World’s Most Famous Company Logos – History, Design, Psychology & Key Takeaways

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World's famous brand logos and lessons from them

Apple

The History/Inspiration

The popular Apple logo went through several iterations over the decades but it retained the same shape inspired by — circles. You probably won’t notice it on an icon but try peering at an HD version of it and you’ll notice hidden overlapping circles.

About a dozen circles are spread around according to the golden ratio pattern, with overlaps forming the logo. The inspiration for it could have been the story of Adam and Eve but we tend towards Newton’s apple, seeing how an early Apple product was called “Newton”.

Color Psychology

Apple’s logo went through several stages, with the one between 1977–1998 featuring rainbow colors. Next came black (1998–2000), chrome (2001–2007), shaded silver (2008–2015) and flat silver (2016–). Stages illustrate the evolution of Apple’s design philosophy.

The Design

The designer behind the logo is Rob Janoff, who explained that the bite in the apple came from a fear that it would be distorted when made smaller, looking like a cherry. Even the colored stripes in the early iteration of the logo were there for practical purposes; Apple furnished its devices with color screens compared to the standard monochrome.

It was only natural that the logo design changed over time but the key elements in it remained the same. Over time, Apple’s logo became simpler and flatter, representing minimalism and a dedication to perfection.

Key Takeaways

Circles are ideal for designing logos. They can be arranged in all sorts of ways, giving you new perspectives, interesting curves and novel shapes. If you can find some sort of symmetry or a universal mathematical rule to arrange them by, you’ll give them a note of mysticism as well.

Nike

The History/Inspiration

The creation of Nike logo was symbolic of the entire company’s success: a student with humble beginnings made the logo for a quick buck but struck gold and reached stardom. The student, Carolyn Davidson, was eventually given stock in the company alongside a diamond and gold ring.

The first iteration of the logo was “RBS” for Blue Ribbon Sports. The logo then became the famous swoosh with the words “NIKE”. After 1985, only the swoosh remained, which is said to represent the wing of Nike, the goddess of victory.

Color Psychology

Nike logo was at first black and white but the 1985 overhaul of the logo included turning it into white letters on red background. This version was short-lived and apparently tied into athlete promotion, most notably that of Michael Jordan.

The Design

Simplicity was and is Nike logo’s main attribute. Swoosh evokes the illusion of depth and the image of an underdog coming from the background to swiftly move past laggards to victory. The red phase of the logo was meant to combine red (passion, ambition, charm) with white (purity) but that color scheme was abandoned in favor of a classical white on black.

Futura Bold was the most commonly used font in the logo past 1978. Prior to that, the logo used a cursive serif font that had slight modifications to make the letters mesh together better and for fluidity.

Key Takeaways

A logo can always be made simpler. Though the logo did eventually start being coupled with the words “Just do it”, the solo swoosh remained the universally recognizable logo for the brand. There’s no need for fancy logos either; all it takes is a little bit of inspiration and a lot of passion in making one’s vision happen.

Coca Cola

The History/Inspiration

Coke is an iconic drink in the US culture, shaping the Zeitgeist across 130 years it’s been present on the market. The original logo was made in 1887 using calligraphy to invoke the flowing, free-spirited feeling.

The drink was initially a medicinal drink, meant to alleviate pain and discomfort and sold in pharmacies, which is why it contained cocaine and cola nut, hence the name Coca Cola. No matter how many times the logo was reimagined, it always retained the tail flap.

Color Psychology

White letters on red background provide excellent contrast, which leads to matching visibility. The Coca Cola logo was furnished on buttons and signage, which led to businesses hanging them inside and outside, turning the Coca Cola logo into a fixture.

The Design

At the end of the 19th century, establishments saw the revenue-generating appeal of public meeting places. But, how to attract people there, what drink to serve them with and how to prevent public drunkenness? Coca Cola ticked all the right boxes by using a design that the entire US public could agree with and say it represents the US mentality.

