For The Love of Logos
The heart shape has been widely used in logo design throughout history. This Valentine week, let's take a little walk down memory lane to see how and why.
Love is all around us
…literally. And we’re not just talking Valentine’s Day. These days you can see it practically everywhere as it appears on everyone’s Instagram notification tab whenever someone double-taps one of their photos and pans across the world’s largest LED illuminated facade right here in Jakarta.
It has become an icon that needs no explanation nor translation and has appeared in some of today’s most popular brands.
Love at First Sight
But the use of heart shape in logos goes back to no later than the 19th century, as Oscar-Edmond Ris-Paquot’s 1893 Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Marques & Monogrammes recorded a substantial number of heart marks used over the previous several centuries.
Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Marques & Monogrammes by Oscar-Edmond Ris-Paquot, 1893. Image courtesy Archive.org via slate.com
A Labor of Love
The shape’s popularity in logo designs escalated even more in 1977 as it appeared in Milton Glaser’s I ♥ NY mark that you can now see on T-shirts, mugs, caps, anything NY-related. Commissioned for the promotion of the state’s tourism, he conceived the final sketch of the logo inside of a taxi —another iconic representation of New York.
Out of love for the state Glaser gave his work for free and it then became a public property. Ever since the introduction, so many I ♥ logos started appearing, both official and questionable.
Official logos from Saatchi and Saatchi’s 2003 I ♥ NY campaign, featuring different aspects of New York city. Via andrewkeir.com
Some imitations. Via andrewkeir.com
A notable version of the logo with a smudge on the heart appeared in a poster that circulated all over New York city in 2001. It was an expression of the people’s deep feeling towards the state following the 9/11 attack.
Image courtesy miltonglaser.com
For us, the I ♥ NY logo is everything that a great logo should be: simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, appropriate and certainly meaningful.
Love is a Universal Language
Heartbrand symbol, 2003. Image courtesy unilever.com
Every family around the world knows this symbol, but not necessarily accociates it with the same name. What Indonesian families know as Wall’s is called a lot of different names in other parts of the world.
Unilever, the global consumer goods giant, has been using a clever strategy of using (or keeping, in the cases of acquisition) different ice cream brand names for different parts of the globe, each one palatable to certain local markets.
Heartbrand logos, 2003. Image courtesy unilever.com
However, as you can see above, one swirling heart shape is consistently placed above all the different names, signifying the joy of living. The result is a series of international brands collectively known as Heartbrand.
On their website, Unilever explains:
“You might have noticed our heart-shaped logo. It’s in every high street around the world, a sign that says ‘here there’s joy!’. And you can find our logo on so many of the world’s favourite ice creams, including Magnum, Cornetto, Solero, Viennetta and Carte d’Or.
Our products are sold in more than 40 countries around the world, under different local names. In the UK and most parts of Asia, we’re known as Wall’s. In Italy, you’ll see Algida, in Germany we’re Langnese, we’re Ola in the Netherlands and in Brazil we’re called Kibon. But it’s the same delicious ice creams wherever you are.”
The Matter of The Heart
So, what is it about it that is so fascinating to our eyes?
The way we see it, the heart shape is a combination of several things that are ‘visually pleasant’: perfect symmetry, the color red (in most cases) and rhythmic curves. So it makes sense that it is enjoyable to look at.
Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon by Martin Kemp
Furthermore, in his 2011 book, art historian Martin Kemp writes about the use of the heart shape throughout history, from early anatomical depictions of the organ to the symbol that we all know and love today:
“It is… a shape that is appealing in its simple yet seductive rhythm, and once seen it is difficult to forget. It is like the melody of a great pop song.”
Why Are Heart-Shaped Logos So Popular?
The Story Behind I Heart New York