Coca-Cola Logo – History, Evolution, Meaning & Visual Identity

by PJ Hoogendijk

Coca-Cola, the most consumed carbonated soft drink in the world, is also the most popular. Every city, every town and every village knows about the famous American soft drink. As a matter of fact, Coca-Cola has become synonymous with soft drinks and good times.

An article published on caffeine informer mentions: “The carbonated soft drink (CSD) market is dominated by three players: Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper. Each company markets a large number of brands, with Coca-Cola having the largest market share. This is reflected in the drink sales with Coca-Cola classic continuing to outsell Pepsi.”

It takes time and hard work to build a brand identity. The brand identity is what a company wants to portray about itself. The elements designers and brands use to build brand identity consist of visible elements such as colors, fonts, images, symbols, and logos. Big corporate houses have a communications department dedicated to evolve and maintain brand identity. 

Coca-Cola did not achieve its popularity in a day; it took years of discipline and dedication to build its brand identity. Its iconic logo reflects its rich history and legacy. We will explore the Coca-Cola logo but first let us quickly look at the brand history.

Coca-Cola Logo: A Brief History

Chemist John Smith Pemberton, a Confederate States Army veteran, can be credited for inventing Coca-Cola; however, he sold the recipe to Asa Griggs Candler, politician and a business tycoon, shortly before his death.  

Candler purchased the recipe for $ 238.98 from the chemist and turned it into a multibillion-dollar industry. The recipe of the iconic drink is closely guarded to this day!

Coca-Cola gets its name from the two main ingredients used in the recipe – kola nuts and coca leaves.

In addition to the original flavor, Coca-Cola produces a variety of flavored drinks under the brand name such as Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke, and Coca-Cola Raspberry.

Apart from the amazing range of soft drinks, Coca-Cola is also known for its classic packaging designs and its iconic logo. 

The designer who made the Coca-Cola logo

The history of the iconic logo begins with Frank Mason Robinson, Pemberton’s bookkeeper, suggesting the company name.  Robinson is also regarded as an early advertiser of Coca-Cola. The official Coca-Cola website mentions:

“In May 1886, Dr John S Pemberton nailed the formula, but it was his bookkeeper who came up with the name ‘Coca-Cola ®’. Frank M. Robinson suggested that ‘the two Cs would look well in advertising.

And with that Robinson also designed the now world famous Coca-Cola script logo.”

Robinson wanted the logo to have a certain dramatic quality. In his quest for an effective design, he began experimenting with the Spencerian script. The handwritten logo became synonymous with style and became the foundation for all future designs.

Coca-Cola Logo: Meaning

Logos are more than mere designs. From communicating the brand’s mission, vision and values to highlighting the company’s products and services, a logo helps in fostering brand identity. One of the most interesting aspects of the Coca-Cola logo is that it does not highlight what the company sells. Yet, consumers from around the world know the Coca-Cola logo and what they sell!

The visual identity of Coca-Cola portrays love, passion, purity and humility. 

Coca-Cola Logo: Evolution

From the unrecognizable 1886 logo to the present iconic version, Coca-Cola logo has truly evolved with time.

1886

Coca Cola Logo Design in 1886

The Coca-Cola logo is one of the most recognizable visual identities in the world. However, a lesser-known version of the iconic logo exists. The simple 1886 wordmark in black and white had a “typewritten” feel about it.

The 1886 Coca-Cola logo portrayed seriousness, sophistication and class.

1887

Coca Cola Logo Design in 1887

John S. Pemberton, the company founder, quickly realized the need for a unique design. With the help of his bookkeeper Frank Mason Robinson, Pemberton came up with the iconic wordmark known today. Though there have been changes made to the iconic wordmark over time, Coca-Cola has retained the logo’s timeless elements.

1890

Coca Cola Logo Design in 1890

Coca-Cola went in a completely different direction with its 1890 “swirly” redesign. The extra curvy Cs along with hanging musical notes gave the wordmark a fun vibe. Like the 1886 logo, the 1890 logo only remained with the brand for about a year. While Coca-Cola changed the logo quickly, it only shows how willing Coca-Cola was to experiment with its visual identity!

1891

Coca Cola Logo Design in 1891

In 1891, Coca-Cola went back to its original 1887 design, albeit with few design upgrades. The company now embraced the color red and a rectangular box. The red wordmark was now placed within a red rectangular box, making the design more balanced. Rectangles add a sense of stability and honesty to a design.

 1941 – Present

Coca Cola Logo Design from 1941 to Present

The 1941 redesign is also the logo in use today. The version of the logo was first used from 1941 to 1987. The emblem was brought back in 2003 and has been serving as the visual identity of Coca-Cola ever since. The red rectangular box was removed from the logo and the letters were italicized. The design appeared modern and minimalistic.

1987 Redesign

Coca Cola Logo Redesign in 1987

The 1987 redesign was all about making the design appear bolder. The fonts were straightened; however, no changes were made to the overall design.

Coca-Cola New Logo: 2021 Hug Version

Announced in 2021, the new Coca-Cola logo has been termed “magical” and “genius” by design gurus from all around the world. The breathtaking new logo has been designed using the popular red and white color palette. The logo appears to be hugging the bottle, symbolizing good times and togetherness. The logo is truly magical because you can actually imagine the bottle even when it is not there.

The new logo was introduced with a new tagline, “Real Magic.”