The logo exemplifies not just the blending of two components but also the gradual refinement of the US public, which started enjoying soda as the publicly accepted drink of choice.

Key Takeaways

Besides suggesting having a good time, a logo can serve as an ingredient label as well. In the case of Coca Cola, the logo promises non-drunken public fun and excitement for ladies and gentlemen. The added color contrast made it so shops hung the Coca Cola signage for better visibility, which also help the drink’s success.

McDonald’s

The History/Inspiration

At first, the McDonald’s logo involved a smiling chef’s face and the words “famous hamburgers”. The company went from one owner to the next, going through rebrandings until in 1952 a a sign-maker created the two golden arches.

The arches in the logo intersected and were meant to look like letter “M” but the gradual flattening and simplification made it into a proper “M”. Over time, the logo was tweaked and touched up but it has remained fairly consistent over the past 70 years, exclusively using Helvetica fonts.

Color Psychology

The iconic red/yellow combination of colors in the McDonald’s logo isn’t used universally. Some franchises were allowed to use turquoise and some even used pitch black arches. The reasoning was that different colors meshed better with the surrounding scenery.

The Design

The golden arches were actually built on top of McDonald’s restaurants at one point. The two owners wanted something noticeable from the road and sifted through architects until they found one willing to make their vision a reality. Initially, the arches were two crude half-circles, which the cooperative architect built as refined curves.

The arches were made out of yellow sheet metal and neon-trimmed. While they were dropped from restaurants during the 1960s due to building codes, they remained in the logo. One marketer commented that the “M” resembles mother’s breasts, embracing and feeding the hungry travelers.

Key Takeaways

One feature of a product or company is enough to base a logo on. In this case, it was an architectural feature, the famous golden arches. It’s interesting that the owners insisted on having actual restaurant arches and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. If your design ideas are being rejected, keep going and you’ll make them happen.

Google

The History/Inspiration

During the 1990s, the internet was in its emo stage: edgy and constantly changing appearances. The 1997 Google logo matched the theme, simply being a tilted “Google” with ample red shading that offended the senses.

In 1998, Sergey Brin finally got to sprucing up the logo using a graphics editor, sorting the letters on the same line and toning down the shading. The next year, the letters briefly got an exclamation mark because, hey, that’s what Yahoo! had. Later iterations of the logo will stick around for a decade.

Color Psychology

At first, only primary colors were used in the logo: red, green and blue. The RGB color scheme is an essential part of the nerd vocabulary but then yellow was added to show that Google can go beyond nerd.

The Design

The Google logo is meant to convey all the core ingredients of Google as a company while still evoking a sense of playfulness and boundless creativity. There are no plainly identifiable elements in any of the letters, which did draw inspiration from the Catull font but everything was tweaked to show a company that can go beyond.

In the 21st century, Google’s logo became flat to look better on mobile devices, eliminating the shadow. Instead of Catull, Google later created an in-house font called Product Sans for the logo. The idea was to look completely digital and provide high contrast.

Key Takeaways

Anything can be reimagined and tweaked to fit your design vision. We’ve seen that with the Google logo, which has remained constant but goes through daily iterations known as “Google Doodles”. As you explore your design vision, you’ll get interesting spin-off ideas that you can take in a whole another direction without affecting the main design.

Adidas

The History/Inspiration

What does “Adidas” mean anyway? It’s the composite of the name and nickname of the founder, Adolf Adi Dassler. At first, the logo was a spiked shoe and the words “Adidas sportschuhe” (sports shoe). In the 1970s, the logo was revamped and simplified, making the stripes look like a mountain to invoke a feeling of reaching for the top.

The reason for the stripes was actually practical — they reinforced the shoe. Later on, a trefoil (three-headed leaf) was added to represent three parts of the world: Asia, Europe and North America.

Color Psychology

The universal black and white version of the logo is meant to be used in color-restricted settings and where colors would clash with the background. As for accent colors, they are one of seven rainbow-like colors used for apparel.

