Art of Invention: The Story of the Chicano Artist Who Drew Apple’s Logo
Name one of the most iconic logos of our time. If you said Apple, you are probably not alone. The Apple logo is timeless. It is modern yet magically transports us to the simpler times of The Oregon Trail and dial-up internet days. Yet, very little is known about the Chicano artist who drew the first sketch of the famous logo.
Carlos Pérez David drew the artwork freehand in 1977 using French curves, circle templates, and T-squares. Before the era of Adobe and computer graphics, artists had to draw and print everything by hand. “Instantly, it had to say, ‘That’s an apple!'” thought Pérez, whose final sketch became the artwork for the famous logo we know today.
On the Chicano artist’s inspiration, his Mexican roots, and his first time meeting Steve Jobs
Pérez was born and raised in a small town called El Chante outside Guadalajara, under the care of his aunts. “Vas a hacer cosas grandes,” they would remind him.
“That faith gave me the permission to dream and the confidence to know that what I dreamed could be a reality,” he told CBS.
Later on, Pérez inspired the next generation of Latino artists through his work at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. There he reminded young creators that their culture is part of the deep “fabric of who they are.”
However, a meeting with a technology visionary would lead Perez to create one of the most recognizable logos in history.
Pérez was only a junior graphic illustrator when he joined the team that created the Apple logo. He was working at a powerful marketing firm called Regis McKenna when Steve Jobs came in for a meeting.
The Mexican artist and activist describes Jobs as “a total hippie” who came in “with torn Levi’s and long hair, wanting to see if the established agency would take his account. “The account was Apple Computers.”
Perez worked with Rob Janoff and Tom Kamifuji on the project. However, it was Perez’s final sketch that became the famous Apple logo.
Pérez remembers every detail, from the weight of the pencil to the precise angle of every stroke he used to create the first sketches of the Apple logo. He jokes that if he had known that Apple would become a $2 trillion company, he would have done the work for free in exchange for Apple stock.
As his tías did for him, Carlos Pérez David reminds Latino artists that their culture is part of the “fabric of who they are.”
Despite having been one of the key players in the creation of Apple’s brand image, Perez’s most vivid memories are not of his work during the technical revolution in Silicon Valley.
Instead, he is proud of and draws inspiration from his Mexican heritage. It is the foundation of his culture, roots, and calling.
He keeps a short hoe in his art studio to remember his teen years working the farms in the San Joaquin Valley. Early hardships like these helped him navigate the upheavals of the early digital era. Like other professional Latinos, he had transitioned between worlds before.
While his Latino origins have provided many of the tools for his success, Pérez believes it is one of the reasons many do not know that he drew the Apple logo. “It’s because Latinos have often lived in the shadows, and artists have never been perceived as professionals,” he told CBS.
Meanwhile, Pérez is working on publishing a book based on his Latino/Chicano cultural heritage that he is undeniably proud of. He hopes his work will foster a cultural climate where creative Latinos are celebrated amongst other professionals.