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Shell Logo History & Evolution Rising From Insignificance To An Iconic Status

Henny Kel by Henny Kel Tweet - in Logo Design - 6 min read

Last updated on November 27th, 2017

Shell logo first came to fore in the early 20th century. Since then, the logo has undergone major changes and it looks entirely different today from its earlier version. Today Shell logo has a sophisticated and elegant look that successfully represents global reputation of the oil and gas multinational company.

The yellow-red Shell logo has played a crucial role in the success of the company. The logo design is such that people can easily remember it for a long period. Such a logo helps the company in interacting with its customers without personally coming in touch with them all the time. It would be interesting to have a look at the company logo evolution of more than hundred years. As we go though the logos history, we come to know that it had a very casual and unimpressive design in the earlier years of its evolution. As the time passed and technological advancements were made in the printing and color printing, the logo transformed itself and took a new eye-pleasing shape.

Shell Logo – Main Highlights on History & Evolution

  • Early 1900s unimpressive design

    Today, of course, the Shell logo is recognized the world over due to its unique design. But when shell logo appeared for the first time in early years of 1900s, it was a very poor drawing of a mussel shell. While it is true that a mollusk shell does not have an impressive shape, but poor designing further worsened appearance of the logo. The shell was pictured from an angle which did not make any improvement in the shape.

  • 1909 First redesigning attempt failed measurably

    For a better aesthetic value of the logo, picture of mussel shell was replaced with a scallop shell. This enhanced the logos appearance, however, the black color of the logos back space made it look poor. The design created in 1909 lasted for two decades.

Shell logo 1909

  • 1930s logo takes symmetrical shape

    The company took the next redesigning step in 1930. This time, an art style shell design had an excellent shape that looked symmetrical and impressive. The design gave shape of a crown to the logo as the company wanted to project itself as the king of business in its field.

Shell Oil Logo 1930

  • 1948- Colors introduced

    The first splash of colors was introduced to the shell logo design in 1948. However, the design turned out to be a step backward since the clean lines of the logo adopted in 1930 were missing. Instead, the new design had blurred lines and the logo was a bit taller which made it look like it was hand-colored. The company introduced red and yellow to the design as these were colors of Spain. California had its early settlers from Spain and the company wants to have an emotional bond with them.


  • 1971  Radical changes that lasted to date

    In 1971, the company started having a relook at its Shell logo design. The new design had clean lines that cut wide yellow strips, forming a crown shape. A major change in the design was introduction of bordering the yellow strips and whole of the logo design with red color. In fact, red outlining of the logo gave an entirely new look to the logo. The look was so impressive that company continues to have the red outline in its current version for rest of years to date. Shell logo design appears almost the same since 1971.

Shell Logo 1971

  • 1995 Friendly shades of red and yellow

    Another explanation for choice of red and yellow is that the Shell Company of California had built service stations and wanted to color them to stand out amid the competitors. It was in 1995 that the company started launching of its retail business and needed a new identity. During this period, the company strategically opted for friendly shades of red and yellow. Both these colors were slightly dimmed to lower their brightness so that people do not feel offended by the logo colors.

History of shell logo 1995

  • 1995- Curves trimmed

    In 1955, the design appeared much better and appealing to eyes. While basic design remained the same, little curves on the top of the logo. Color of the text matched with the entire color scheme. The red background we see today in the logo design was first introduced in 1961. Red gave a new look to the design.

Shell Logo Design Elements

The Shell logo underwent many changes during first seven decades of last century. But its spirit, spelled through its crown shape and red and yellow colors, never changed. The 1971 logo was landmark creation of Raymond Loewy. It would be interesting to know about the design elements employed the master designer in creating this logo.

  • Shape

    Despite redesigning of Shell logo, its crown shape did not undergo any changes. The shape is in fact protective outer case of mollusk shell. Shape of the logo narrates the incomparable reputation of the company. The company rightly adopted mollusk shell shape for depicting its king size status in the corporate world. Since the shell is also known for its association of Eco-cycle of oil exploration, the company sends the message of an ethical corporate house meeting the concerns of environment. The logo shape is so powerful that the company has never felt the need to change it in so many decades.

  • Color

    The Shell logo uses red and yellow as these are highlighting colors and provide a dominating look to the logo. Use of the colors optimizes the logos elegance and beauty. Yellow has been strategically maintained as a dominant color which is instantly visible and gives a soft look to the yellow. But the softness does not lower the status of the company in the global business as the crown shape of the logo give a message of domination. Red is very aggressive colors that may also offend the viewers. But it is also the color of energy. Hence, use of red is for outlining boundaries of the logo.

  • Font

    The designers used the fonts strategically to depict the oil company reputation in the corporate world. The letters SHELL are designed in bold font for the sole purpose of projecting the company high standing and qualities. Bold typeface also helps people to remember the logo. The company designed its SHELL letters in bold typeface also to showcase the everlasting dominating position of the company in the global oil and gas business.

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To conclude, Shell logo is an excellent example of a logo taking shape with gradual passage of time. It first started as a humble picture of a shell lying unnoticed at the sea beach. The logo then undergoes some changes in its shape and colors. Like other famous logos of global brands, Shell also refused to make any hasty changes in its logo design. The changes were made only when they were absolutely necessary to make. Shape, color and typeface of the logo have remained almost the same over the decades so that people identify with the company business and get message that the company continues to enjoy supremacy, power and strength in the global market.

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Henny Kel

I am a graphic, web designer and blogger with over 6 years experience. I am very passionate about anything related to design and spends copious amounts of time hidden behind a book or a screen and reading about design. Twitter | Google +



  • lauren

    Hi, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this article. It was inspiring. please go on posting! I will come soon.