Though the famous Mexican-American fast-food chain was established in 1962 and has never changed names, the image of the bell as its icon was only adopted for its official logo in 1985. The emblem we see today was first introduced in 1992 and is now the updated version the company uses throughout its promotions and marketing.
Before we jump into the history of the logo, it’s important to understand where the brand came from, so we’re going to cover the history of this well-known taco purveyor and how it came to fame.
About Taco Bell
Glen Bell was the businessman who marketed Taco Bell so well that Americans across the nation have come to love this non-native food, which has even earned a place among our national holidays- October 4th. Bell tweaked an original recipe, gave it an American twist, and promoted it as one of the tastiest, healthiest foods across the globe (though the healthy part is up for serious debate).
Glen Bell, an entrepreneur who owned Bell’s Drive-In, a hot dog and hamburger stand in San Bernardino in 1948, founded Taco Bell. At the time, he lived in a Mexican-American neighborhood and saw how people queued up for the hot traditional Mexican taco. The idea came to him to create his own similar dish inspired by the traditional food.
Bell approached the owner of Mitla Café, a Mexican restaurant that sold the original tacos across the street from his home, and learned how the delicious tacos were made. He changed the recipe a bit to come up with a crunchy version that could be mass-produced and infused with American flavors.
Bell claimed to have invented the crunchy-shelled tacos in the 50s. However, there is a patent registered for one linked to a Mexican creator in the 1940s, which at the least, probably inspired his idea. As he grew the business, he changed the name from Taco-Tai to El Taco and finally to Taco Bell in 1962. This location was in Downey, California.
Kermit Becky, a retired LA police officer, acquired the first franchise in 1964 and set up shop in Torrance, California. And in just three short years, Taco Bell launched its 100th restaurant at South Brookhurst in Anaheim. The brand established a location in Springfield, Ohio, a year later, making Taco Bell one of the fastest-growing brands and franchises in the nation.
In 1970, Taco Bell went public, opening 325 restaurants in just eight years. Though Bell’s love for the famed taco is well known, in the 1960s, it also caught several other large brands’ attention. The most notable among them was PepsiCo.
PepsiCo bought the Midwestern franchise Taco Boy and renamed it Taco Kid under the Pizza Hut brand, and designed it to be a strong competitor. Taco Kid couldn’t keep up with the intense competition, so PepsiCo planned to purchase Taco Bell. The opportunity came around in 1978 when Bell finally sold Taco Bell to PepsiCo for a whopping $125 million. With this business deal, PepsiCo, Inc. took control of 868 Taco Bell restaurants.
In 1981, the company expanded into Australia, but Taco Bell’s Casa, another restaurant operating in Sydney with a similar name, sued them for brand identity issues. Finally, in 2017, Taco Bell launched seven stores in Australia, and now, Taco Bell has nearly 100 stores in Australia. While that venture took some doing, not all global locations fared the same, while still others have never been fully realized.
In 1991, Taco Bell launched Taco Bell Express in San Francisco, a delivery service that operated in shopping malls, convenience stores, and airports. With its strong presence in the United States, Taco Bell made inroads into Mexico, launching the Taco Bell franchise connected with KFC restaurants in Mexico City. Unfortunately, Mexicans there didn’t take to the crispy taco served by Taco Bell, and from 1992 to 1994, Taco Bell closed all its Mexico locations.
To magnify its brand, Taco Bell entered into strategic partnerships with other fast-food chains, similar to the partnership with KFC in Mexico. In 1995, Taco Bell started a co-branding initiative with KFC in Clayton, North Carolina, and would do the same with Long John Silver and Pizza Hut.
In 2001, the company launched a campaign to give free tacos to every US citizen if MIR, a Soviet Space shuttle, hit a target placed in the Pacific Ocean.
Taco Bell Grande in Shanghai, China, was launched in 2003, and three more Grande restaurants in China existed before they closed in 2008. In 2015, the company opened a new Chinese restaurant in Pudong, Shanghai.
In 2004, the company launched its exclusive drink, Mountain Dew Baja Blast, which was possible thanks to a partnership deal with the Mountain Dew Soda company. Customers could only buy the beverage at Taco Bell stores, and it became increasingly popular. On October 30th of the same year, Taco Bell opened a branch in Cubao City, Philippines, which had two locations within the Gateway Mall, one on the ground floor and one on the fourth.
In 2009, Taco Bell replaced McDonald’s as the official NBA fast food sponsor. In 2014, the company debuted mobile ordering and payment through its new app. It was the first of its kind in the fast-food sector. And in 2015, Taco Bell launched its vegan and vegetarian menu, providing limited-service delivery throughout the US. Chicago was the first vegan and vegetarian-friendly branch to sell alcohol.
