Even if you haven't used AOL for years, I know you recognized the running man image above instantly. Beginning in 1997, he was a regular feature on AOL's website, the loading screen for AOL desktop, AOL Instant Messenger and those AOL CDs you had a million of.
If you haven't used AOL in a while, you'll be sad to know he was dropped back in 2011. Still, he's one of the most iconic tech images. That makes it only more surprising where he came from.
The running man was the invention of designer JoRoan Lazaro, and in an interview with The Atlantic, Lazaro talks about how he developed it.
The [running man] design came about because I was spending a lot of time looking at 1940s and 50s postwar American logos and trademarks. If you go back to 40s and 50s logos and trademarks, you'll see that there's actually quite a few men that were used—a silhouette that either had curved legs or angular legs and a round head, in addition to the ones that looked quite a bit more stylized or looked really, really human. The running man was really inspired by those.
Back then, the brands were using a lot of anthropomorphic if not outright people figures. The brands were trying to communicate essentially that they were reliable, authentic, they had quality and personality. So they would have simple farmers or electricians or plumbers holding things. That was the core concept ... to actually have a person holding the objects that stood for something [across the toolbar]. There were hundreds of versions. The idea was there was a man holding a pencil for 'write email,' a man holding an envelope for 'read mail,' a heart for 'favorites.' I went for something that was quite a bit more literal. Up until [right before launch], there were a lot more people holding objects. But at the very end we decided to take out some of them because some discussion and some other things going on, we decided to just dial down the number of people on the toolbar.
The running man was one of the designs that stayed and soon became the AOL mascot. It did its job of connecting with people and making AOL friendly for the average person to use.
The AOL running man isn't the only iconic logo around. Click here for 10 company logos you know that have hidden meanings.
Also, how do companies pick colors for their logos and websites? You'll be surprised to know there's some science involved. Learn how the colors you see affect your mood and emotions.