I'm writing a paper on logos, iconography and different forms of identifications for trade activities. The paper starts with history of logos, which is pretty easy and known. However, I'm wondering: which is the oldest "brand logotype" ever?

To define a brand logotype, I use the following characteristics:

  • It needs to have a name
  • Preferably, it should have a purpose (activity) and/or icon or symbol
  • It needs to be strictly related to trading or any economic PRIVATE activity

So, for example, a brand logotype is NOT an Egyptian Cartouche or the Ichthys, because they don't represent a commercial activity or brand.

So far, the oldest I could find is a bronze plate from Song Dinasty for Liu's Needle Shop , which is part of an advertisement commonly accepted as the oldest advertisement ever (just not necessarily the oldest BRAND). However, I'm not sure that's correct. I have seen advertisements in Pompeii, Herculanus and Ostia (sadly, I don't remember if there was a brand per se, the closest I can remember is a tavern in Ostia Antica that had some kind of sign at the entrance, which could have been merely decorative). And it seems to me ancient Egyptian, Roman or even Greek traders needed some kind of brand identification.

Anyways... is Liu's Needle Shop the oldest brand ever or is there an older one?

  • 1
    You should probably try to come up with a more narrow definition. That Song dynasty advertisement is not a very impressive logo. There are manufacturer marks on e.g. swords and marks on building materials (including in the pyramids I believe) which may fit your current definition, and are pretty old.
    – Tomas By
    Jun 28 '20 at 21:34
  • The Dutch East India Company's logo was possibly the first globally recognized corporate logo. (wiki)
    – Tomas By
    Jun 28 '20 at 21:54
  • @TomasBy I understand old representations and iconography might not be very impressive, but Liu's is the one commonly accepted as first advertisement. The swords would be very interesting, but the pyramids are not an example, because as I said in my pretty narrow definition, the builder's name is not a commercial brand. The Dutch East example is great. Technically, the oldest modern logo is Stella Artois which is 300 years older, but there are no depictions of the original logo, so this one is a great find, thank you!
    – Devin
    Jun 28 '20 at 23:08
  • 1
    Here is a relevant article. time.com/2904290/10-oldest-company-logos
    – Spencer
    Jun 28 '20 at 23:24
  • 1
    What is a "commercial enterprise"? Medieval guilds 9with their distinctive hallmarks) were profit-seeking organizations. So were the Hanseatic League; the Republic of Venice (employing the Banner of St. Mark since 697 as well as all its leading families with their own ensigns and coats-of-arms; What about the distinctive banding of Damascus Steel? it seems to me the question is not who was first, but how far back one cares, or is able, to look. Jun 29 '20 at 1:28

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