If you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll likely remember a world without Amazon.com (though you may not want to admit it). When it launched in 1995, Amazon was a mere bookseller, albeit with the lofty goal and tagline to be the “Earth’s biggest book store.”
Founder Jeff Bezos originally planned to name his e-commerce site “Cadabra” as in “Abracadabra,” but in a much-quoted story, his lawyer thought he was saying “cadaver,” which is really not the optimal name for anything, including a business that you’re trying to bring to life. To keep his brainchild from becoming DOA even before launch, Bezos instead named it after the mighty Amazon River, in a textbook example of setting yourself up for either spectacular failure or spectacular success. It was a prescient move, as it’s turned out to be the perfect name for a company still poised to take over the world, as aptly put on The Motley Fool two years ago.
Amazon’s early logos sported a simple design incorporating a river flowing through the letter “A”. In 1997, the company bought IMDb and started selling music, DVDs and videos. It also dropped its “River Runs through It” look for a simpler logo closer to the lowercase look of today, though the bookstore sub-title was still in play:
As Amazon diversified its offerings to also include gifts and auctions, the e-commerce giant’s logo was fine-tuned even more. Its subtitle was dropped for a gold, downward-curving line underneath “amazon.com”. In 2000, creative agency Turner Duckworth designed the now-ubiquitous Amazon logo, taking the gold line and changing it to an arrow that ran from “a” to “z”, representing the massive amount of products that Amazon now sold, whether directly from the company or through its many Fulfilled by Amazon partners.
The arrow in the logo is also a smile, ending in a dimple. If you look at the logo as a whole, you can visualize the two lowercase a’s serving as the eyes above that smile. On its website, Turner Duckworth discusses the need for “visual wit” to bring personality to a brand, and the arrow-as-smile’s success is apparent in every smiling Amazon box delivered to a customer. Smiles lead to more smiles, and the delivery of an Amazon box is designed to make the recipient happy. What better branding is there than that?Bezos has repeatedly proven his audacity and optimism. The streamlined logo was a bold move by a company that, at the time, had yet to report a profit (and didn’t have an entirely profitable year until 2003). Amazon’s smile–and its touch—is most definitely gold these days.