with improved software and a hard disk. 1982: Apple Computer becomes the first personal computer company to reach US$1 billion in annual sales.
1983: June - Video Technology introduces the Laser 3000, an Apple II workalike microcomputer.
1983: December - Apple Computer introduces the redesigned Apple III as the Apple III+, for US$3000.
1984: April - Apple Computer retires the Apple III and Apple III+, with only 65,000 units sold in total (90,000 made). 1984: May - Apple Computer announces that 70,000 Macintosh computers have been shipped in the first 100 days since its announcement.
1985: April - The Macintosh XL (formerly called Lisa) is dropped from Apple Computer's product line. 1988: September - Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh IIx computer, base price is US$7770.

1992: October - Apple Computer discontinues the first generation of Macintosh PowerBook computers. It was one of his proposals, considered technically challenging and costly, but Jobs defended it because he saw it as representing quality of their computers and advertising their color capability. But, what is their content, what is the purpose of their expression, their signifier side, their messages? They all end up sitting on parallel benches with eyes on the giant screen (with blue cathode stripes), where we see the malevolent face of the Leader. IBM logo started as an abbreviation, and it reminds us of the numeric, binary mode of representation since it plays on presence and absence, color and non-color; but it also reminds us of the verbal language and writing.
IBM speaks of the dynamism and strength of the corporate America, and Apple speaks of non-conformism, hippy America of the ’60s, quest for spirituality. It seems as if they don’t care much about computers at all, and that their most important products are in the field of consumer electronics. Examining these designs, we could actually say they’re embodiments of Apple logo in hardware. Now, their logo is translucent plastic, their operating system is translucent plastic, and their computers are translucent plastic. As we can see, it is perfectly applicable to describe the new Apple’s visual identity, it’s just that instead of IBM at the left side, we have the new Apple! Here, Apple reversed its visual form, but maintained its semantic function – new Apple has actually become what IBM was!
Is it possible that the company that advocated hippy values and non-conformism has become just another big company? And in these changes they have clearly reflected that they have become one of the biggest and richest computer companies in the US.
The 1976 ad looks like a regular small-business-type ad that just shows the product characteristics, neatly aligned, but doesn’t have any visual identity or corporate philosophy behind it. Think Different commercials featured black and white video footage of significant historical people, like Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso etc.
These narrative origins somehow neutralize and fixate each other by virtue of their co-presence and interweaving”. This is a very important step because, as we will see later, with further changes in their logo and through their ads, they will also change the adversary and ambitions. Because, only when we have analyzed their messages and established the connection between the invariants of expression and the semantic units underpinning the contents through commutation, we can consider the visual invariants in logos in terms of their respective signifiers. Their narrative dimension is of progress and upheaval, of performance and competence, and of values (quality of service, freedom, conviviality).
It is, of course, a clear reference to George Orwell and his 1984 novel, but is there something else? Audience listens without any reaction, when a heroine, athletic young woman, pursued by faceless guards, comes running up armed with a sledge-hammer.
Its parallel horizontal stripes, in the context of American culture, are reminiscent of the place for signatures on legal documents and hence of the idea of honoring a commitment. Apple II was envisioned as a powerful personal computer, quick, with open architecture and color graphics, and this idea was very successful, particularly in the education field in the US.
After a brief experiment with using titanium, Apple starts using brushed aluminum for their high-end computers. Well, not all of them, only the low-end ones, and this was obviosuly an anomaly – or was it?
We can see echoes of the same trend in 2005 Mac Mini, which is a low-end machine, but features a brushed aluminum case, with translucent plastic top. But later ads, from 1981 and 1983, clearly show a big(ger) company that certainly pays attention to design and translating corporate philosophy into visual identity.
These ads are so focused that not only do they not feature any products, they are virtually empty, just the white background with one person talking about Windows and Macs. 8-bar and 13-bar versions were made, one for corporate stationary and one for commercial documents and ads (8-bar version that survived in the end).
It shows Newton sitting under the tree, reading the book, thus invoking the fall of apple on Newton’s head, event which, according to the legend, led to a discovery that would spawn a birth of the modern physics, mathematics and astronomy.
Here we might recognize two major axes of knowledge sustained throughout history of Western thinking, two epistemic attitudes: the phonocentric (which advocates reason and indirect knowledge of the reality of the world) and the optocentric (which aligns with intuition and direct knowledge).
Distorted rainbow has also lost its geometric configuration, so the logo includes the symbol of rebirth and renewal (spectrum) but lost the symbol of the new alliance (arc) – is this another proof of intention to oppose IBM?
So, its connotations combine elements of progress, efficiency and honoring commitment – all elements already marked by the corporate message associated with the logo.