Changes made to the logo are a way of showing how a company has evolved with time. However, not all logos change with time. Many iconic logos have remained with a brand unchanged: Gucci is one such logo.

Coca-Cola Logo: Color Palette

The Coca-Cola logo has used three distinct color palettes in its history. Initially, the company used black and white color palette to portray professionalism, seriousness, class, power and purity. Later, the soft drink giant used the red and white color scheme to symbolize passion, youth, energy, love, pureness and class. 

Why is the Coca-Cola logo red?

According to a popular story, the red logo was inspired by the brand’s first advertisement that featured Santa Claus wearing his red and white suit with a Coca-Cola bottle in his hands. However, the brand denies the story completely. 

According to Coca-Cola, the color red has been with the brand since the beginning. According to the iconic soft drink company, Coca-Cola was sold in barrels at drug stores, just like alcohol 130 years ago. But, while barrels of alcohol were taxed, soft drinks were not. To avoid confusion, Coca-Cola began painting their barrels red. Later, the same color was adopted as their official color. 

Coca-Cola Logo: Font

Spencerian script has been used to execute the logotype. The font flourished and was widely in use in the US from 1850 to 1925. The Spencerian script provided the uniqueness that the founder of the soft drink company desired.

Coca-Cola Logo: Hidden Messages

Coca-Cola Logo – History, Evolution, Meaning & Visual Identity

The Coca-Cola logo, over the years, has garnered attention for reasons other than its beauty. Many believe that the iconic logo contains various hidden messages. According to a conspiracy theory, when the logo is reflected in a mirror, the word Coca-Cola reads: “No Mohammed no Mecca” in Arabic.

In 1951, the logo came under considerable scrutiny in Egypt due to the conspiracy theory. According to another theory, the flag of Denmark is clearly visible in the “o” of cola. .

Logo Evaluation

The Coca-Cola logo is amongst the world’s most iconic logos. Let us quickly find out what makes the logo iconic.

1. Relevant

Among the most important elements that make a logo truly iconic is its relevance. A logo might not be glamorous with over-the-top designs, but if it is relevant to the market it serves, it is well on its way to becoming iconic sooner than later.

A relevant logo is one that conveys a brand’s mission, vision and values. Designers employ various design elements such as colors, fonts, symbols and shapes to communicate the brand narrative.

Though the Coca-Cola logo does not reveal what the brand does: the name itself has become synonymous with soft drinks. In many parts of the world, soft drinks mean Coca-Cola! That is the impact of a relevant logo.

2. Memorable

A memorable logo is the one that connects the consumers to the brand from the first time they see it. Memorability plays a key role in making a logo iconic.

So, what makes a logo memorable? A memorable logo is easy to remember and packs a punch at the same time. A memorable logo is a combination of design elements discussed above. These design elements, when balanced the right way, communicate the brand’s tone and personality.

The Coca-Cola logo is a treat to watch; the design elements are well balanced and clearly portray the idea of energy, fun and good times.

3. Simplicity

Simplicity is the best policy, especially in the case of logos. A simple logo catches the attention of the consumers within seconds because it only focuses on delivering the brand’s key personality.

According to various experiments, the brain simplifies the most complex symbols in order to retain them; hence, a simple artwork is pre-designed to be retained by the brain.

Minimalism uses negative spaces within a current design and also gets rid of clutter. Minimalistic designs are trendy, simple and pack a powerful punch.

The Coca-Cola logo is seen as a prime example of a minimalistic design by the design community. It is simple, minimal and effective. 

4. Timeless

Timeless logos focus on quality as opposed to cluttering a design with quantity. You know a logo is timeless when you find it relevant and effective even after years have passed. A timeless logo does not focus on the latest fads but on what is relevant to the brand.

What should a designer focus on while coming up with a possible timeless logo?

A designer must focus on the brand’s core ideas as opposed to devising over-the-top designs, which is unrelated to the brand narrative. Brand’s mission, vision, and values can guide a designer on creating a fabulous timeless piece of art.

The Coca-Cola logo perfectly communicates the brand story through its balanced and eye-catchy design. The iconic logo has been in use since 1887, albeit with a few changes, but remains relevant to this day. 

The Verdict

Balanced and in harmony with the brand narrative, the Coca-Cola logo is more than just an amazing piece of art. The logo truly stands the test of time

Acquisitions

Apart from great branding, the company has grown over the years through several mergers and acquisitions. These acquisitions have helped the Coca-Cola Company eliminate competition and become one of the most popular brands in the world. Here are some brands that the company acquired over the years.

  • Honest Tea: Coca-Cola acquired the energy drinks company in 2015 by making a net cash payment of $2.15 billion.
  • Costa Coffee: In 2018, The Coca-Cola Company bought the U.K.-based coffeehouse chain for a whopping $5.1 billion. 
  • Minute Maid: The fruit beverage company was acquired by Coca-Cola in 1960 for $59 million. Before the acquisition, Coca-Cola had begun manufacturing Fanta: fruit-flavored sodas. However, the deal sealed the threat of any potential competition in the future.

Thumbs Up: The extremely popular Indian soft drink brand was acquired by Coca-Cola in 1993.

Conclusion

The Coca-Cola emblem represents a whole generation of people who were changing the world with their innovative and disruptive ideas. The logo stands as a testimony to the pioneers of the modern world. So, enjoy the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola and admire the beauty of its logo!

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