History of the MasterCard Logo Design Evolution
Looking at financial services corporations and their branding, MasterCard is definitely in the lead when it comes to the most distinguishable logo.
With its simplicity and striking colours, it is easily spotted and easy to remember.
That is precisely what every brand aims for when creating a logo.
However, every path has its ups and downs, and they’ve reached their level of recognisability after numerous attempts.
Their logo has made a variety of changes until it got to this point.
To understand the change of the logo, you first need to understand the progress of MasterCard Incorporated.
The Evolution of MasterCard
According to their website, MasterCard originated in the late 1940s when some U.S. banks issued and gave the customers papers which served as cash in local stores.
MasterCard officially came into existence in 1966 under the name InterBank Card Association (ICA).
The organisation was established because the group of 17 bankers used it for the reciprocal acceptance of their credit cards. Therefore, ICA wasn’t dominated by one bank.
In between Interbank and MasterCard, the Interbanks’s card was named MasterCharge in 1968.
ICA began a global network in 1968 by forming an alliance with Banco Nacional in Mexico and Eurocard in Europe. A Japanese member also joined the same year.
With time, ICA was associated with members from all around the world.
The international growth resulted in the name change to MasterCard International in 1979. The name that is now worldly recognised.
The Evolution of the MasterCard Logo Design
With the brand evolution comes the change in logo design.
MasterCard has shown that they consistently think and invest in their logo.
Some changes were more noticeable while others were as subtle as they can be.
However, every change in their logo design has been thought-through and worthy of our attention.
So, let’s take a look at how the MasterCard logo design evolved to what it is today.
The very first logo has nothing to do with the current MasterCard logo, but it is relevant since it represents the origin of this powerful corporation.
The Interbank’s logo was quite simple.
The ‘i’ personified the members of the Interbank Card Association.
This “i” was placed in a circle with the “Interbank” title below, and all of that was incorporated within a square.
The generic shapes and bland colours didn’t show much imagination.
Their aim was probably the simplicity and cleanness of the design, but it just leads to a non-impactful logo.
The black, white, and grey only contribute to the overall plainness.
The typical elements of the current MasterCard logo could be recognised in the 1968 logo.
This was the result of the joint effort of a few banks in the United States.
Robert Leavelle, Senior Vice President of Farmer’s & Merchants Bank of Long Beach, California and his son Martin Leavelle, came up with the graphic image of the two overlapping circles with the MasterCharge title in the centre of the logo.
Even though this was the logo of MasterCharge, the InterBank card, this is when the choice fell on the logo design that was uniquely associated with MasterCard:
● the interlocking circles
● the colours red and yellow
● the name
The name change would happen a decade later, but this was the earliest version of the MasterCard logo that was unveiled.
The design was straightforward and effective.
The simplicity is what will allow them to keep this original form and only make subtle adjustments.
The colour choice didn’t fall onto red and yellow by accident.
They might be very noticeable colours, but they were also chosen because of the emotions they embody:
● Red – passion, courage, vitality, and joy
● Yellow –optimism, happiness, richness, and prosperity
The colours are embodied in the two simple intersecting circles which indication of the card (MasterCharge) as well as the name of the organisation (The Interbank Card).
InterBank is featured in the tagline to clarify to previous InterBank users that the card is in their ownership.
The name change happened in 1979, which was led by the logo change.
The shape and colours remained the same.
The only change they made was the replacement of “mastercharge, the interbank card” with the “MasterCard” tagline.
Unlike the “mastercharge” tagline that was lowercase, “MasterCard” featured capitalised M and C.
This made the tagline more attractive and distinguishable.
In 1990, the company made some changes to its logo yet again.
The colours were brighter, and instead of gradient intersecting, there were around 23 horizontal bars between the two circles.
The font was modernised and more elegant than the previous one.
This was a big step forward for their brand identity.
The bold colours proved to be the right choice, making the logo stand out.
The same shades of red and yellow were kept to this day.
To modernise the logo, a few changes to the logo took place in 1996.
This trendy logo design was the next big branding step.
The company experimented with the MasterCard tagline by giving it some dimension.
To simplify the intersection of the circles, they reduced the number of bars.
It can be said that these changes made the logo more visually appealing and appropriate for this influential corporation.
MasterCard’s redesign attempt from 2006 can serve as an example that even the most successful brands with teams of designers can make a mistake.
Even though this design was pushed under the rug, it should still be mentioned.
The “failed” redesign was introduced in 2006.
It featured blurred circles with “pesky” gradients.
At first glance, the logo seemed confusing and unfinished.
It comes as no surprise that the controversial logo faced harsh criticism from both the press and the brand-loyal customers.
However, only some of the corporate branding was affected by the redesign.
The old logo remained on the credit and debit cards. That is the redesign affected only the corporate branding.
Since it went mostly unnoticed, it can be seen as an experimental logo attempt.
In an interview with Forbes, MasterCard’s chief marketing and communications officer Raja Rajamannar shared the story behind the 2016 logo change:
He also added:
The company made several adjustments to the logo design from 1996.
They went back to the gradient intersection that they used in 1979.
As it would seem, they were more pleased with that intersecting option rather than the one with lines.
Instead of the white “MasterCard” tagline, they opted for a black one. The new colour choice seemed more elegant and powerful.
Another one of the subtle changes was to lowercase the M and C in MasterCard.
The MasterCard sign was placed below so that it is easier to read and as we would see later, easier to remove.
The ultimate logo change happened in 2019.
The company dropped the “Mastercard” sign from the logo.
The unquestionably MasterCard shape and colour remained, giving the logo a fresh and friendly look.
Raja Rajamannar explained at the press release why they opted for this adjustment,
The new logo conveys a message that the logo itself is recognisable to the point that there is no need to state the name.
Michael Beirut, a partner at the design firm which designed the new logo, explained that the new Mastercard logo is easier to read on phones or digital watches.
“You’re trying to optimise for a tiny piece of real estate on a tiny piece of glass,” said Beirut for The Wall Street Journal. “It might not even be a mobile phone; it might be a watch face. Having to work in a 10-letter name in that is kind of a monster.”
It is also aimed to indicate the new era where people use their phones and watches to pay for goods and services.
Continually Evolving Logo Design
MasterCard shows innovation in every aspect of their corporation and their logo is no different.
As you can tell, one of the most famous and widely-recognised logos has undergone many changes to get to the point where it is now.
Throughout the adjustments, the brand stayed true to its fundamental logo indicators – red and yellow colours and circles.
Their tactic shows how change might be necessary to refresh the brand and keep up with time, but you need to hold on to what makes you distinguishable.
The subtle changes brought them closer to their audience and showed initiative in modernising the brand while the typical elements bring a feeling of familiarity.
This may be the perfect formula for a logo design that has to endure for decades – mix the old and the new.
Author Bio: Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at ClassyEssay.