In 2016, Taco Bell debuted its Cantina flagship restaurant on the Las Vegas strip. It serves food and alcohol, and diners can enjoy music as well. It’s also open 24 hours. There are more of these types of restaurants in San Francisco, Berkley, Chicago, Austin, Fayetteville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Newport Beach, and San Diego.
Yum currently owns Taco Bell, and aside from the original taco dish, the franchise offers burritos, quesadillas, nachos, veggies, and combos.
And so, the Taco Bell brand grew. This fast-food chain operates over 7300 restaurants across 30 countries. It serves over two billion tacos and more than a million burritos annually. What’s more, the brand even has over 350 franchises worldwide.
So, let’s take a look at how all that growth and change affected the logo.
Taco Bell Logo Over Time
The Taco Bell logo actually hasn’t changed much since the restaurant opened as Taco Bell in 1962. In fact, it has only had six total versions. The bell icon started being used in the official logo in 1985, and the one we can see today was first introduced in 1992 and has been modernized for today’s versions.
The Original Logo (1962 to 1972)
The original logo created for Taco Bell in 1962 featured a bright, colorful design that showcased eight colorful rectangles at varying angles with white sans-serif letters in each. The letters spelled out the name of the brand, and the color palette was formed from shades of burgundy, green, yellow, and orange. It reflected the lively energy of the “fun-loving” company as well as paid homage to the ingredients you could see in its food. This logo stayed with the brand for ten years.
A Totally New Style (1972 to 1985)
The 1972 redesign saw a totally new style take over the Taco Bell visual identity. The logo, which would be used by the brand for over a decade, showcased a sleek monochrome inscription. The letters were in all capitals and used a custom typeface that featured elongated bold lines, diagonal cuts, and sharp serif angles, adding a modern vibe. The logo still consisted of just a wordmark and was a dark brown color.
The Bell Appears (1985 to 1992)
In 1985, the bell icon appeared in the logo. The design was executed in a red, yellow, and green color palette, and the bell sat above bold black lettering. The custom typeface also showcased elongated rails of the first letters, similar to the previous design, and had sharp diagonal cuts within the letters’ lines. This version of the logo stuck around for nearly ten years. It was also used along with the updated version that took over in 1992.
The Bell Takes a New Angle (1992 to 1994)
The new icon designed for Taco Bell in 1992 featured an updated color palette, which would become the official brand color scheme. The new larger pink bell sat against a purple background. It was composed of a solid arched shape with several horizontal white lines running through it. The wordmark, seen in the same typeface as in the previous version, was colored purple and divided into two lines beneath the bell.
The Updated Bell from 1994 to 2016
The redesign of 1994 refined the previous version’s contours and details. It elevated the color palette to a brighter, more intense selection of pink and purple. The wordmark type was also changed, and now an extended and bold sans-serif font with diagonally cut letter ends was used for the capitalized inscription. This logo stayed untouched for over two decades.
The Current Taco Bell Logo (2016 – Present)
In 2016, the Taco Bell logo was redesigned again. This new version featured a simpler color palette with just purple, white, and black. The entire bell sits on a purple background above the strict black wordmark that’s executed in a uniform, bold, and neat sans-serif typeface with clean contours.
Taco Bell Logo Key Elements
Over the years, there have been a few constants when it comes to the Taco Bell logo. Throughout its long history, you can find these three features repeated in nearly every version of the design.
1. The Bell
Used as a way to pay homage to the founder, the bell icon in the restaurant’s logo has been around for decades. While it originally sat straight, up and down above the wordmark, the bell is now very recognizable for its mid-swing look in the most recent and current versions of the logo.
2. The Stacked Appearance
Since the icon was added to the logo, it has always sat right above the wordmark. What’s more, the wordmark itself has been updated to sit on two lines stacked one above the other. This stacked rectangle-like shape creates a uniform look across the logo.
3. The Bold Font
The logo design for Taco Bell has always used a bold font, particularly when the wordmark was the entire logo. In the past, the old Taco Bell logo font looked similar to Macbeth. As for a new Taco Bell logo font, it looks like Helvetica. The sans-serif, the all-cap type is clean and minimalistic.
4. About the Colors
The bell itself features a combination of two shades of purple, light and dark, while the wordmark is given in black. The current version of the Taco Bell logo is set in purple and white with no additional shades. The combination looks cool and stylish, making the badge of the fast food chain stand out in the list of its competitors. The purple here is a representation of the brand’s progressive approach and young vines in its philosophy.
This particular fast food chain has seen incredible growth and success through its many years in business. While it did take a surprising amount of time for the brand to adopt the bell as its icon, it seems unlikely that it’ll go away anytime soon. The bell calls back to the founder, who was inspired by a Mexican dish to create his own uniquely American offering. As the brand continues to grow, it will be interesting to see if another major redesign occurs or if this current logo will beat the twenty-year record for the longest-used Taco Bell logo. Whatever we see from the brand, they’ll continue to “Think Outside the Bun.”