Unraveling the tale behind the Apple logo | CNN (2024)

Unraveling the tale behind the Apple logo | CNN (1)

A number of stories have cropped up over the years to explain the origin of the Apple logo design.

Editor’s Note: Holden Frith is deputy editor, online, of The Sunday Times.

Story highlights

Holden Frith says one story recounts how the Apple logo was a tribute to Alan Turing

"Sadly, the truth is rarely as simple, or beautiful, as we would like," he writes

Apple logo artist Rob Janoff is charmed by the story but was unaware of the association

Frith: More than most, Steve Jobs appreciated the value of a beautiful story


If beauty is indeed truth, as John Keats claimed, then this story ought to be true: The logo on the back of your iPhone or Mac is a tribute to Alan Turing, the man who laid the foundations for the modern-day computer, pioneered research into artificial intelligence and unlocked German wartime codes.

His death, a decade after the end of the war, provides the link with Apple. Unrecognized for his work, facing jail for gross indecency and humiliated by estrogen injections intended to ‘cure’ his hom*osexuality, he bit into an apple he had laced with cyanide. He died in obscurity on June 7, 1954, 10 years and a day after the Normandy landings, which made copious use of intelligence gleaned by his methods.

And so, the story goes, when two Stanford entrepreneurs were looking for a logo for their brand new computer company, they remembered Turing and his contribution to their field. They chose an apple – not a complete apple, but one with a bite taken out of it.

Sadly, the truth is rarely as simple, or beautiful, as we would like. I first researched this story in 2005 and was assured by someone at Apple that it was indeed true. The article struck a chord and several people got in touch to say how pleased or touched they were to hear the story.

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A few years later I mentioned it to another Apple employee, who immediately said that he thought it was a myth. It may have started around the time of the 2001 film about the Bletchley Park code breakers, Enigma, or it may have just resurfaced then. He checked with Apple headquarters, and although they were non-committal, it was clear that that Turing story was not official Apple history.

Other theories were advanced. The apple represented knowledge, as in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, or referenced the falling fruit that led Sir Isaac Newton to the concept of gravity. Supporters of the latter theory note the name of Apple’s handheld PDA, the Newton, but that was more than a decade after the creation of the logo.

Sadly, the evidence now points in a more prosaic direction. In a 2009 interview with CreativeBits, Rob Janoff, the man who drew the logo, reflected on the theories about his work. He dismisses Sir Isaac or the Bible as source material and, while he says he is charmed by the links with the Turing story, he says he was unaware of them at the time.

“I’m afraid it didn’t have a thing to do with it,” he said. “It’s a wonderful urban legend.”

Janoff says that he received no specific brief from Steve Jobs, and although he’s hazy about how he settled on the simple outline of an apple, the reason for the bite is crystal clear: it’s there for scale, he says, so that a small Apple logo still looks like an apple and not a cherry.

It wasn’t long before Janoff discovered the first happy coincidence of his design, when a colleague told him that “bytes” were the foundation stones of computing. The more romantic myth-making would follow soon behind.

I was disappointed when the Turing story was first cast into doubt, but grew to enjoy the uncertainty. Limbo seemed a fitting, even poetic state, for the tale of a man who lived in the shadows. Even his tribute was now floating between life and death, like Snow White after she swallowed her own mythical apple.

I hope that a similar respect for beauty over cold, hard fact lay behind Steve Jobs’ silence on the matter. He could have dismissed the creation myths inspired by his company, but he chose not to. More than most, he appreciated the value of a beautiful story.

Unraveling the tale behind the Apple logo | CNN (2024)


What is the true story behind the Apple logo? ›

The job of creating the company's first logo fell to Ronald Wayne, who decided to use Isaac Newton's image sitting below a tree – the same Isaac Newton who discovered gravity when an apple fell out of a tree onto his head.

What is the story behind the bitten Apple logo? ›

Rob Janoff , the graphic designer who created the logo in 1977, has mentioned that the bite was added to the apple simply to avoid any confusion with a cherry. The colourful, friendly logo was designed to make computing more approachable and less intimidating.

What is the deeper meaning of the Apple logo? ›

The bitten apple logo was designed to make the apple distinctive from other fruit. The logo was also intended to differentiate Apple from other hard-edged tech companies and signifies 'biting into all the knowledge users would get out of this computer' (according to a 2018 interview Rob Janoff gave with Forbes).

What is the hidden message in the Apple logo? ›

The very first Apple logo had the image of Sir Issac Newton sitting under an apple tree while the second logo (rainbow Apple) was derived from Newton's prism work. Some people like to believe that the logo indirectly symbolizes the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve, depicting lust and knowledge.

Is the Apple logo from the Bible? ›

In a 2009 interview with CreativeBits, Rob Janoff, the man who designed the logo, reflected on the theories about his work. He dismissed the links to Isaac newton, the Bible, and Alan Turing. “I'm afraid it didn't have a thing to do with it,” he said. “It's a wonderful urban legend.”

What fruit did Adam and Eve eat? ›

Although the idea that Adam and Eve ate an apple is common today, the Book of Genesis never mentions the identity of the forbidden fruit.

What is the forbidden logo on Mac? ›

A prohibitory symbol, which looks like a circle with a line or slash through it, means that your startup disk contains a Mac operating system, but it's not a version or build of macOS that your Mac can use. Press and hold the power button on your Mac for up to 10 seconds, until your Mac turns off.

Why did Apple name itself Apple? ›

Why did Apple name itself Apple? According to a biography of Steve Jobs, the name stemmed from Jobs' love of apples. Jobs chose the name because it seemed lively, spirited, and not intimidating.

What is the hidden message in Coca Cola logo? ›

Coca-Cola. This one might take a little time to actually see. Even Coca-Cola themselves don't really associate the hidden image with their logo. Nonetheless, the hidden message in the Coca-Cola logo is actually the Danish flag.

Is the Apple logo based on the Forbidden Fruit? ›

Rob Janoff, who designed the logo in 1977, said as much in a recent interview. Nevertheless, the “fruit with a bite mark” iconography certainly alludes to Eden and temptation, whether it was intended to or not. For various reasons, the association with forbidden fruit could not be more fitting.

Is Apple logo inspired by Neem Karoli Baba? ›

While the specific extent of Baba's influence on Apple's logo , the spiritual connection between the tech giant the mystic remains a fascinating chapter.

Who invented the Apple logo? ›

Rob Janoff is an American graphic designer of corporate logos and identities, printed advertisem*nts and television commercials. He is known for his creation of the Apple logo.

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