Who doesn’t love tacos?! A popular Mexican native dish, these crispy munchies are tiny folded corn tortillas stacked with onions, shredded meat, chicken, cilantro, spicy sauce, and beans. For someone who enjoys eating tacos, it’s almost impossible to not know about Taco Bell – a famous American-based chain of fast food restaurants based out of Irvine, California.
Although tacos are originally Mexican, Taco Bell has proven its expertise in reinventing the dish in oh-so-interesting ways. From Kit Kat quesadillas to Doritos Locos tacos to Cheesy Gordita Crunch, the menu is diverse and innovative. Interestingly, they’ve also applied this creative technique to their branding strategies, which did wonders for the company.
Taco Bell was established in 1962 and the brand name has remained unchanged since then, the bell image for its official logo was adopted only in 1985. The archetype for the present Taco Bell logo was first designed in 1992, being only slightly modified by now. Below, we’ll discuss the emergence of the brand, its logo, as well as the hidden meaning behind the logo.
Birth and Rise of Taco Bell
The origin of Taco Bell dates back to the post-World War II phase, when many people were appointed and then dismissed from their jobs. Many factories and businesses were forced to adopt more cost-effective strategies, thus leaving employees jobless and without financial security.
Glen Bell, a Marine who served in the Pacific Theater in World War II, also suffered a similar fate. As his name might have already suggested, he is the founder of Taco Bell, which explains the use of bell in their logo. Many of the fast food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King were already existing in the 1950s, and launching another burger store would be useless. Giving competition to an already popular fast food brand wouldn’t have been easy.
As Glenn strolled up and down the city in search of a new business idea, he notices long queues in front of Mexican restaurants. He realized that Americans loved Mexican food and since such eateries were a rare sight back then, he thought of starting his own Mexican fast food outlet.
Before inaugurating the first Taco Bell in Downey, California (1962), Bell held and operated a handful of other restaurants, including Bell’s Drive-In, and Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in San Bernardino. His journey of Mexican-inspired quick food service started in 1951 at Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, wherein he decided to make hard-shell tacos to differentiate himself from his competitors (particularly McDonald’s, which also had its roots in San Bernardino).
Bell went on to create partnerships with the owners of El Taco (1958–62) and Taco Tia (1954–56), both of which had several outlets in southern California. After trading his share in El Taco, he was the sole proprietor of Taco Bell and inaugurated its first store at 7112 Firestone Boulevard in Downey, amidst a modest setting.
The business grew quickly, giving its first franchise to a retired Los Angeles policeman named Kermit Becky (1964), and opening its 100th restaurant at 400 South Brookhurst, Anaheim (1967). Within three years, Taco Bell had a total of 325 locations across the West region of the United States, and it was then that Bell decided to take his brand from a regional to a national level.
1978 was a turning point for Taco Bell, as PepsiCo Inc. bought 868 Taco Bell outlets for approximately $125 million. The company also started a branding partnership with KFC in 1995, and both the brands became affiliates of Tricon Global Restaurants (later named Yum! Brands) after splitting from PepsiCo. Taco Bell went on to become NBA’S official fast-food partner, replacing one of its biggest competitors McDonald’s.
Yum is the present proprietor of Taco Bell. In addition to the famous taco dish, the eatery also serves nachos, burritos, veggies, quesadillas, and combo dishes.
Emergence of the Taco Bell Logo
1962 – 1972
The Taco Bell logo design has developed over the years, undergoing five changes since its first take-off in 1962. The very first emblem featured a vibrant and delightful wordmark, made of eight colorful squares, and a blocky typeface. The letters were inclined to different widescreen in white sans-serif font. The color palette included some vibrant shades like green, orange, yellow, and burgundy, depicting the energy, passion, positivity, and the variety of food options that the restaurant chain offers to its customers. This logo stayed with Taco Bell for as long as ten years.
