The YouTube logo: a history

YouTube logo
The familiar YouTube logo (Image credit: YouTube)

The YouTube logo hasn't changed a huge amount over the years. In fact, compared to some of the social media and internet startups that emerged around the same time, it's been a lesson in restraint when it comes to updating a logo – and that may be why it's been able to avoid the outrage that tends to greet many logo makeovers. Most of YouTube's logo redesigns have been so restrained, in fact, that you might not have noticed them at all, but the logo's actually changed several times – and here we'll show you every version that's been used to date.

The video sharing platform has been with us for an incredible 17 years now, and chances are you're very familiar with that black logotype and red square. With the exception of a series of more radical temporary Black History Month logos in February of this year (we'll look at those below too), the YouTube logo has only ever changed as much as YouTube felt it needed to in order remain fresh and relevant, ensuring that it's always been easy to recognise in the process. 

No, it may not be in our pick of the best logos of all time. But the YouTube logo history can still teach us a few things about how a successful logo can be almost imperceptibly improved and streamlined over time.

The YouTube logo history: 2005 to 2011

The first YouTube logo

The first YouTube logo (Image credit: YouTube)

It's difficult to remember a time when no one knew what YouTube was, but when former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karimon launched the platform on Valentine's Day in 2005, that was the situation they faced. This meant that they needed a logo that somehow captured what YouTube was. And the design they settled on did just that.

 They opted for a logotype with the brand's name in a very old font, Alternate Gothic number two. Despite being branded as a single word, YouTube was split in two: the first half of the name in black, while “Tube” appeared in white, in a rectangular box that was rounded enough and had just enough of a gradient to clearly be interpreted as a television.

The YouTube logo 2011 to 2013

The second YouTube logo

YouTube's second logo looks less obviously like an old TV (Image credit: YouTube)

It would be six years before the YouTube logo was tweaked at all – and it was, it finally was, it was a very minor change. By 2011, people knew what YouTube was. People were also now using flatscreen TVs instead of cathode-ray tubes. So YouTube platform flattened that red box a little, making it less glossy, less 3D, and less obviously resembling an old television.

Now with a matte finish, the logo seems to have been designed to look more modern, fresh and relevant. Note the shadow at the bottom of the white letters, though. That would look a bit dated within a couple of years.

The YouTube logo history: 2013 to 2015

The third YouTube logo

The next YouTube logo dropped the interior shadow on 'Tube' (Image credit: YouTube)

Like I said, that shadow effect wouldn't last long. In 2013, the YouTube logo came in for another quite minor change. That shadow was dropped, and the red background also got brighter. Here, YouTube was following the general trend for simpler, more minimalist logos, ensuring it stayed fresh.

The YouTube logo history: 2015 to 2017

The fourth YouTube logo

YouTube went for a darker shade of red in 2015 (Image credit: YouTube)

Just two years later, YouTube thought better of that lighter shade or red and darkened it down again. On the one hand, it seems that YouTube suddenly cost restless with its branding – after six years with the same logo, it was now making minor tweaks every couple of years. But, again it was following the general trend – perhaps even the need – to simplify and flatten logo designs. This change seems intended to communicate the platform's maturing into something more serious and professional.

The YouTube logo history: 2017 to today

The YouTube logo today

The YouTube logo today (Image credit: YouTube)

After another two years, the YouTube logo saw its first and only major overhaul in in 2017. The new design, which was created in-house, finally dropped the TV shape surrounding 'Tube', moving that to one side to allow space for a cleaner and clearer wordmark. Now, with the type run together and all in black, it finally becomes clear in the logo that YouTube is intended to be spelled as one word with no space. 

Instead of 'Tube' in the red box, there's now a white play button. This had the benefit of allowing the icon to stand alone for use in spaces where a wordmark would be too big, for example as a mobile app icon, making the new logo more flexible for different use cases.

It was a clear transformation from the previous logo, and in fact, it involved more changes than many people might have noticed. The typeface was changed to a new bespoke font, and the colour of the rectangle changed again, now a pure red, #FF0000, which YouTube said represents the "RGB of video". Again the brighter colour serves to make the icon alone immediately recognisable when used on smartphones.

YouTube Logo history: all of the the YouTube Black History month logos

YouTube BHM logo

Leandro Assis's YouTube logo design (Image credit: YouTube)

The most radical change to the YouTube logo actually came earlier this year, but only as a temporary campaign, a little like Google's doodles. To mark Black History Month (BHM), the platform commissioned Black artists to reimagine the platform's logo every week in February. 

A new design appeared on the site every Monday, starting with Brazilian artist Leandro Assis (opens in new tab)'s contribution. Assis's logo features YouTube's familiar red play button, but with stylised 'BHM' lettering replacing the standard YouTube wordmark.

Assis's logo was followed over the next three weeks with designs by North Carolina-based artist and designer Keisha Okafor (opens in new tab), Louis-based designer and illustrator Marco Cheatham (opens in new tab) and Brooklyn-based illustrator Shanée Benjamin (opens in new tab) (see all of the YouTube Black History Month logos in the gallery above).

"What inspired me to create this piece were the Black people around me," Assis told YouTube in a blog post (opens in new tab) introducing the BHM project. "The meaning and importance of our hair, the way we dance, the rhythms we create, and the beauty of our different skin tones."

The lesson we can learn from the YouTube logo history is that a good design stands the test of time. And when it does need updating, it should often be done slowly, subtly and for a good reason. For more insights into how logos have changed, see our piece on the Google logo history. And If you're feeling inspired by the YouTube logo history and looking to hone your own design skills, see our guide to how to design a logo. If you need to upgrade your software, see the best current prices for Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of apps below.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.