The Legend of the Apple Logo

Apple logo and the Plaza Hotel

Bo Zaunders/Getty Images

For years it has been rumored that Apple's iconic logo, a stylized apple missing a bite on one side, was inspired by the circumstances surrounding the death of Alan Turing. The groundbreaking mathematician and computer scientist committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple in 1954.

Not So, Says Designer 

The man who created the Apple logo, graphic designer Rob Janoff, has laughed this rumor off as "a wonderful urban legend." 

In a 2009 interview with Ivan Raszl of, Janoff addressed the Turing myth as well as several others. Turns out the concept for the logo, and its colored stripes were purely visual in inspiration. An art director for the Regis McKenna public relations agency at the time, Janoff says the only direction Steve Jobs gave was, "Don't make it cute." (The original Apple logo was a pen and ink drawing of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree.)

Janoff brought two versions of the logo to the meeting, one with the bite and one without. He also showed the logo with stripes, as a solid color, and as a metallic.

What Does the Apple Represent?

One theory was that it represented forbidden fruit. But Janoff scoffed at that as well. He is not at all religious, and he didn't have a thought about Adam and Eve and the apple in the Garden of Eden. So, while gaining knowledge of good and evil by biting the apple might seem like a good allegory, he wasn't channeling it for the design.

The reality is a lot more unromantic, as Steve Jobs shared with biographer Walter Isaacson. Jobs had been on one of his "fruitarian diets" and had just visited an apple farm to boot. Jobs thought the name was “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”

So What About the Stripes?

Another rumor floating around about the logo is that the colored stripes represent gay rights (another allusion to Turing, who was homosexual). But the reality, according to Janoff, is that the stripes were intended to take advantage of the fact that the Apple II would be the first computer whose monitor could display color images. He also believed the colorful logo would appeal to young people, and the company hoped to market the personal computers to schools.

Then There's the Bite

If the missing piece of the apple has nothing to do with Alan Turing, does it perhaps represent a play on the word "byte"? Again, Janoff says this is a myth. At the time, the designer was unfamiliar with basic computer terms, and it was only after he designed the logo that his creative director mentioned the term computer byte. Instead, he added the bite to provide scale so the apple wouldn't be mistaken for a cherry. 

Over the years, the myths about the meaning of the logo have spread far and wide. CNN's Holden Frith had to retract one telling of the story, which he said he got on good authority from Apple insiders, who were incorrect. Stephen Fry said on the BBC show QI XL in 2011 that his friend Steve Jobs said of the Turing tale, "It isn't true, but God we wish it were!"