1890 – 1907

The Shell Transport and Trading Company was set up in 1897.
The Shell Transport and Trading Company was set up in 1897.

The Shell name

The origin of the Shell name can be traced back to the seashells that Marcus Samuel senior imported from the Far East during the late 19th Century. When his sons Marcus junior and Samuel were looking for a name for the kerosene that they were exporting to Asia, they chose Shell.

As kerosene sales came to dominate the business’s turnover, the name was adopted for the new import-export organisation that was set up in 1897 – the Shell Transport and Trading company.

The Shell name briefly took a back seat in 1907 when the company was merged with Royal Dutch to form, the Royal Dutch Shell Group, but the newly formed business quickly became known as Shell for short.

1900 – 1929

1900-1903 1904-1908 1909-1929
Three black and white illustrations showing development of logo from mussel shell to pecten

The Shell logo

Shell’s yellow and red scallop shell logo is one of the most recognisable symbols in the world, but it actually started life as a black and white mussel shell. This design was trademarked in 1900 and is the oldest of 22,000+ trademarks owned by Shell.

There are many theories about why the logo changed from a mussel shell to a scallop. One theory states that it was the idea of a businessman who imported Shell kerosene into India. His family had three scallops in their coat of arms.

Red and yellow

Yellow and red have been a fairly consistent element of Shell’s brand image from the earliest days although the exact origin is uncertain. It may come from the company’s origins in exports, as both yellow and red are used in maritime signalling. Samuel junior also chose red to make his kerosene cans stand out against Standard Oil’s blue when the companies were competing back at the end of the 19th Century.

Standing out from the crowd

The 1920s saw Shell breaking the mould in the world of marketing by using recognised artists rather than illustrators.

1930 – 1954

five logo designs from 1948
1948 logo designs

A more formal design emerges

In 1930 the Shell ‘Pecten’, the Latin word for scallop, was given a more formal design and applied to packaging, signage and vehicles. It could be used in white, yellow or red, but localised interpretation and hand-drawings meant that basic variations were common. In 1948, the ‘Shell’ name was introduced into the Pecten logo, but again this wasn’t universally applied.

1955 – 1970

1955 logo designs
three logo designs from 1955

A simpler logo

In the mid-1950s, a simpler logo look emerged that was more suitable for the new generation of printed transfers. This allowed the logo to be easily applied to everything from petrol pumps to shop signs. Variations on the logo continued to appear throughout the 50s, 60s and even 70s.

1971 – 1992

Geometric brand logo design by Loewy
Loewy brand guideline artwork

The modern Pecten is launched

In 1971 the famous industrial designer Raymond Loewy designed the Pecten logo that is recognisable today. The ‘Shell’ name was removed from the centre of the symbol and placed below in a specially designed typeface. In the early 1990s the current colours were introduced. 

Loewy’s guidelines show the incredible mathematical geometry underpinning it and how warm soft curves are combined to create the Pecten we see today.

1992 – present day

Current design of Shell retail station
Current generation Shell retail station

Current colours introduced

With the Pecten design well-established and being used consistently at last, the early 90s saw Shell’s current colours introduced: a warmer yellow and red to soften the feel of our brand and give it a broader appeal.

The Sound of Shell

In 2015, the sound logo and orchestral score, the Sound of Shell


 was created, a sound that is fast becoming as recognisable as the Pecten logo for customers.