The Design

The logo was made by taking three bars, staggering and rotating them 30 degrees before cutting them off at the baseline. The brand name was intentionally spelled out with a lowercase “a” to emphasize accessibility and simplicity. In some instances, the word “equipment” is added below “adidas”.

The trefoil also incorporates the three stripes, for which corporate materials prescribe exact dimensions, including which colors are usable where. In every combination and variation, there are strict guidelines on how the elements of the logo can be arranged to fit all apparel and footwear.

Key Takeaways

A logo can have a defining element that suffuses all of its variations. In the case of Adidas, it’s the three bars. No matter the type of Adidas logo, there’s always the three bars, which evoke the same meaning of a simple yet creative concept — performance. The target demographic of Adidas are professional athletes, to whom this concept speaks directly.

Pepsi

Pepsi can lot

The History/Inspiration

Pepsi arose as a direct competitor to Coca Cola and the two indeed waged bitter marketing wars that at times turned sour. The inspiration for the Pepsi logo came from a diverse background of geometry and culture, such as the yin-yang symbol, the Mobius strip and the oscillations of a pendulum.

The initial logo resembled Coca Cola’s as well, with calligraphy and swirly, flowery letters. Starting in 1905–1906, the Pepsi logo used more and more simplified imagery, with less flourish and the Harry Plain font.

Color Psychology

The color palette uses the scientific method of emotion association: blue with the feeling of coolness and freshness, white for purity and red for passion, energy and richness.

The Design

The design of the Pepsi logo resembles the globe and its magnetic fields. The red-white-blue colors also mimic the yin-yang symbol and emphasize symmetry. There’s also a bit of a 3D illusion — when pasted onto a curved surface, such as a soda bottle or can, the logo appears like a smiling face.

Depending on the viewing angle, the logo has a slightly different expression that represents the face of a new generation. This added motion by the observer is transferred onto the logo and creates a multi-dimensional brand that exhibits a gravitational and emotional pull.

Key Takeaways

Faces attract the gaze, even when stylized. The Pepsi logo does draw inspiration from various geometric principles but the core idea of representing a smiling, 3D face is meant to linger in the peripheral gaze and attract the shopper. Instead of being a transaction, the Pepsi logo invites into what the logo designer, Peter Arnell, called “Pepsi galaxy”.

Starbucks

The History/Inspiration

This famous logo began its seafaring journey in 1971 Seattle, when Starbucks wanted a mascot for itself. Poring through ancient books, they found Norse woodcuts of a mermaid, a twin-tailed being that was immediately seen as the perfect mascot.

The logo went through several iterations that consistently simplified and pulled the mermaid forward. The latter two words from the “coffee-tea-spices” slogan were also dropped and the color was changed from brown to green.

Color Psychology

At first, the logo color was brown to evoke the notion of grounded and ground coffee but was later changed to green to evoke the feeling of prosperity, nature and growth.

The Design

The character featured in the logo is neither a mermaid nor a siren; it’s actually a mix of the two called Melusine. She represented raw lust that leads to ruin, showing exposed breasts that were later covered with her hair to make her more inviting and pleasurable.

The oval shape of the logo was tweaked to resemble a coffee bean, with the words gradually being removed from the logo to put more emphasis on the character. Today, the Melusine is a veritable icon that evokes the feelings of sailing, exotic places and the coffee culture.

Key Takeaways

Precision matters. The initial Starbucks logo was hand-drawn but the more company succeeded, the more its logo became precise, symmetrical and pleasant. The sexuality present in the original logo was also retained, though one wouldn’t see it at first; the siren holds its legs open apart, inviting the weary sailor to a land of pleasure.

FedEx

The History/Inspiration

What conveys the speed of delivery better than an arrow? That’s what inspired Federal Express to build its logo around one as well, placing it between “E” and “x”. It won’t be noticed consciously until someone points it out to you but you will definitely note it subconsciously.

The logo originally had the words “FEDERAL EXPRESS” written in alternating colors but that didn’t pan out as well on various backgrounds, so it was simplified.

