3M logo history: The 3M company logo meaning and evolution

3M Logo

Whether you’re familiar with the industrial landscape or not, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered the 3M logo at some point. Not only is 3M one of the biggest multinational conglomerates in the world, but it’s also responsible for a host of well-known brands

Primarily, 3M focuses on industry, US healthcare, worker safety, and consumer goods. Each year, the organization produces over 60,000 products under different brands, including abrasives, laminates, adhesives, and personal protection equipment. 

Although the 3M logo might seem simplistic at first, it’s actually a crucial part of the company’s brand identity. Over the years, the 3M symbol has evolved to highlight the business’ core philosophies and evolving vision.

Today, we will take a closer look at the transformation of the 3M brand over the years and how the company’s logo has affected its growth.

The 3M company logo: An introduction to 3M

Before we explore the powerful 3M logo, let’s start with a brief introduction to the business. The 3M company is a multinational conglomerate, originally brought to life as the “Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining Company” in 1902. Initially, five businessmen founded the brand with the goal of mining corundum, a substance used in sandpaper. 

After discovering the mine, they had access to was rich in a different mineral, the anorthosite, the company abandoned its original idea and started looking for new opportunities. 

In the initial years, 3M relied heavily on “savior investments” from Ordway to stay up and running. Still, the company eventually found its footing and made its first profit in 1916 by introducing its first unique item, the Tri-M-Ite abrasive cloth. 

Since then, 3M has invested heavily in developing new and innovative products sold under many dedicated 3M brands. While each sub-brand belonging to 3M has its unique identity, it also maintains a connection to the broader 3M conglomerate.

3M logo history: A guide to the 3M logo evolution

Today, most people know the 3M symbol as a bold, eye-catching wordmark, combining the number “3” with the letter “M.” The company has maintained a version of this red logo since the late 1970s.

However, before then, several different designs were introduced by the company. Here’s a brief introduction to the 3M logo evolution throughout the decades.

3M Logo

1906

The original 3M logo was a simple design created at the beginning of the twentieth century. This image featured an oval with the company’s full name on a white border, surrounding a black rhombus with “3 M Co” in the center.

The design was effective at the time, with the diamond shape representing the mining focus of the organization.

3M Logo

1926

In 1926, 3M started experimenting with abandoning its full name in favor of something shorter and simpler. The new “Three M” logo featured the shorter name of the brand, with the word “Three” spelled out in capital letters.

Two dots were placed on either side of the “M” to give the branding a more distinctive look.

3M Logo

1937

The next version of the 3M symbol introduced in 1937 presented another different version of the name, this time with the character “3” instead of the complete word.

This logo was even more straightforward than the previous version, with a sleek sans-serif font for the “M” and a bold black finish. At the time, this would have been seen as a highly modern logo design, ideal for an innovative company.

3M Logo

1938

During the initial 3-4 decades of 3 M’s life, the company regularly rolled out revitalized versions of its original logo. These images included many of the same elements as the initial brand mark, with some fundamental changes to font styles and designs.

One version of this symbol introduced in 1938 also highlighted the initial founding date of the company to give the brand a sense of heritage.

3M Logo

1942

A 3M logo introduced in 1942 brought a new font and a different level of spacing to the previous “3-M” design. This image eliminated the dash between the “3” and the “M” and brought the two components closer, similar to today’s symbol.

The company also used a more professional, serif typeface with a white and black outline in this logo.

3M Logo

1948

In 1948, after jumping back to the 1937 logo for a short time, the company streamlined its design even further with a basic “3M” wordmark. The contours of the inscription were refined, and the sans-serif font was re-introduced for a more modern effect.

3M Logo

1950

In the 1950s, 3M introduced a logo with a new serif-style font, once again with a three-dimensional black and white outline. The word “Company” was introduced in a sans-serif uppercase font. A simple oval shape surrounded the full image. 

3M Logo

During this period, another version of the logo was also in use, wherein the 3D 3M symbol had its colors inverted, creating a white wordmark with a black outline. In this case, the logo removed the oval and surrounding components, like the “Company” element.