In 1980 they introduced Apple III, meant to be a business computer, but it didn’t go as well. We can also note that the logo on Apple computers is not actually present in its official form, but in its monochrome version, which, through use of figured, translucent design actually looks very much like the following logo update.
If we look at the Power Mac G4 Cube system, we can see all the components in the system – keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor, computer – are transparent!
Here we see this desire to advertise solidity and fortitude (closely associated with power and quality) by using non-reflecting matte metal surfaces (brushed aluminum) slowly spread further.
This finally ended their long travel and unified their visual identity (sole exception is an old model of MacBook, made of white plastic, which is still on sale, mainly because it is much cheaper than the aluminum one). In 1988 they sold over a million Macs, with sales totalling more than $4 billion with more than 5000 employees.
There are no product characteristics shown but instead we read company manifestos, completely in line with Jobs’ stated company vision of creating computer Volkswagens and supporting hippy values and personal freedom. Here, Apple openly presents Microsoft as its opponent, and if we think in terms of the semiotic square, simple and powerful would be on top (representing Apple) and their contradiction would be slow (not-powerful in computer terms, not-efficient, not-quick) and complicated (not-simple), clearly representing Microsoft. There were also designed different positive and negative versions, where relationship between dark and light stripes is inverted (dark stripes are slightly thicker than the light ones in the positive version), and slight change can be seen in the point of the letter M.
That is why it is important to examine the corporate and advertising documents used by these two companies. She throws a hammer that hits the screen which implodes, the impact reaches the audience who, with mouths open, fade into the grey surroundings. Well, here it gets a little tricky – we might notice that the older one looks a bit deeper, more threedimensional, while the new one, while looking flatter, is more pronouncedly split in two.
Those numbers clearly show the other, non-computer (so to speak) side of Apple becoming increasingly dominant, and having in mind also the timing coincidences, it looks as this explanation for the changes in their logo is confirmed. This a constant in all of Apple’s ads from the beginning, because they are not only both a software and hardware maker (thus explaining ease of use and speed duality), but they also always have two product lines covering the high-end and low-end computer hardware and, indeed, all their hardware. Steve Jobs began working on the Apple Lisa, a revolutionary personal computer using GUI (many ideas for which he picked up from Xerox PARC lab), eventually introduced in 1983, but it was too expensive; in the meantime, Steve Jobs joined work on the low-cost GUI computer, Macintosh, which was introduced in 1984 and had much success, albeit not as much as Apple II. Product design is connected to the logo design so much that it is pretty obvious that they’re both part of a clear company focus. But in the same design we can see an impending change – design is slowly starting to become more angular, and there are less and less curved areas. Even after the problematic early ’90s, when Jobs came back in 1998, sales were at almost $6 billion. In 2006, Wall Street Journal story found that 10 of the most inventive town in the US were in Silicon Valley, which was also third largest high-tech center in the US, behind New York metropolitan area and Washington metropolitan area, but with highest average high-tech salary and the biggest high-tech manufacturing center in the US.
But these connotations are of little importance, what matters is that the figuration of the logo provide it with a certain cultural substance for a certain target audience and increase the efficacy of its denotative message.
In a decade after the American revolution, stripes, before exotic and used for marking the clothes of prostitutes and slaves, now become common, and thanks to the americanofilia of the French, became a symbol of freedom. If we take a look at the timeline of Apple computers 1983-2009, we can clearly see the difference Jobs made – in the period without him, Apple had as much as 25 Macintosh models (not counting Apple II line) concurrently! Obviously, it was just a matter of time before they updated their visual identity and brought it to speed. Curiously enough, in the 1980s those photocopier limitations were gone, but because of the limitations of the new low-resolution digital printers, 13-bar logo was difficult to reproduce and was abandoned. And this is at the heart of this strange phenomenon, semiotic inversion – stripes are still there as the visual invariant used, but the message is inverted. Their slightly different colors in the older one and more pronounced division and color difference actually seems to point to two complementary things. Immediately after he came back to the helm, we see that he cut the number of products by more than a half, and we can see that there are rarely more than 2 models of the same product at the same time. Also, soon after he returned, he revoked the licenses issued to other hardware makers to make Mac clones, arguing that they cannot cede this revenue because they earn money mostly from hardware. Here Floch stresses again the importance of this semiotic inversion, saying that a logo doesn’t exist by itself, that it cannot be neither analyzed nor interpreted outside its semantic universe that gives it its value and its meaning. So, while on the surface continuing to seem like the company they once were, with the associated values, they have in fact advertised that they became another IBM (and maybe in doing so skillfully used the connotations associated with IBM and its products).

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