The rainbow logo
I saw the rainbow for the first time in my first year of secondary school, way back in the early 1980s. There was just one in a room full of BBC Model Bs and their too-square screens, on the nameplate of an Apple II. The BBCs weren’t bad machines as such – I would end up getting one at home so I could write bad adventure games. But they were outshone by the Apple, not least because it was the only computer in the room that had any video games on it.
The rainbow design wasn’t Apple’s first logo. The original one was created by Ron Wayne in 1976 and showed Sir Isaac Newton underneath the apple tree that would famously bonk him on the head, leading him to discover the concept of gravity. It was a very seventies kind of design, and its detail made it a pain to reproduce.
The Apple logo we know and love was the work of Regis McKenna’s creative director, Rob Janoff, who added the bite so that it wouldn’t be confused with a tomato. The logo was originally designed to be black only, to save on printing costs. But Steve Jobs insisted on colours to help humanise the company image.
There was no subtext to the colours. Despite claims the rainbow was an implicit gay pride reference, or perhaps a tribute to persecuted British genius Alan Turing, Janoff says he hadn’t even considered either of these. And the bite out of the apple wasn’t a play on the word ‘byte’ either.
The rainbow finally lost its stripes in the late 1990s to become translucent and blue. There would be further colour changes – monochrome on some hardware, glassy on packaging – but bar the odd advert, the rainbow wouldn’t return, although the logo retains its classic shape.
That’s the right call, I think – the flat logo on the iPhone 6 makes it look like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, something a rainbow wouldn’t do – but it’s a shame too. Since I first saw it, I’ve associated the Apple rainbow with joy. At the time it was a blaze of colour in a world of beige.