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The history of the Shell logo
For more than 100 years the word “Shell”, our Pecten emblem, and the distinctive red and yellow colours have identified the Shell brand and promoted our corporate reputation. These symbols have stood for the quality of our products and services, and represented our professionalism and values around the world.
The word “Shell” first appeared in 1891 as the trademark for the kerosene that Marcus Samuel and Company shipped to the Far East. The small London business dealt originally in antiques and oriental seashells.
In 1897 Samuel formed The Shell Transport and Trading Company. The first logo in 1901 was a mussel shell. In 1904 a scallop shell, or Pecten, gave a visual element to the corporate and brand name.
Why the Pecten?
The company name was “Shell” and each of Samuel’s tankers carrying kerosene to the Far East was named after a different seashell.
The Pecten may have been taken from the family coat of arms of a business associate, Mr Graham, who imported Samuel’s kerosene into India and became a director of The Shell Transport and Trading Company. Following a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain the Graham family had adopted the St James’s Shell.
Over the years the form of the Shell emblem has changed gradually in line with trends in graphic design. Designer Raymond Loewy created and introduced the current emblem in 1971.
Why red and yellow?
In 1915 the Shell Company of California first built service stations and had to make these stand out from the competition. They used bright colours that would not offend the Californians: because of the state’s strong Spanish connections they chose red and yellow.
The actual colours have developed over the years, most notably in 1995 when a bright, consumer-friendly Shell Red and Shell Yellow were introduced to launch our new retail visual identity. The Pecten remains one of the greatest brand symbols in the 21st century.