3M Logo

1952

Another simplified version of the 3M logo was unveiled in 1952 without the serifs or extra dimensions of the previous design. The image was bold and sharp, with a deep V in the center of the M, to help highlight the brand’s innovative nature.

3M Logo

In 1952, 3M also experimented with an alternative version of its serif-style logo, placed in a black oval, with the word “Brand” written underneath in capital letters.

3M Logo

1953

Between the years of 1953 and 1960, 3M introduced a variety of different oval-shaped emblems for its brand. These designs included the same serif-style, three-dimensional wordmark for the company’s name, with various additional elements.

In 1953, an oval badge was introduced with the word “Line” written in a font intended to look like a rope.

In 1954, 3M eliminated the rope element and returned to using the word “Company” instead of “Brand” underneath its central logo. Two versions of a new oval emblem were introduced, once again with white serif font on a black background.

In one variation, a laurel wreath was placed around the oval to give it a sense of heritage and elegance. The wreath was removed in the other design to leave a more straightforward, modern image.

3M Logo

1956

For a year between 1956 and 1957, 3M returned to using a simplified version of its logo in all of its branding assets. The two-character wordmark was produced in a slightly heavier font than previous versions, with a less aggressive dip between the two components of the “M.”

3M Logo

In 1958, 3M jumped back to another version of its logo, using the blocky serif-style 3D text for its wordmark, placed within a white oval. In this instance, the word “Brand” underneath the two-digit wordmark is much bolder and more eye-catching.

During 1958, 3M also experimented with introducing a flattened version of its laurel wreath logo, this time with a different, simpler serif font style.

A new version of this logo was also introduced at the beginning of the 1960s, replacing the word “Brand” with ” Company ” again.

3M Logo

1960

The 1960s marked yet another era of experimentation for the 3M logo. Between 1960 and 1961, the company returned to its minimalistic routes with its simple two-character wordmark, this time depicted in a sophisticated and clean serif font.

3M Logo

In 1961, this basic logo was replaced with something more “modern.” A stylistic version of the wordmark was introduced with unique, blocky serifs and an unusual underline intended to represent the various directions the company was exploring for growth.

3M Logo

1978

In 1978, 3M decided to finally slow down with its logo design changes by handing the brand development process over to the Siegel+Gale bureau. The creative designers created a bold 3M logo, depicted in a bright scarlet color. According to the brand, this was the perfect design to highlight the company’s growing power and stability in its industry.

3M symbol meaning, fonts, and colors

The 3M logo is one of the most interesting designs in the modern world simply because it underwent so many changes before the company found the image we know today.

The organization’s evolution consistently prompted the leaders to experiment with different ways to convey their values, personality, and vision to their target audience.

Today, the 3M logo symbolizes stability, confidence, and power.

The color red enhances longevity, endurance, and vitality, while the blocky letters give the brand a sense of durability. Interestingly, the “new” 3M logo was the first of the designs chosen by the company to feature its unique logo color.

You can find some great resources to help you explore the 3M logo further here:

3M logo PNG

3M logo Vector

The 3M logo font is a variation of the classic Helvetica Neue condensed group of typefaces. 

The blocky, simplistic, and elegant design is intended to give the brand a modern appeal. The bold font and the use of the capital letter for the “M” also give the business an image ideal for showcasing power and stability. 

You can find out more about the 3M font types for different 3M brands here.

What is the 3M logo color?

The essential 3M logo colors were black and white for a long time until the company eventually decided to experiment with something new. Now, the scarlet coloring helps demonstrate the business’s vitality and confidence.

The closest color to the 3M logo has the following palette information:

Pigment Red:
Hex: #F11523
RGB: (241, 21, 35)
CMYK: 0, 0.912, 0.854, 0.054

The complex evolution of the 3M symbol

The numerous types of 3M logos introduced over the years offer an insight into how frequently companies can experiment with their brand image before they find something which sends the right message.

3M has used many different logo styles and designs over the years to convey its changing name and evolving vision.

Today, the 3M logo is a testament to the company’s power, durability, and strength in the industrial marketplace.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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