The History and Evolution of the San Francisco 49ers Logo
- The Story of the Franchise and the 49ers logo history
- San Francisco 49ers Logos Through the Years
- Primary San Francisco 49ers Logos
- Text-Based San Francisco 49ers Logos
- Commemorative San Francisco 49ers Logos
- A Comparison Between the Old and the New 49ers Logo Design
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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
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
metal. The dark red background is a nod to the typical red plaid worn by the majority of the miners
prospectors of that era.
Over the years, the San Francisco 49ers sports team logo has won five league championships, all from the Super Bowl
1980s were their top era as a team, resulting in them winning four Super Bowl titles in that decade
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
1946. A member of the NFC West division, the team, is one of the ten oldest teams in the NFL and has
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,
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
the big four sports teams. It has become one of the most successful teams in the NFL. Originally
as the San Francisco Forty-Niners, the team has become known as the 49ers
2. San Francisco 49ers Logos Through the Years
Throughout its nearly seven and a half decades of playing football, the 49ers logo has seen just a
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
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
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
- And finally, the commemorative logos are used to celebrate milestones or achievements for the
similar to the NFL 100 logo used by the league to celebrate their centennial anniversary in the
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
playing in the league, the San Francisco 49ers have had their logo modified a few times,
with only a
of significant changes.
Let us have a look at the evolution of the primary 49ers logo.
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.
image of a plaid-clad gold prospector, drunkenly waving about and firing a pair of pistols,
side of a
railway freight car. Looking at it, Allen thought that the image was a perfect
representation of the
name and decided to adopt that imagery for the team logo.
This San Francisco 49ers logo featured a mustached gold-digger, waving a pair of revolvers around
with one pistol above the head and the other pointing down and firing towards his foot. The
clad in a red shirt and plaid trousers, with his wide-brimmed hat flying off behind him due to his
This logo represented the lack of law in the area during the gold rush, and the owners felt that it
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
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
The letter S overlapped the letter F in the left top
letter into three fragments. The letters were solid white, with bold and long serifs at the
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
background. It also made the fragments of the letter F more distinct, which made
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 oval shape of the logo was stretched and elongated, making it more similar to the
meant to resemble.
The following change was the joining of the letter F’s fragments into a single piece. The
added to both characters made it look as if the S was overlaid over the
The base color was now a darker red. The outer black border was made thicker at the left and right
metallic gold bar was added to the inside edge of the logo signifying their ties to the California
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
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
the logo to pop instead of blending into the back.
- The white letters making up the team’s home city’s initials were changed from a dull white to a
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
them stand out better when outlining the logo design.
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
wordmark logos to get their imagery out to new prospective fans. Let’s have a look at the text-based
logos that have been used over the years.
4.1- 1972-2004 (The Iconic 49ers Symbol)
The first wordmark logo was released in 1972 and featured the deep red characters spelling out the
nickname. The characters were outlined in red, with a white bar separating the main body of the
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
The font was a custom design and featured intricate serifs, which made the design quite elaborate.
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)
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
rectangular maroon background. The script for the logo was quite simple – a bold serif font used to
the team’s name, with the rest of the name after the letters 49 written in a
smaller size. Except for the 49, the rest of the logo featured a metallic gold bar
Another iteration was also created, similar in design to the one described above, with minor changes.
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
the design appeal of the mid-2000s.
4.3- 2009-Present Day (The 2009 San Francisco 49ers New Logo)
The 2009 redesign kept the design mostly the same, with minor changes to the shades of the colors
The previous two designs were still used, the only change being the shade of red now changed to a
crimson. Additionally, the lines of the logo were made cleaner and more precise, adding to its
A third version was added to the lineup. This version featured the same design, albeit it removed all
of red from the logo. The only color now was the black and gold outline of the characters and the
underneath the characters.
5- Commemorative San Francisco 49ers Logos
Commemorative logos are a great way to celebrate significant achievements or milestones. They have
in sports for quite some time. Even the National Football League created a new commemorative logo
100th anniversary, which was part of all player uniforms and the game balls during the
Many franchises hire an external logo design service to help them create commemorative logos that
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
logo for that year, commemorating this achievement.
The new logo featured a monogram-style design. A bright red 40 encircled by
featuring the team’s registered name. Below it was a stylized bar that had the team’s
year of its inception to the year of the anniversary.
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
5.2- 50 Years as a Team – 1996
The golden jubilee for the team occurred in 1996, for which a new commemorative logo was
49ers logo featured a shield with four quadrants in alternating metallic gold and red
The top two quadrants featured five golden diamonds signifying the five Super Bowl titles.
year was written in the classic golden jubilee style.
The bottom two quadrants feature the team’s initials in the bottom left and the team’s timeline in
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
design from the previous iterations.
The new logo featured an upright red oval shape signifying a football, outlined by a black
the red oval and widened at the sides. . The top point of the logo featured the five
the NFL championship rings, below which was a bold white 60 with a black outline. A black fluttering
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
featuring a shield with four quadrants outlined in gold and alternating quadrants colored
The top left quadrant was white and featured five golden diamonds signifying the Super Bowl
right red quadrant had the last two numbers of initiation and the year of the anniversary
The larger quadrants below featured the number of years the team has been active in the league, with
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
version were lighter and more subdued.
6- A Comparison Between the Old and the New 49ers Logo Design
The San Francisco Forty-Niners’ current logo has become an iconic image since it has been used for
fifty years. The shape of the logo is iconic, featuring an elongated oval that is excellent at
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
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
typographic style, the characters featured blocky serifs and a bold character weight, making the
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
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
The drunk gold digger jumped around and fired their pistols, randomly capturing the theme of the
So while the new logo does work well with the team’s current vibe, the first logo was the one that
the true essence behind the team’s name. Nevertheless, the logo is iconic and has been able to rally
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
California Gold Rush. The man was dressed in a red shirt and plaid pants, long
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 football players from the San Francisco 49ers wore a decal of the number 74 on
their helmets to
their former 49er player and Hall of Famer Fred Dean. He died due to complications
arising from his
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
valuable NFL team and the twelfth most valuable athletics team in the world. Their dedication to
drives them to greatness, signifying the never-ending hardiness of the people who popularized the
Francisco area during the gold rush.
With such a historically significant name as the Forty-Niners, the San Francisco football team has
themselves capable of rising to the challenge and proving themselves worthy of that legacy. Other
logos are also worth exploring such as Chicago Bears Logo and LA Rams
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