One of the major e-commerce giants of the retail industry, Amazon has carved out a niche for itself amongst its toughest competitors around. Established in 1994 in Seattle, it was first named “Cadabra”, which was later rejected because it sounded similar to the word “corpse.” The brand started its journey as an online book store, generating profits of over $20,000 every week in the initial two months of business.
Gradually, it gained recognition as one of the biggest e-shopping websites with an exceptional logo that’s simple yet intriguing. Before we decipher the hidden meaning of the Amazon logo and take a tour of its evolution journey, let us understand what “Amazon” means and why it was chosen.
How Amazon got its name?
When you name your child, you’d typically want to choose something striking yet simple – one that’s easy to pronounce, remember, and not made fun of. Naming your business can be equally tough – you want to choose something unique and meaningful, without confusing your audience.
When Amazon was initially named “Cadabra, Inc.”, the purpose was to use it as a reference to “abracadabra”, meaning “I create as I speak” (as in, magic). Soon after, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ first lawyer contended that the reference was quite vague and controversial. Plus, when people are on the phone, they can sometimes mistake “Cadabra” for “Cadaver”, meaning corpse or carcass.
It was then in the mid-90s when Bezos and MacKenzie (his wife) started looking for other alternatives. They registered their brand domain names as Awake.com, Browse.com, and Bookmall.com, and Relentless.com. Since website listings were alphabetically ordered at that time, he wanted a word starting with A that would pop up first in alphabetical searches.
As soon as he hit upon the word “Amazon,” the largest river on the planet, he was determined to go for it. He envisaged his brand would one day become world’s leading bookstore. The new Amazon website URL was registered on November, 1, 1994. In the words of Bezos, “This is not only the largest river in the world, it’s many times larger than the next biggest river. It blows all other rivers away.” Aside from emphasizing that he owned a library of books as enormous as the Amazon River in South America, Bezos liked that the name “Amazon” represented the wild and mysterious side of the Amazonian forest.
Amazon Logo – Background and Evolution
The naming process isn’t the only captivating fact about this retail business giant. The inception and evolution of its logo design are two other factors that made it equally famous and successful. In spite of all the high expectations, the Amazon logo has always been simple as Bezos didn’t want to invest too much in branding. However, this didn’t affect the value and success of the logo, which is readily recognized by people around the world.
How Amazon logo looked like in 1995
Amazon’s first logo was created in 1995 and it was a literal version of the brand name: an ocean blue background with the letter “A” forming a trapezoid. There was also this curve that represented the Amazon River or forest crossing the A. The original logo was designed by Turner Duckworth, with the stylized “A” being the key element of the logo, symbolizing the contours of the famous South American river. Additionally, there was the wordmark “amazon.com” and a caption “Earth’s biggest bookstore” at the base of the logo, which showed the ambitious goals of the then online bookstore. The wordmark was written using a clean and simple sans-serif typeface.
Since the first Amazon logo was created somehow towards the beginning of the digital age and there was only limited access to logo designing tools, critics weren’t very positive about it. Many even termed it as busy and indecipherable. Some even went over to say that the use of the river within the logo was too “cliché”. Consequently, it represented the brand for only a short time (until 1997) when the logo was revised.
How Amazon logo looked like in 1997
In 1997, Amazon opted for a logo redesign, where the original one was replaced with a more detailed and refined version depicting the company’s constant growth. The color palette was monochrome and the letters became bolder, whereas the logo was modified and made a little smaller. It still had the trapezoid, but with a zebra pattern resembling the river as well as a tree. The inclusion of “amazon.com” in the second version of the logo indicated that the company somehow anticipated the dot-com hype in the coming years. The effort put in the planning and execution of the logo is truly commendable, but sadly, it was not attractive or professional enough to show the brand’s real value.