The completely revised logo design of 1972 gave a new visual identity to Taco Bell. It featured a sleek monochrome wordmark in capitals, in a custom typeface with drawn-out bold lines, oblique cuts, and small yet sharp serifs which added elegance and modernism to the whole design. The graphics vanished and only block letters in brown made the logo.
This emblem with monochrome uppercase lettering represented the company for a little over a decade. Its key characteristic lies in the extended bold lines with pointed ends. The letters A,” “C,” and “L” had oblique cuts with a sharp corner. While several outlets continued using the previous logo version with letters in multi-colored frames, this was a new official version that represented Taco Bell for many years.
1985 – 1994
This was the first time that the iconic bell symbol entered the Taco Bell emblem. The logo consisted of two parts – the bell image and the wordmark. The former featured a red, yellow, and green color palette, and was placed right above the black bold wordmark, written in an elaborate custom typeface with elongated lines and sharp diagonal cuts.
This time, the designers replaced the aggressive writing style with more streamlined and smoothened letters. The bell is featured against a red backdrop with two yellow horizontal lines at the bottom. This logo version was used by the company for around ten years along with its second version, designed in 1992.
1992 – 1994
The second version of the Tao Bell logo was designed in 1992, which featured a separate color palette and went on to become the official brand emblem. Unlike the origin version, the bell was enlarged and in pink, and was placed against a purple background (with several white streaks) instead of red. The lettering below featured the same typeface as on the previous version and a bright purple shade – the one used for the bell’s background.
The brand name is positioned in two lines – “Taco” at the top and “Bell” at the bottom. The font remained the same. The bell was positioned obliquely to give a dynamic feel to the logo – as if the bell was ringing in motion.
A modified version of the previous emblem was designed and introduced in 1994. This time, the bell became wider and the color palette included brighter, more extreme shades of pink and purple. The white border of the bell separates it from the domed purple backdrop. The writing style was also changed and the capitalized lettering featured a bold sans-serif font with obliquely cut letter ends. Designed by the American design studio Lippincott, this emblem stayed intact for over twenty years.
Taco Bell unveiled a new version of its brand logo in November 2016, with a purpose to inaugurate a new restaurant in Las Vegas. Pink and yellow were removed from the color palette, and it featured just three shades – purple, white, and black. The bell is placed against a purple background (a lighter shade), right above the basic black wordmark in a bold yet clean sans-serif font with traditional contours.
Design Elements of the Taco Bell Logo
As we could see above, the earlier versions of the Taco Bell logo used only text and the bell icon did not appear until 1985. The wordmark was directly drawn from the founder’s surname “Bell” and the name of the restaurant chain – Taco Bell. The bell, with a classic shape, has been an integral part of the company’s visual identity and has only changed its color and location with every version. Initially, it was positioned downward but later placed diagonally to create an actual ringing effect. The present logo features a bell with a slightly wider body and drawn using the negative space against a purple backdrop.
Since the logo originally featured only text, the letters substituted the graphic images. Hence, the designers drew each character by hand, adorning them with thorns, extended sharp points, and long legs. The customized fonts were inspired by the Sary Soft, Heebo, Amaranth families.
The special effects in the logotypes like thorns and protruding legs were necessary to convey the spices used in Mexican dishes. The latest version of the Taco Bell logo uses the Gotham Bold typography. Although the present color palette typically consists of purple, white, and black, it also features green, red, yellow, orange, brown, pink, and white at various times.
From their Chipotle Ranch Grilled Chicken Burritos to Kit Kat quesadillas, Taco Bell has mastered the art of reinventing Mexican staple dishes in pretty interesting ways. Just like their dishes, the fast food giant has also applied their reinventing skills to their logo design. From a text-only logo to an amazing combination design with a bell image, the Taco Bell emblem has come a long way. We don’t know if the logo design will undergo another modification in the coming days, but even if it does, we’re sure it’s going to be something really fascinating.
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.