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Famous logos: Part I - Shell

The famous logos section of the Sviiter blog will take you on a trip back in time. We’ll take a look at how famous logos were developed over the past decade, but at times we’ll go back as far as a century. We’ll try and understand why and how the brand language of well-known companies got started and who or what was behind their development. The main character of our first instalment is Shell.

Shell is a company founded in 1907 with roots both in the Netherlands and the UK. Its first and full name of the Royal Dutch Shell plc. was a combination of the companies Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport & Trading. As far as we know, today it is one of the four oldest companies in the world.


The name of the company came about much earlier, when Marcus Samuel, the father of the founder of Shell Transport & Trading, established a transport company in 1891 to supply London’s retailers with seashells. Soon young Marcus Samuel noticed the export potential of lamp oil (kerosene) and had the first oil tanker built. It was called Murex, which in Latin means ‘shell’.


The Shell logo is one of the most recognised in the world. Raymond Loewy created the first version of the logo in 1971 and based it on a large scallop shell. Other legendary Loewy designs include logos for giants such as Exxon, TWA, US Post, SPAR and previous versions of the BP logo. At the same time, he is better known for his product design work, for example, interiors for Boeing and NASA, motorcycle parts for Harley Davidson, and even packaging for Lucky Strike tobacco. His clients at one time or another included other major companies such as Coca-Cola, Air France, Electrolux, Lincoln, and many others.




The first Shell logos were created at the beginning of the 1900s, when at first the shell itself was laying flat on the ground. However, in 1904 during the design process the shell was turned upright, which made it an easier image to portray and also gave a clearer view of the object. The initially black and white logo was changed to a colourful one in 1948, when the cleaner lines that had been used in the meantime were abandoned and a coloured version of the 1909 logo was adopted. Yellow and red were chosen to be the Shell colours because of the main Shell location and market – California, home to a large Spanish community.


By 1955, the logo’s visual language became much clearer and the company name was moved to a better position. In 1961 a red frame was added to soften the harshness of the logo.

1971 saw the complete overhaul of the Shell logo by the same designer Raymond Loewy. Since then the Shell logo has remained nearly unchanged, which shows Loewy’s unique capacity to create value that stands the test of time.

Read also:
Famous logos: Part II - Audi
Famous logos: PartIII - Starbucks
Famous logos: Part IV - AT&T
Famous logos: Part V: MasterCard

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Tom isn't just only svg icon with beige face and pink ears. He is much more. With his everyday job, Tom stands for directing information between Sviiter associates and scouts design trends over the internet.
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