Visit Rob Janoff’s personal website – www.RobJanoff.com
Here at Fans of Apple, we are thrilled and privileged to present our inaugural guest interview on our newly-launched website. And who better to introduce to our audience than Rob Janoff? Rob who you might ask? His name may be better known to those in the field of advertising and design, but to the general public, it may not be quite so familiar. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Best known for conceptualizing and designing the mega-iconic Apple logo that we all know and love, he was the “chosen designer” when Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, Inc. hired the agency where he was employed, Regis McKenna, to develop Apple’s first corporate identity.
About Rob Janoff
Born in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles, and educated at San Jose State University, Rob initially majored in the field of industrial design. After discovering that he wasn’t particularly enamored with that discipline, he then switched his focus to graphic design.
His first job out of college was at a small San Jose-based ad agency in 1970. About seven years later, after honing his design skills at his first company, he then landed a position at the established advertising agency Regis McKenna, in early 1977. Shortly after he began his tenure there, Janoff was assigned the task to design the corporate identity package for Apple Computer, Inc. Being one of a few art directors at this Palo Alto-based agency, his creative director had chosen him for this specific client based upon Rob’s extensive background in advertising design for high-technology clients, in addition to his strength in abstract conceptual visualization.
Now residing in the “windy city” of Chicago, IL, Rob still remains active in the field of advertising design as a consultant and also as an educator at the College of Lake County, IL, teaching a course on “Concepts in Advertising and Digital Media”.
The Apple Assignment
At the time of his initial meeting with Steve Jobs in early 1977, Apple Computer was still very much in its infancy, having been incorporated for less than one year, and perhaps best-known for their highly-detailed Sir Isaac Newton logo more than their hardware products under development. Their offices were in a local strip mall, and consisted of just the three founding partners – Steve Jobs; Steve Wozniak; and Mark Markkula. The initial identity development was to coincide with the introduction of the brand’s first personal computer, the Apple II series.
The entire design process with their upstart client only took about two weeks. After their initial meeting, Janoff went to work developing the Apple icon based upon examination of physical cross-sections of real “apples”. Upon further detailed development, a solitary design illustration was then created of a “rainbow-striped” apple. The only concept ever presented to Apple was an immediate success! The design and color scheme was promptly approved for production by Steve Jobs. Production artwork was then developed for print ads, hardware emblems and accessory elements such as the cassette tape cartridges; all in preparation for the launch of the Apple II in April of 1977, at the West Coast Computer Faire.
The Evolution of the Apple Logo
Since its official unveiling in 1977, a dramatic evolution of the Apple logo has taken place over the past three-and-a-half decades. The original 1976 “logo” featuring Sir Isaac Newton perched under an apple tree was the most short-lived, lasting from the company’s birthdate of April 1, 1976 to April of the following year – when the Apple II was introduced.
For the next 20 years, the infamous “rainbow version” adorned all Apple products from its computers products to Newton PDAs. Finally, in 1998, with the return of CEO Steve Jobs to the Apple helm in 1997, a revised translucent (plastic-like) version of the logo was unveiled, reflecting the new product lines that were being announced under his direction, in particular the Bondi-blue “all-in-one” iMac G3 in August of 1998.
The translucent logo remained “en vogue” until the last several years, whereafter variations of the theme resulted in metallic renditions of the design. The present “chrome” version featured on the Apple.com website is shown below alongside its predecessors.
Key points of the design process and other interesting facts
Here are some interesting tidbits and highlights of information that I was able to glean from our conversation regarding his experience in working with Apple and Steve Jobs during the company’s formative first year. It was indeed a great pleasure in having had the opportunity to speak with Rob the other day, and we hope to follow up this story with a personal video interview in the near future.
