There’s no more well-known logo from the early days of the web than AOL’s running man.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s the small blocky icon topped Buddy lists and dial-up screens everywhere and quickly took it’s place in American culture.
Adrienne LaFrance at the Atlantic spoke to the designer behind the logo, JoRoan Lazaro, and he explained how he devised the famed symbol.
“The [running man] design came about because I was spending a lot of time looking at 1940s and 50s postwar American logos and trademarks, ” Lazaro says.
“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 stylised or looked really, really human. The running man was really inspired by those.”
He said that back in those days AOL didn’t do a lot of focus groups or testing because the company was moving so quickly and he didn’t realise till much later that he had created such a hit.
“The logo itself becoming such a part of the visual culture was cool, but at the same time it was just a small, ancillary thing,” he says.
After years of phasing it out, in 2011 AOL quietly discontinued the icon as part of a rebranding effort.