The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

by PJ Hoogendijk

Royal Dutch Shell plc, commonly referred to as Shell, is an international oil and gas company with its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands and its registered office at the Shell Centre in London, United Kingdom. According to the Forbes Magazine list for 2011, it is also the second-largest energy corporation and the fifth-largest organization in the world. It operates in almost all areas of the oil and gas industry, including production and exploration, refining, supply and marketing, trading, petrochemicals, and power generation.

It is also engaged in major renewable energy activities in biofuels, hydrogen, solar and wind power. With more than 100-year history, the Shell logo has come a long way to be the renowned face of the billion dollar company. It has inspired a lot of graphic designers, and is a mark of brilliance in the corporate world. In this blog, we’ll take a tour of the history of the legendary shell logo and how it emerged as the most iconic symbol in the oil and gas industry.

Who designed the first Shell Logo?

In 1971, Raymond Loewy designed the first logo for Shell, which the brand has been using since then with only minor modifications. Loewy (1893-1986) was an exemplary industrial designer and his works includes commercial logos for BP and Exxon, other eminent projects like Lucky Strike package, Air Force One livery, and Coca-Cola fountain dispenser.

Key Elements of the Shell Logo Design

Shape

The Shell logo looks similar to a crown that’s modified from the earlier form of a mollusc Shell. The crown-like shape of the logo indicates the superiority of the brand in the oil and gas industry.

Color

The color palette sports red and yellow as the primary colors. Shell opted for this vibrant, cheerful combination in order to emphasize its relation with the Spanish flag since many natives settled in California from Spain, and California was the central business hub for Shell during its initial years. According to a fable, Mr. Graham, a Scotsman, recommended red and yellow as they were the primary colors of his native place’s Royal Standard.

Font

While the earlier versions of the Shell logo featured the company’s name, the standard logo that’s in use today does not include a wordmark.

1900: First Logo

The first-ever Shell logo was conceived in 1900 and it was just a basic sketch of a mussel Shell with no colors whatsoever. Since a mollusc shell has a plain design, the designer couldn’t experiment much with it. The worst thing was that the graphic designer couldn’t use any colors in the emblem, so it looked even more unattractive. However, the company continued using this logo for four long years.

Evolution of The Shell Logo

1904: Second Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The initial Shell logo underwent its first major redesign in 1904 wherein it was changed into a Shell of Scallop. Sadly, it failed to impress the audience and went disregarded. Surprisingly, Shell went on using it as its brand identity for over two decades. We wonder, why?

1930: Third Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The Shell logo underwent its third redesign in 1930 when it was made to look more symmetrical and professional. The design looked more like a crown that implied the company’s dominance over the oil industry. This redesign was important as it introduced the color yellow in the existing Shell logo. This new design appealed to the audience, and continued to be the brand’s face for almost two decades.

1948: Fourth Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The fourth logo redesign attempt went somewhat awry as the final design lost its ingenuity to some extent and looked similar to a hot air balloon. However, a new red shade was added to the logo which gave it a more vibrant look. The other outstanding feature was the inclusion of the company’s name in the logo. Unfortunately, the overall design failed to impress the audience.

1955: Fifth Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The Shell logo went through a slight modification in 1955 wherein the red strokes in the preceding logo were removed to make it look more robust; the name was kept intact in the logo. This was a welcome change for the audience, which also became the inspiration for other potential changes in the logo.

1961: Sixth Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

There came a phenomenal change in the Shell logo in the year 1961 when a red square was added to the former design. Other than this, there was no major change. It remained Shell’s logo for six long years.

1971: Seventh Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The year 1971 was a turning phase in the journey of the Shell logo. The recreated design remained the company’s visual identity for the next 23 years. Here, the red lines were trimmed and cut through so they look like the boundary of the inner yellow lines. The brand name was removed from inside the logo and placed beneath it to give it a neat look. The new logo looked attractive and elegant and this redesign attempt  was part of Shell’s retail business branding.

1992: Eighth Logo

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution

The year 1992 was another significant period in the history of Shell’s logo design. This time the brand decided to omit its name from the logo design, which continued to captivate the audience’s attention for more than two decades.

1999: Ninth Logo

There wasn’t any major change in the logo design since 1992 but in 1995, it finally underwent its ninth and last redesign when the colors of the emblem were dimmed. They were toned down to avoid making them look bold and offensive. Unlike the earlier versions of the logo, the revised one looked more appealing and professional.

Oil logo

There were several instances in Shell’s logo history when the word “Oil” was added to it. One of the earlier logotypes featured the wordmark “Oil Company” – an explanation that was possibly needed when Shell wasn’t very popular. Some of the initial versions of the Shell Oil logo featured the lettering “Premium Oil” and “Shell Helix Motor Oils.”

Gas Logo

The Shell Gas logo is the stylized depiction of a seashell and looks similar to the company’s primary logo. The color palette is based on blue and white, which can be attributed to the fact that the color of gas is blue. The wordmark “Gas” goes in cursive letters with a flame in the letter “A.”

The Shell logo has become so familiar that it can easily be recognized even without the brand name. Think Apple’s bitten apple, Nike’s swoosh, Starbucks’ mermaid, Target’s roundel, and McDonalds’ golden arches. Such should be the potential of a good brand logo.

If you’re looking for a similar shell based logo or you have some particular ideas in your mind, consider working with a renowned and award-winning design agency like DesignBro. They have a panel of some of the best freelance graphic designers in the world, thanks to their meticulous hiring process. Every graphic design portfolio undergoes a thorough scrutiny before they can be enrolled with the agency. Remember, when it comes to your brand’s identity, you can never compromise on quality. 

Businesses accross the world have consulted DesignBro to build their brand with logo, website, packaging design and much more.

We can help you too!

The Legendary Shell Logo, its Design Elements, and Story of Evolution
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