Color Psychology

The FedEx logo color scheme was haphazardly made at first but the revamp made it stand out on white backgrounds of all kinds. That necessitated the change of the original color scheme from white/red to purple/orange letters.

The Design

Two words in the logo were shortened when the brand started going global, to avoid negative connotations with the word “federal”. Overall, the entire brand logo went through the process of streamlining to turn a white background into a strategic marketing tool to propel the brand into global consciousness.

There was even a movie featuring a stranded FedEx executive, the FedEx-branded package and the famous volleyball Wilson. The subtle point of the movie wasn’t missed by the audiences — FedEx always delivers its packages, no matter the trouble and no matter how long it takes.

Key Takeaways

Negative space can be leveraged to increase brand impact. Even if the logo contains plenty of white or empty spaces, that can be turned into an advantage. Think about the global impact of words in your logo and try shortening them to avoid customer aversion. Simplify and streamline shapes whenever possible.

British Broadcasting Corporation

The History/Inspiration

The famous BBC logo was initially a series of complicated symbols, such as globe with lightning bolts. The problem was that BBC had different franchises, each of which used a different symbol, which diluted the brand.

Sometime in the 1950s, the BBC logo became a series of boxes with bold italic letters “BBC”. There was some iteration, with letters first being white on black and then black on white. In the 1970s, the boxes were rounded and in the 1990s three colored bars, blue-red-green, were added below the letters.

Color Psychology

The only color in the logo were the three colored bars, meant to represent flags of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This was eventually removed and replaced by pure black and white for added contrast and reduced offensiveness.

The Design

BBC branding and logo suffered from being just a bit off across different franchises and departments. When a famous graphic designer was hired in the 1990s to revamp the logo, he suggested a corporate, straight look that would exude professionalism and neutrality. That same look remained to this day.

He pointed out that slanted boxes clashed with straight fonts when printed on stationery and those colored bars upped the expenses by requiring a color printer. On TVs of the time, slanted boxes looked pixelated and jagged in low resolution, which again prompted the switch to straight boxes and letters.

Key Takeaways

Work within your constraints and use whatever fulfills your technical specifications. Even if your design resonates with your brand, practicality and uniformity of the logo take precedence over artistic expressions and flourish. Even when the logo is revamped, users can recognize it if the same overall shape and the color scheme remains.

Target

The History/Inspiration

Target logo at first had plenty of details that was pared down over decades but always retained the recognizable bullseye imagery. In 1962, the logo was three concentric red circles with black cursive “Target” across the middle. In 1968, the circle was reduced to a red dot in a single circle besides a stenciled “TARGET”. Today, Target uses the same reduced dot logo that may or may not be accompanied by a lowercase “target”.

Color Psychology

Early on, Target’s logo was tricolor, using the kind of red that included orange and rosy hues but today it is bright red. Black was there too but clashed with the other two so it had to go.

The Design

Legibility was a huge problem in the early versions of the logo. Black cursive text over red and white background appeared like it was meant to confuse and cause motion sickness. Later on, bold sans-serif all-cap “TARGET” made all the difference for visibility and legibility. The font was Helvetica Neue Bold, which is as neutral and non-expressive as it gets.

Simplistic perfection is the core concept of Target’s logo design. By constantly eliminating eyesores and paring down the dead weight, Target created a logo that needs no introduction or text for recognition.

Key Takeaways

Bright colors and high contrast are magnetic and attract the gaze but circles are hypnotic and guide the gaze. Target’s logo shows the synergy of magnetism and hypnotism, capturing the customer’s attention and leading it to the center, which is the Target store. It bears repeating the bullseye symbolism, which also implies total success and effortless achievement.

LG

The History/Inspiration

Here’s one logo that’s experienced barely any changes over the course of 25 years. In 1995, the logo was a white stylized “L” inside a “G” made in the same vein on a red background. To the right, bold initials “LG” are centered vertically. However, from 1958–1995 it was actually a red crown inside a red square next to a red “GoldStar”. As you can imagine, over the course of decades the logo lost plenty of details and was made flatter, as is common with corporate logos.

