img
img
[wpforms id="879"]

The History and Evolution of the San Francisco 49ers Logo

San Francisco 49ers Logo

The Exciting Rise and Evolution of the SF 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are the first major-four sports team based out of the San Francisco area and the first major sports franchise to emerge from the US West Coast. The colors of the eponymous 49ers logo are an homage to the gold rush of 1849. The light gold band around the edge of the emblem signifies the precious metal. The dark red background is a nod to the typical red plaid worn by the majority of the miners and prospectors of that era.

Over the years, the San Francisco 49ers sports team logo has won five league championships, all from the Super Bowl era. The 1980s were their top era as a team, resulting in them winning four Super Bowl titles in that decade and failing to make the playoffs only twice in that time.

1. The Story of the Franchise and the 49ers logo history

Created by a lumber transport businessman named Anthony J. Morabito, the team has been part of the NFL since 1946. A member of the NFC West division, the team, is one of the ten oldest teams in the NFL and has seen widespread success over the years, with many records to its name.

The team’s name and their first NFL logo were a nod to the many gold prospectors who came to the San Francisco Bay in 1849 to benefit from the Gold Rush. An infamous time in the history of California, the Gold Rush led to the economic and infrastructural growth of the area, including the San Francisco area.

Over the years, the franchise has been quite successful in representing the city of San Francisco in one of the big four sports teams. It has become one of the most successful teams in the NFL. Originally registered as the San Francisco Forty-Niners, the team has become known as the 49ers by the fans.

Logopoppin

Logopoppin

Logopoppin is a graphic design agency that specializes in logo designing, web development, video production and advanced branding services. We love to innovate businesses with new age technologies, allowing them to improve their visual reputation.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Subscribe for weekly updates

2. San Francisco 49ers Logos Through the Years

history of 49ers logo

Throughout its nearly seven and a half decades of playing football, the 49ers logo has seen just a couple of significant changes and a few minor ones as well. The first custom logo design used by the franchise was an elaborate image representing the gold rush. Still, over the years, the logo was simplified for better visibility and made it more memorable.

The logos for the team can be broken down into three broad categories.

  • The primary logos are the ones used by the team as their central representation. They are the images that are used by the fans to identify the franchise.
  • Text-based logos are wordmark designs that are used alongside the primary logos, as well as independently. It provides the team’s name in stylized design, making it easier to identify its name.
  • And finally, the commemorative logos are used to celebrate milestones or achievements for the franchise, similar to the NFL 100 logo used by the league to celebrate their centennial anniversary in the sport.

3. Primary San Francisco 49ers Logos

The team uses these logos as their primary identifier, either alone or alongside the wordmark logos. Throughout the nearly seventy-five
years of playing in the league, the San Francisco 49ers have had their logo modified a few times, with only a couple of significant changes.

Let us have a look at the evolution of the primary 49ers logo.

49ers logo
Source: 1000 logos

3.1- 1946-1967 (The Image That Inspired the 49ers Logo and Name)

The first logo was proposed by Allen Sorrel, who co-owned the franchise with Tony Morabito. Allen saw the image of a plaid-clad gold prospector, drunkenly waving about and firing a pair of pistols, on the side of a railway freight car. Looking at it, Allen thought that the image was a perfect representation of the team name and decided to adopt that imagery for the team logo.

San Francisco 49ers primary logo 1946 to 1967
Source: 1000 logos

This San Francisco 49ers logo featured a mustached gold-digger, waving a pair of revolvers around drunkenly with one pistol above the head and the other pointing down and firing towards his foot. The prospector was clad in a red shirt and plaid trousers, with his wide-brimmed hat flying off behind him due to his vigorous actions.

This logo represented the lack of law in the area during the gold rush, and the owners felt that it was a good image to accompany the team name.

3.2- 1968-1995 (The Simplified 49ers Logo)

In 1968, the team released a new logo that featured an oval-shaped background signifying a football. The image was colored red and enclosed by a black bar all around the shape.

The red oval featured the initials of the team’s city, the letters S and F. The letter S overlapped the letter F in the left top corner, breaking the letter into three fragments. The letters were solid white, with bold and long serifs at the ends of the logo’s characters.

San Francisco 49ers primary logo 1968 to 1995
Source: logos world

The 1985 redesign saw a minor change being made to the logo.

The logo’s initials were now outlined in black, which made it easier to differentiate the designs from the background. It also made the fragments of the letter F more distinct, which made the design a little better to identify visually.

3.3- 1996-2008 (The One Leading to the Current 49ers Logo)

In 1996, the logo was redesigned again, and the new design was visually more assertive than the previous iterations.

