The History of and Story Behind The Oracle Logo


There may be more to a brand’s image than just a logo, but a good one doesn’t half help. As a means of connecting with a customer base and giving an instantly recognizable clue as to who’s behind a product, the role of the logo is hard to overestimate. Companies might not rise and fall by virtue of their emblem alone, but there’s a reason they invest so much into their development. But what makes a good logo? While it’s hard to define what makes one logo work and another one fail, the best all have certain things in common. They’re simple enough to stand the test of time, memorable enough to leave a mark, versatile and scalable enough to suit a million different products and a million different scenarios. Most of all, they fit the brand. Imagine the McDonalds logo on a Chanel handbag. Or the Jaguar emblem on a bottle of coke. Doesn’t work, does it? So, what kind of logo is befitting of one of the world’s biggest computer technology corporations? Take a look at the Oracle logo, and you might just find the answer.

The History of Oracle

In 1977, Oracle was born. Or rather, Software Development Laboratories (SDL) (it’s original name) was. Conceived by Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oates, the company found its inspiration in “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks”, a paper written by Edgar F. Codd in 1970 dedicated to the fascinating (and frankly, completely over-our-heads) topic of relational database management systems.

After getting wind of the IBM System R database, Ellison set about trying to make Oracle’s products compatible with System R. But as Wiki notes, thanks to IBM’s determination to keep the error codes for their DBMS a closely guarded secret, he failed dismally in his mission. He did, however, succeed in making the company’s flagship product, Oracle Database, a roaring success. In an attempt to align more closely with the product, the company changed its name to Oracle Systems Corporation in 1983 (although it’s worth mentioning that they’d already changed their name from SDL to Relational Software, Inc (RSI) in 1979). Three years later, Oracle made its initial public offering; 9 years after that, it changed its name again, this time to Oracle Corporation.

Fast forward to today, and Oracle is one of the world’s biggest producers of database software and technology, cloud engineered systems, and enterprise software products. In recent years, it’s also enjoyed success by diversifying into enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Human Capital Management (HCM) software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and supply chain management (SCM) software. As of 2020, it has $115.44 billion in assets, $39.07 billion in revenue, 135,000 employees, and a logo that’s instantly recognizable the world over.

The Evolution of the Logo

Until 1983, Oracle was known under a very different name. It stands to reason, then, that the Oracle logo only came into existence with the company’s rebranding of that same year. Designed to match the new corporate identity, the logo eventually developed into two separate entities when Oracle bought up the information technology company, Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Sun for short), in 2010.

The Logo Today

Leaving aside the 2nd logo that was developed when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010 (we’ll circle back to that shortly), the Oracle logo of today is very much the same logo that was conceived back in 1983. As notes, the logo consists of an appealing, modernistic wordmark that utilizes typographic elements from the company name. Simple, clean, and with just enough styling to stand out from the crowd (but not enough to make it subject to the passing whims and fashions of the day), it ticks all the boxes that a good logo should (see our opening paragraph if you need a refresher on what those are).

The Color Scheme

For all its clean and simple aesthetics, the Oracle logo is no boring design. If you want your logo to stand out in a sea of other emblems, you need to introduce something with plenty of visual appeal. Something that draws the eye and makes people sit up and take notice. And what better way to do that than with a big splash of primary color? The hue Oracle has chosen for its logo is about as bold as the rest of the logo is understated. Red – a color that smacks of vibrancy, power, and dynamism – elevates what would otherwise be a bog-standard logo into something fresh, lively, and almost aggressive.

Maybe are on the right track when they say Oracle chose red as a way of symbolizing their aggression towards providing the best software solutions; of showing how dynamic and flexible they can be at developing software that fits into the needs of their clients. Or maybe Larry Ellison just really, really likes red. Whatever the reason, it works. When you want to make your brand stand out from the crowd and draw the eye of as many customers as possible, you need at least one element of drama – something that the red on white theme of the Oracle logo provides in abundance.

The Other Logo

Why have one logo when you can have two? When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, it also acquired the rights to the company’s visual identity. And what’s the point of having rights if you’re not prepared to exercise them? The original Sun logo was developed by Stanford University professor, Vaughan Pratt. Featuring four interleaved copies of the word sun in the shape of a rotationally symmetric ambigram, the Sun logo went through three different incarnations in its time. The first version featured an orange color scheme along with horizontally and vertically orientated sides. The mark-II logo came with a big blast of purple and a diamond shaped symbol, while the third and final version featured a more stylized word plate and a new blue look. As notes, when Oracle took over the company in 2010, it kept the diamond-shaped ambigram and the word “Sun” of the original logo, but added their own mark by placing a red rectangle with the words “ORACLE” beneath them.

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