Color Psychology

Red and white are a commonly seen combination in logos, loved for its low production cost but high contrast and visibility. Still, LG didn’t give up on the silver-themed “LG” next to the red-white logo.

The Design

Smiley faces and stylized logos that look like them have long been a staple of marketing and logo-making. In the case of LG’s logo, it’s the L and G that form a face and an additional dot top left completes the illusion. The silver “LG” written next to it is most commonly presented in a Helvetica font, making the G look like an inward curving arrow.

The acronym LG stands for “life’s good”, which is sometimes spelled out next to the logo and on the hardware produced by the company.

Key Takeaways

A logo should be compatible with an entire family of products, as is the case with LG’s logo. For example, LG produces fridges as well as smartphones. Both categories use the same logo, minus the color; on smartphones, the logo is black on silver instead of white on red.

Toyota

The History/Inspiration

As is common with Japanese companies, Toyota is a conglomerate comprised of various manufacturing companies, the most famous of which makes cars. Today, we know the Toyota logo as three ovals within one another that form a “T” but the initial name of the company was “Toyoda” in a vertically squished octagon.

In 1936, the Toyoda logo was turned into a katakana-like logo that was nearly unintelligible for non-Japanese speakers. To go global, Toyota had to simplify the logo, which was done in 1989 with the change to three ovals.

Color Psychology

Guess the color combination of the Toyota logo in corporate settings. Yes, it’s red on white for added contrast. On cars, it’s actually a combination of chrome, gray and silver, with hybrid models also having blue hues.

The Design

The nested ovals represent a balanced, wholesome relationship with the world, evoking a sense of being embraced by the globe. The segments of ovals also spell out the company name but if you peer into the logo, you’ll notice the shapes are made with varying line thicknesses. This is to celebrate the Japanese calligraphy and provide a different meaning to each segment of the logo.

Making a logo in monochrome is a good idea, to see if it conveys the same meaning without color. In this case, the logo looks great without color and tolerates colored hues well.

Key Takeaways

Cultural influences can be integrated into a logo, keeping it regional and national but also making it global. One interesting aspect we don’t see often is the varying line thicknesses. These subtle changes aren’t noticed consciously but they are felt and experienced by the viewer. In this way, a logo imparts a layered meaning.

Mercedes-Benz

The History/Inspiration

In 1902, Mercedes-Benz had a short-lived logo consisting of the word “MERCEDES” vertically stretched to fill out an ellipsis. The letters were white on a black background. In 1909, the word was changed to “BENZ” and the ellipsis was changed to a circle filled with a laurel wreath.

Past 1909, the logo was changed to the caltrop-like shape it has today. The outer circle was gradually thinned to an elegant rim until it started looking like a steering wheel.

Color Psychology

Pure black and pure silver give the logo a bounty of elegance and excellence. Just like the brand, the logo is conservative, symmetrical and pristine, without any superfluous details or dead weight.

The Design

The caltrop (three-pointed star) shape represents Mercedes-Benz vehicles being superior to all competition in air, sea and on land. Inside the points of the star, white lines are drawn to give the illusion of shading and depth. There are similar lines drawn inside the rim and they represent precision, mathematical ingenuity and acceptable deviation from the norm.

Another important component of the logo is the illusion of motion. The delicate lines in the star and the rim give an air of lightweight travel towards the stars and beyond, with luxury and comfort.

Key Takeaways

Solid shapes can be broken up with neutral lines to give them a more nuanced look that fits more than one category of products. In all likelihood, the main reason why the star was stricken through was to avoid visual similarity to other star-like shapes, such as a caltrop, but also make the logo more universal.

Shell

The History/Inspiration

In 1897, the Shell Transport and Trading Company was founded. Three years later, the first logo was made, depicting a seashell laid on the ground, in black and white. The name stems from the seashells the company imported at the time from the East but Shell eventually started trading oil and still does to this day.

