If you want a fantastic example of continuity in logo design, you simply have to take a look at General Electric. There’s a fair chance that you have something designed by GE in your home, even if you didn’t seek out the company’s products on purpose. The company has its fingers in dozens of different enterprises, and many electronic items do owe a debt to the company. On all of those items is stamped a logo – virtually the same one that’s been in use since 1900. Taking a look at the General Electric logo is an amazing chance to look at how small changes can keep an iconic logo relevant at the turn of two different centuries.
General Electric Logo Design Elements
The shape of the General Electric logo is simple – it’s just a circle with a bit of script inside. It’s the kind of simplicity that you’d expect from both an early 20th and early 21st-century logo, but not necessarily the kind of thing you’d expect to go without major revisions for over a century. The only ‘unique’ element in the shape are the four wave-like lines inside the logo, each of which are minor design flourishes that are nonetheless a vital part of the overall logo.
The color of today’s logo is a light blue and white, a breezy logo that creates a friendly face for the giant company. The colors are airy enough that they work on most products, but not so vital that they can’t go back to greyscale when printed on metal. The font inside is certainly a unique, quasi-gothic font that can only be described as a GE original – easy enough to identify at a glance, but still so unique that it is always going to be associated with the company.
Changes and Evolution
The original shape of the GE logo did not feature the circle. Instead, it featured only a highly-stylized version of the current script. The circle would become part of the design in 1900, in a stamped-metal form that spoke to its industrial applications. It would assume its typical printed shape in 1909 and keep the same shape for almost a hundred years, alternating only in the thickness of the outline and the wave-lines within the circle. It’s a testament to how GE has only made passing nods to changing with the times.
GE’s logo started out as black, as much an element of design at the time as one of purpose. It would continue to stay black for over a hundred years due to the ease of either stamping the monochrome logo on metal or printing the black-and-white logo on paper. It wouldn’t be until the 21st century that any color change would come, as the company moved to the current light-blue. It’s definitely a sign that the company has made an attempt to move past its more utilitarian roots to something a little more consumer-friendly.
The font in the GE logo is one of its most easily-identifiable aspects. The logo itself was originally just a version of the current font, though even more stylized than that seen today. There has been virtually no change in the font style since 1909, a remarkable example of a company sticking with a single brand identity for a solid century. In fact, the only real changes in the font at all since 1900 have been slight differences in the overall thickness of the lines – a minor change that’s hard for anyone but a design student to detect.
The major influences behind the General Electric logo are, oddly, probably companies that no longer exist. You’re looking at a logo that can easily be stamped on metal, so it shares a general ancestry with companies that produced everything from cast-iron pans to furnaces. It’s absolutely the kind of logo that functions more of a mark of trade than anything else, so you can truthfully say that this is a logo style that probably stretches back to the earliest days of metalwork.
Given its age, it’s hard to argue that General Electric’s logo doesn’t have a hand in the development of the modern logo form. Any business that uses its initials in a logo (IBM, for example) or that has a circular logo probably owes a debt here.
- GE was formedin part by Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric
- GE is responsible for 1/3 of the world’s wind energy.
- GE was one of the original Dow Jones companies.
GE’s logo has stood the test of time. By being simple but identifiable, the company’s logo has outlasted almost all of its competition. This is the logo to study if you’re looking for the benefits of simplicity and longevity in marketing.