How Amazon logo looked like in 1998
The year 1998 witnessed some of the most significant changes in the Amazon logo design and took it somewhat closer to what we see today. Interestingly, three different designs for the logo were created this year. The first one featured a simple wordmark “amazon.com” in a clean serif typeface, with the tagline “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” written in capitals and sans-serif. This black and white logo was soon replaced by an entirely new design.
The next version featured the word “amazon” in upper-case letters, with a huge yellow ring forming the letter “O” of its name. The tagline was missing from this version. This logo design represented the brand Amazon for several months, before being replaced by a new one towards the end of the year. This third version was the famous “Swish” design that became the basis for the Amazon logo we see today.
The black lowercase wordmark “amazon.com” was accompanied by a vibrant yellow swish below it. The yellow stroke was slightly arched at the center, creating a bridge-like feature that connects the past with the future. The wordmark was written in Officina Sans typeface, with the first part “Amazon” appearing bolder than the “.com” part.
Current Amazon logo since 2000
The current Amazon logo was created in 2000, slightly modifying the yellow bridge-like curve to look like a smile, extending from A to Z of the word “Amazon”. Besides being a symbol of positivity and technological progress, the orange arrow is used to depict the huge variety of products available at Amazon. Turner Duckworth suggested using the yellow smile alone on the packaging boxes, turning them into a strong marketing tool. When customers received their parcels with a big smile on it, it gave a good impression about the company, thus enhancing their brand recognition and value. Amazon literally “delivers smiles to your door”.
2021 – Amazon gave a clever twist to its phone app logo
The new logo was launched in January, 2021 that replaced the shopping cart symbol that Amazon had been using for almost five years. It featured a brown box, resembling a plain packaging with a blue adhesive strip at the top with toothed edges. Within weeks of its launch, people started criticizing it as they felt that the new logo design reminded them of Adolf Hitler, with the jagged tape edges that resembled his toothbrush-style mustache.
People even took to social media to voice their opposition. It was then that Amazon changed the uneven edges of the blue tape to a plain blue tape, neatly folded at one edge – as if someone is opening the box. Nevertheless, people weren’t yet satisfied with the change as they felt that it still resembled Hitler’s features, instead of representing their customers’ delightful smile.
Soon after this change, Amazon’s brand spokesperson said, “Amazon is always exploring new ways to delight our customers. We designed the new icon to spark anticipation, excitement, and joy when customers start their shopping journey on their phone, just as they do when they see our boxes on their doorstep,”
How popular is the Amazon logo
The orange arrow on the iconic Amazon logo serves three purposes. Firstly, it’s made to look like a smile, resonating with the brand tagline “delivering smiles to customers’ doorsteps”. Secondly, the arrow suggests moving forward and reaching targets, which is perfectly in line with the company’s history. Thirdly, when combined with the rest of the logo design, it has a very subtle similarity with a human face.
Research has shown that humans have strong facial recognition and tend to trust people with smiling faces. By designing a logo that closely resembles a smiling face, Amazon is able to establish itself as a friendly, trustworthy organization.
If you’re an online shopping lover and purchased something from Amazon, you’re sure to have noticed their logo on the packaging box. Every Amazon package has their famous logo displayed across the box, thus boosting their brand value and recognition. The impression is further enhanced by the color orange of the arrow, which is often associated with warmth, glee, and friendliness.
As the packaging boxes are hardy and often reused by customers to pack and ship other items, it only results in further promotion of the brand. In fact, this is one of the most effective marketing strategies of Amazon and an apt example of how packaging design can boost your business.
Additionally, Amazon’s smile program gives away 0.5% of the price of your exclusive AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. It is an excellent example of how the e-commerce giant has built a part of their branding strategy around their logo design.
As one of the top e-commerce companies in the world, it will be exciting to see the range of innovations Amazon can spearhead in the future. While there’s still a lot of scope to compete with bigger retail giants like The Alibaba Group, Target and Walmart, they’re definitely working hard at their branding techniques. We’ll look forward to how they continue improving and using their iconic logo as a crucial part of their advertising campaigns.
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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.