The History of and Story Behind the Snapchat Logo


Even those of us who are either too old or too tech illiterate to use it still know the name ‘Snapchat’. A multimedia messaging app that’s evolved over time from person-to-person photo sharing to 24 hour ‘Story’ teller, it’s one of the major success stories of the digital era. Just how much of that success can be credited to its famous logo is debatable. But still, it never hurts for a company to have a world-recognizable logo behind it, especially when that logo has become almost as much of a talking point as the brand itself.

Some people say the amorphous shape is a bell. Others swear blind it’s a ghost. Given that the Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel has said on more than one occasion that the logo is based on Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan, we’re going to hedge our bets and say it’s a phantom. But behind every good ghost, there’s a good story. So, what exactly is the story behind Ghostface Chillah (yep, this is a logo with an actual name)? Stay where you are as we weave you the tale of Ghostface Chillah.

The Snapchat Story

Before we get too caught up in the logo, let’s take a moment to consider the history of the brand itself. It all started back in 2011, when a group of Stanford students (who else?) chanced upon the bright idea of designing an app that allowed people to share fleeting images and photos, without committing those same photos to the permanent memory banks of the cloud. The “my eyes only” concept went down a storm, effectively removing the worry a lot of social media users had about the longevity of personal information held by sites like Facebook. By November 2012 (which, bear in mind, was just a little over a year since launch), over 1 billion photos had been shared on the Snapchat iOS app, equating to around 20 million photos per day. The release of an Android app swiftly followed, as did several modifications that eventually allowed users to share “stories” over a chronological 24-hour period. By the end of 2019, Snapchat had become the 5th most downloaded mobile app of the decade, making billionaires of its creators Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.

The History of the Logo

According to Snapchat founder, Evan Spiegel, the iconic ghostly logo was birthed before there even was a Snapchat. The first incarnation of Snapchat was a disappearing-image messaging app called, appropriately enough, ‘Picaboo’ – although whether the logo was inspired by the name, or the name was inspired by the logo, is still up for debate. According to Medium, Spiegel choose the image as a way of representing the non-palpable nature of the photos taken with the app – see them once, and before you know it, they’ve disappeared… much like the friendly ghost represented by the logo.

As reports, it took Spiegel just one evening to conjure up the logo. After plowing through no end of logos from other popular applications to figure out what worked and what didn’t, he eventually realized that no matter the app, all the logos had one thing in common. Not a single one was executed in yellow. So, what better color to utilize for his own creation, then? After deciding on the cheery yellow and white color scheme, he drew up the final creation on his bedroom computer. And thus, a logo legend was born. When Picaboo was superceded by Snapchat in 2011, several of its features were replaced and the focus moved from branding effects to usability and technicality. The one thing that remained intact, however, was the phantom-like logo.

Ghostface Chillah

How many logo’s get their own name? Not many, we’d guess, but then again, what do you expect of a company created by a bunch of 22-year olds? The Snapchat logo (which has become something of a mascot for the company), goes by the name “Ghostface Chillah,” a moniker that makes no attempt to hide its inspiration – Ghostface Killah of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

The Evolution of Ghostface Chillah

From 2011 to 2013, Ghostface Chillah had a face. A cute little face with 2 button eyes, a smiling mouth, and even a cheeky little protruding pink tongue. As points out, if you were to imagine the classic Halloween ghost outfit, this would be it. But nothing lasts forever. By 2013, Ghostface Chillah had lost its face, if not its identity. Some have suggested the reason behind the move was to allow each Snapchat user to imagine themselves as the face of Snapchat. Others have posited the more down-to-earth theory that the change came about after the app’s creators, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, were sued for copyright by fellow Stanford buddy (and early Picaboo collaborator), Reggie Brown. Given that Brown eventually won $157.5 million and ‘co-creator’ status, we’ll leave you to make your own mind up about the most likely explanation. Since then, the logo has been through one further change – although it would take an eagle-eyed viewer to spot it. As of 2019, the phantom image remains… although this time, its ghostly outline is emphsized with a thick, black line. Other than that, it’s the same little ghost it’s been since 2013.

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

Not too long ago, no logo was considered complete without the name of the brand written in big, bold font beside it. The words could be to the right of the emblem, to its left, beneath it or above it. But wherever they were placed, there they were. But times have changed. These days, having words on your logo is about as ‘in’ as admitting you voted Trump in the last election. Young brands have almost completely given up on letters, preferring to put all their marketing clout behind an image instead. Such is the case with Snapchat. Nowhere on the brand logo will you find any mention of the company name. But apparently, you don’t need to display your name on your product to become a household name. With over 40% of American adults now using Snapchat on a regular basis, the logo has clearly done what it was meant to. And what more could you ask from a ghost than that?

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