The oval shape of the logo was stretched and elongated, making it more similar to the football shape it was meant to resemble.

The following change was the joining of the letter F’s fragments into a single piece. The shadowed outline added to both characters made it look as if the S was overlaid over the letter F.

San Francisco 49ers primary logo 1996 to 2008
Source: NFL Teams

The base color was now a darker red. The outer black border was made thicker at the left and right edges. A metallic gold bar was added to the inside edge of the logo signifying their ties to the California gold rush of the mid-19th century.

3.4- 2009-Present Day (The Metamorphosis of the 49ers New Logo)

The current version of the 49ers logo is the same as the previous iteration; the only difference is the change in the design’s colors.

In 2009, the owners changed the shades of the colors used in the logo, which included:

  • The dark red background was made a deep scarlet color, making it easier for the other design elements on the logo to pop instead of blending into the back.
San Francisco 49ers primary logo 2009 to present
Source: Essentially Sports
  • The white letters making up the team’s home city’s initials were changed from a dull white to a brighter shade, making the letters stand out better even at a distance.
  • Similarly, the black and gold colors used were more saturated, making them more distinct and helped make them stand out better when outlining the logo design.

Want an iconic logo

for your brand like the ones above?

Let us create a stunning and iconic design that
symbolizes your brand perfectly.

4- Text-Based San Francisco 49ers Logos

Text-based logos or wordmark logos are a necessary part of every NFL team’s branding. Image-based logos are a great way to help fans identify a franchise. However, wordmark logos are a great tool when the purpose is to help new people recognize or identify the team imagery with the name.

Wordmark logos can be used alone or used alongside the team logo, based on the scenario. Many NFL teams use wordmark logos to get their imagery out to new prospective fans. Let’s have a look at the text-based 49ers logos that have been used over the years.

4.1- 1972-2004 (The Iconic 49ers Symbol)

San Francisco 49ers wordmark logos 1972 to 2004 red and gold variants
Source: Sports Logo History

The first wordmark logo was released in 1972 and featured the deep red characters spelling out the team’s nickname. The characters were outlined in red, with a white bar separating the main body of the characters’ outline.

An alternate version was also created that featured a metallic gold color instead of the deep red. It signified the California gold rush and allowed an option to print on darker mediums without losing impact.

The font was a custom design and featured intricate serifs, which made the design quite elaborate. The result was a highly stylized wordmark logo that represented the old-world aesthetic of the team’s name.

4.2- 2005-2008 (The Aesthetic of the 2000s)

San Francisco 49ers wordmark logos 2005 to 2008 main and alternate
Source: Sports Logo History

The 2005 redesign of the wordmark logo was done to upgrade the design per modern graphic design trends to make it more relevant to that era’s fans.

The new wordmark logo now featured the team nickname in bright white with thin gold and black outline over a rectangular maroon background. The script for the logo was quite simple – a bold serif font used to write the team’s name, with the rest of the name after the letters 49 written in a slightly smaller size. Except for the 49, the rest of the logo featured a metallic gold bar as an underline.

Another iteration was also created, similar in design to the one described above, with minor changes. This version featured the white characters now colored a deep red over a white background.

This wordmark logo was quite different from the previous wordmark iterations, which made it better suited to the design appeal of the mid-2000s.

4.3- 2009-Present Day (The 2009 San Francisco 49ers New Logo)

San Francisco 49ers wordmark logos 2009 to present all three variants
Source: Sports Logo History

The 2009 redesign kept the design mostly the same, with minor changes to the shades of the colors used.

The previous two designs were still used, the only change being the shade of red now changed to a bright crimson. Additionally, the lines of the logo were made cleaner and more precise, adding to its overall visual appeal

A third version was added to the lineup. This version featured the same design, albeit it removed all shades of red from the logo. The only color now was the black and gold outline of the characters and the gold bar underneath the characters.

5- Commemorative San Francisco 49ers Logos

Commemorative logos are a great way to celebrate significant achievements or milestones. They have been used in sports for quite some time. Even the National Football League created a new commemorative logo for its 100th anniversary, which was part of all player uniforms and the game balls during the 2019 season.

Many franchises hire an external logo design service to help them create commemorative logos that effectively portray the essence of the achieved milestone.

5.1- 40 Years as a Team – 1986

The 40th anniversary of the San Francisco 49ers was celebrated in the year 1986, which featured a new team logo for that year, commemorating this achievement.

The new logo featured a monogram-style design. A bright red 40 encircled by a golden banner featuring the team’s registered name. Below it was a stylized bar that had the team’s timeline, from the year of its inception to the year of the anniversary.