- Rob was hired to replace another designer at Regis McKenna – yet never took a formal advertising class in college
- Rob had previously worked on an ad campaign for client Intel which provided familiarity with technology companies
- His ability to visually define abstract concepts was the key factor in Rob being assigned the Apple project by his creative director
- Rob prepared only one (1) concept for Steve Jobs to review – and it was immediately adopted as the production version
- The entire design process only took approximately two weeks from initial meeting to final design presentation
- The reason for the rainbow stripes was two-fold: to humanize and make the products more “user-friendly” and because Steve Jobs had the intention of selling these computers to schools
- The “bite” was introduced to the apple to give the icon greater distinction from other fruit or vegetable profiles
- For font enthusiasts, the font that accompanied the early logo (below) is known as “Motter Tektura“
- Rob worked for Regis McKenna from 1977 to 1981 when it was purchased by Chiat/Day, the advertising agency which created the 1984 MacIntosh Super Bowl ad.
Additional reference and radio interview
The following additional reference was generously provided by Rob to me for the purposes of preparing this story, and he has allowed us to share with our readers.
Also, please listen to an excellent radio interview of Rob from his website – click here to listen.
- Roberta Barbaric, “Rob Janoff: Creator of the Die-hard Apple Logo”, www.mackorisnik.com, (Croatian) video interview, September 15, 2009
- Jeremy Bolton, “The Apple Logo: Why It Works”, www.jeremybolton.com, August 28, 2009
- Dan Moren, “Apple logo designer dishes on history”, www.macworld.com, August 17, 2009
- Stephanie Murg,”Rob Janoff Reveals Early Apple Logo, Starring Sir Isaac Newton”. www.mediabistro.com, August 8, 2009
- Ivan Raszi, “Interview with Rob Janoff, Designer of the Apple Logo”. www.creativebits.com, online interview, August 3, 2009
- David Caold, “Interview with Apple Logo Designer”, www.tuaw.com, August 3, 2009
- James Savage, “Episode 118: Rob Janoff”, radio interview podcast, www.retromaccast.com, May 23, 2009
- Margarit Ralev, “Meet Rob Janoff–the Apple Logo Designer” www.logoblink.com, May 9, 2009
- “The Evolution and History of the Apple Logo ”, www.edibleapple.com, April 20, 2009
- Johnson Banks, “Rob Janoff ”, www.goodlogo.com, April 14, 2009
- Micole Martinelli, “Rob Janoff on Creating the Apple Logo” www.cultofmac.com, online article, March 30, 2009
- Filip Truta, “Did you know: Who Bit Apple’s Apple? ” news.softpedia.com, September 15, 2008
- Jennifer Kabat, “Different Thinking” Frieze Magazine, London UK, May 7, 2008
- Gene Gable, “Scanning Around With Gene: The Apple Brand You May Not Recognize”, www.creativepro.com, March 13, 2008
- Ryan Quigley, “Identity Crisis: The History of the Apple Logo” www.graphis.com, December 19, 2007
- Harold Pedia, “Apple Logo History” www.thelogomix.com, September 18, 2007
- Andrew Huff, “Apple’s Logo Creator Lives Here” radio interview, www.gapersblock.com, May 10, 2006
- myoldmac.net, “Der Mamm, Der Das Apple Logo Erfand” February 8, 2006
- “Rob Janoff” www.wikipedia.com, online encyclopecia
- Matt Rodbard, “I Invented … The Apple Logo” Synk Magazine, June/July 2005, 32
- Joe Bently, “Apple logo, a tribute to Alan Turing? ” www.snopes.com, March 20, 2005
- Jonathan Wingfield, “The Talk: Celluloid Hero ” New York Times Magazine, September 19, 2004
- Owen W. Linzmayer, “Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company “, No Starch Press, 2004, 12
- Leander Kahney, “Apple Doin’ The Logo-Motion ” www.wired.com, September, 26, 2003
- Gavin Edwards, “The Logo” Rolling Stone issue 922, May 15, 2003, 110
- Greg Gore, “Understanding The Enigma of the Apple Computer Logo ” Daily Local News, Westchester, PA, February 12, 2003
- Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart, “A Smile in the Mind “, Phaidon Press, (1996), 30.