It’s been at least a decade since there was any colour in the Apple logo, but that might be about to change if there’s more to the hint at the end of CEO Tim Cook’s iPad launch event yesterday than a stylish flourish.

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Apple doesn’t change its logo on a whim, although there was a period when it mixed and matched its colours with at least a little abandon.

The company, certainly under legendary co-founder and saviour Steve Jobs, was particular about such things. Very particular.

So showing off the Apple logo suffused in cloudy, almost tie-dye colours reminiscent of the company’s classic rainbow logo has got to mean something, right?

Apple A-Z

It’s possible that Cook and co were having on the Apple-obsessed media and fanboys with the coloured logo. They certainly fooled everyone with the name for the new iPad, dropping the expected ‘3’ or ‘HD’ without so much as an explanation apart from Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Phil Schiller’s quip about Apple liking to remain unpredictable.

The possible new Apple logo is a definite nod back to its old multicoloured logo, while injecting some modernity and a whiff of Grateful Deadness.

I like it. It would give Apple a breath of fresh air following the passing of its original visionary.

Time to open the windows and let some colour in.

If Apple is serious about unveiling a new logo it has a rich history to rest upon.

Apple logos changing through history

When Apple was founded in 1976 the corporate logo was a complex black & White drawing showing an apple falling off a tree onto an unsuspecting Issac Newton. There was a banner wrapping round and a half-covered up quotation. In all honesty it was a horrible mess.

Apple logo Issac Newton Ron Wayne first logo

This first Apple logo was designed by the oft-forgotten third founder of Apple, Ron Wayne. Both Ron and the Issac Newton logo remain in the very darkest shadows of Apple history.

Steve Jobs – who hated mess and loved simplicity – was far sighted enough to realise how dreadful this would look on the back of iPad and iPhones, so commissioned PR company Regis McKenna to design a new one.

Graphic designer Rob Janoff went to the supermarket and bought a basket of apples, sliced them up and studied them for hours.

He added a bite to his apple image so that people wouldn’t mistake it for a tomato – because people don’t take bites out of tomatoes, right?

There have been suggestions that the bite was in honour of father-of-the-modern computer and Nazi code-breaker Alan Turing who committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple following the ungrateful British government persecution of his homosexuality.

Janoff denies his logo’s bite had anything to do with Turing, but it’s a nice story.

Apple logo rainbow

Jobs demanded the image be in colour to further humanise the computer company, and Janoff’s multi-coloured final version became an instant design classic.

The PR bosses argued that it should just be black to save on printing costs but Jobs and Janoff won the day – although in 1998, when Apple made the whole computer more colourful with its original iMac, the rainbow-coloured logo was ditched for monochromatic themes, although the shape remained pretty much the same.

I’ve got a bunch of Apple business cards from that post-iMac era, all in different fruity colours: grape, lime, strawberry, tangerine, etc.

From 2001-3 the Apple logo was watery Aqua-themed, and from then on it was Glass-themed. It somehow skipped the Brushed Metal look, except when it actually was made of brushed metal, of course.

Apple has had a curious relationship with colours. Sometimes it goes mad on them (the early iMacs, various flavours of iPod nano, iPod socks, etc). And other times it retreats to minimalistic whites and blacks.

Is this a time for a return to colour?

Maybe it’s just a nod to the original iPad launch invitation – see the similarities between the 2010 invite and the banners up at the new iPad launch in San Francisco yesterday.

iPad launch San Francisco March 2012

Original iPad launch invite apple

Maybe we're all reading too much into it. But we'd never read as much into the Apple logo as former head of Apple's Advanced Product Development and Worldwide Marketing Jean-Louis Gassee, who once waxed lyical about the rainbow Apple logo: "One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colours of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope and anarchy."