San Francisco Forty Niners 40 year anniversary logo

The logo also featured the iconic Golden Gate Bridge going through the zero from the 40.

This design was a great way to commemorate four decades in the league and signify their roots in the San Francisco area.

5.2- 50 Years as a Team – 1996

The golden jubilee for the team occurred in 1996, for which a new commemorative logo was designed. The new 49ers logo featured a shield with four quadrants in alternating metallic gold and red colors.

The top two quadrants featured five golden diamonds signifying the five Super Bowl titles. The anniversary year was written in the classic golden jubilee style.

San Francisco Forty Niners 50 year anniversary logo

The bottom two quadrants feature the team’s initials in the bottom left and the team’s timeline in the bottom right.

All in all, it is a fitting yet classic way to commemorate half a century in the sport.

5.3- 60 Seasons Playing Football – 2006

The 2006 commemorative 49ers logo was used to celebrate six decades in the NFL. It featured a different design from the previous iterations.

The new logo featured an upright red oval shape signifying a football, outlined by a black bar that traced the red oval and widened at the sides. . The top point of the logo featured the five diamonds signifying 

San Francisco Forty Niners 60 year anniversary logo

the NFL championship rings, below which was a bold white 60 with a black outline. A black fluttering banner below the 60 featured the year the team was formed and the anniversary year.

It is their most visually bold commemorative logo to date.

5.4- 70 Years Playing Football – 2016

The 70th-anniversary commemorative logo was quite similar in design to the golden jubilee logo, featuring a shield with four quadrants outlined in gold and alternating quadrants colored red and white.

The top left quadrant was white and featured five golden diamonds signifying the Super Bowl wins. The top right red quadrant had the last two numbers of initiation and the year of the anniversary written in it.

San Francisco Forty Niners 70 year anniversary logo

The larger quadrants below featured the number of years the team has been active in the league, with the word YEARS written in white on a thin gold bar below the number of the commemorative anniversary.

Unlike the 50th anniversary logo, which used brighter and deeper colors, the colors used in this version were lighter and more subdued.

6- A Comparison Between the Old and the New 49ers Logo Design

San Francisco 49ers new and old logos comparison
Source: NFL Teams

The San Francisco Forty-Niners’ current logo has become an iconic image since it has been used for more than fifty years. The shape of the logo is iconic, featuring an elongated oval that is excellent at signifying the relationship between the logo and football game.

The team’s area’s initials are centered in the logo’s middle, making them highly visible. And the gold and black lines encircling the logo are a great accent to the overall design.

The font for the logo was custom-designed, with each letter drawn carefully by hand. Based on the vintage typographic style, the characters featured blocky serifs and a bold character weight, making the font visible easily, even at a distance.

This logo is iconic and is a design that generations of 49ers fans identify with the team. But it does not do the name of the San Francisco Forty-Niners justice. The current logo does not relate to the image the franchise founders had for the team, which was to pay homage to the gold rush prospectors from 1849.

In that respect, the vintage 49ers logo from 1946 captured the essence and concept behind the team’s name. The drunk gold digger jumped around and fired their pistols, randomly capturing the theme of the gold rush era perfectly.

So while the new logo does work well with the team’s current vibe, the first logo was the one that captured the true essence behind the team’s name. Nevertheless, the logo is iconic and has been able to rally a large fan following known as the “Niner Nation.”

Frequently Asked Questions

The original logo for the team was made up of a mustached man meant to depict a gold miner from the 1849 California Gold Rush. The man was dressed in a red shirt and plaid pants, long western boots, jumping in the air while shooting his pistols with his hat falling off.

The word 49er or Forty-niner signifies a gold miner who came to California searching for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush.

The football players from the San Francisco 49ers wore a decal of the number 74 on their helmets to honor their former 49er player and Hall of Famer Fred Dean. He died due to complications arising from his COVID-19 infection. During his time at the 49ers, Dean wore a jersey featuring the number 74.

The San Francisco 49ers wear kits featuring two primary colors – scarlet and gold.

In The End

The story behind the evolution of the San Francisco 49ers logo image is quite vast.

Over the years, the team has shown itself to be one of the best teams in the NFL. It is the third most valuable NFL team and the twelfth most valuable athletics team in the world. Their dedication to excellence drives them to greatness, signifying the never-ending hardiness of the people who popularized the San Francisco area during the gold rush.

With such a historically significant name as the Forty-Niners, the San Francisco football team has proved themselves capable of rising to the challenge and proving themselves worthy of that legacy. Other NFL team logos are also worth exploring such as Chicago Bears Logo and LA Rams Logo