Coca-Cola is often held up as the epitome of branding, yet its logotype seems to break many of the rules of identity design. Based on Spencerian script - a 19th century form of handwriting - it is fussy, detailed and anything but simple.
However it is balanced and has plenty of charm. As designers seem to have rediscovered over the last decade, hand-rendered script brings a human quality to any piece of work. That could be why the soft drink company's logo has lasted over 126 years. But is has taken some strange turns on the way...
In 1890, a version of the logo was created and used only once, on the first calendar ever printed by the company. It features a style heavily reminiscent of musical notation and wholly out-of-kilter with the logo we know today. The creator of this design is unknown, but they certainly brought an unusual feel to the lettering.
It wasn't until 1893 that the first iteration of the logo we recognise today was unveiled. A slightly thinner rendering of the words Coca-Cola coincided with the company's early growth. Asa Candler had acquired the brand from Pemberton and the strategy was to outfit chemist shops with soda fountains. At this time syrup plants were built in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Fast forward to 1970, and the introduction of the wave or dynamic ribbon device to the identity brought with it boldness and drama. It reflects the contour of the bottle and suggests some motion. It was tweaked when New Coke and later Coke Classic were introduced in the 1980s.
The up-to-date Coca-Cola identity has just a slight tweak to the curve and thickness of wave beneath the logotype compared to the 1970 version, plus the addition of the world 'classic'.
Words: Garrick Webster
The 50 Best Logos Ever(opens in new tab)
This is an edited version of a chapter from The 50 Best Logos Ever (opens in new tab), the definitive guide to the greatest identity work ever created. Over 180 premium pages, the book dissects the world's greatest logos, showing their origins, their evolutions and interviewing the designers behind them.
So where did the Coca-Cola logo come in the top 50? The only way to find out is to pick up the book at all good newsagents today or order it online (opens in new tab). Or you can download a digital edition directly to your iPad from the Computer Arts app on iTunes (opens in new tab).