Today, Shell’s logo is a yellow upright seashell with a red outline. At various times, the word “Shell” was added, either in red or white, all-caps or title case.

Color Psychology

Red and yellow were chosen to represent the company’s connection to Spain and California, both exceedingly sunny places, and again the rising sun. The owner noted his country’s Royal Standard also had those colors and so it stuck.

The Design

The logo was meant to look like a photograph and had the quality to match. It brought a whiff of exotic, far-away beauty that promises riches. The yellow block of color inside the seashell outline is stricken with red tapering lines, which resemble the sunrise, again bringing a sense of traveling to the East.

In some instances, the logo and the wordmark have their colors inverted but the basic shape is the same. For the section of Shell that deals in gas, the color palette is based on white and blue because that’s the color of gas burning.

Key Takeaways

Theming a logo is perfectly fine but blending two themes works even better. Shell takes the theme of the rising sun and goes with it all the way, adding the nuance of exotic riches by invoking the seashell imagery. This kind of rich background story resonates with the audience, providing for a deeper connection.

Walmart

The History/Inspiration

Since 1962, Walmart has been offering low prices and a high variety of products. The logo was always memorable but it’s only in the 1970s that it became simplified. Starting in 1950 as “WALTON’S”, Walmart gradually worked on the logo, experimenting with adding a dash or a star between “WAL” and “MART”.

In 2008, the company finally settled on a logo that is used to this day: a blue “Walmart” next to six yellow, converging dashes.

Color Psychology

Yellow and blue in the Walmart logo are calm, cozy colors that invite and soothe. The contrast between them is decent but not as striking as between red and white, which reinforces the friendly nature of the brand.

The Design

The converging dashes actually represent a spark, which is commonly associated with a burst of energy that brings creation and outward, expansive motion. At times, there was a tagline beneath that read, “Save money. Live better.” All of the text is written in the Myriad Pro-Bold font, with slight modifications to some letters.

Though marketers commonly advise against putting personal details in branding to ensure marketability, the Walmart logo can be said to represent the owner going against the grain. Despite nobody believing in him, he succeeded and proudly relishes every bit of that success.

Key Takeaways

Taglines can be incorporated in a logo, as long as it all remains coherent and retains an aura of friendliness. In the case of Walmart, the logo works just fine with the spark alone, with only “Walmart” or just the tagline. This gives Walmart a lot of flexibility in presenting its brand nationally or internationally.

Microsoft

The History/Inspiration

What we know as Microsoft started out as Traf-O-Data in the 1970s. Back then, the logo was a messy T-O-D glommed into a single letter, with “Traf-O-Data” next to it. By 1975, the logo was all-caps “MICROSOFT” done in the Aki Lines font, changing it to New Zelek and then, no surprise there, Helvetica Italic Black.

In 2012, Microsoft added the emblematic colors of its four most famous products arranged in a square to the logo, with “Microsoft” written in Segoe Semi bold next to it.

Color Psychology

The four colors used in the logo are red, orange, green and blue. When looked at on the color wheel, they are spaced 90° apart, which implies complementary products and a comprehensive ecosystem.

The Design

From the very first version of the logo, Microsoft strove to make an inclusive, welcoming environment for all users. From deadpan programmers to jolly gamers and fumbling grandmas, Microsoft wants them all on board and using all its products together.

Global reach is another key aspect of the Microsoft color palette and logo design philosophy. Some colors may have negative connotations in certain regions but providing four of them at once and balancing them as Microsoft did negates all negativity. By preempting all criticism, Microsoft has used this globally acceptable logo to become a renowned brand.

Key Takeaways

Not all logos have to use Helvetica. Despite being the most imposing font, Helvetica can also alienate and overwhelm the viewer, who might be impressed but not necessarily connect with the brand. What Microsoft did was go against the crowd, opting for a soft, pleasant and welcoming font that urges the viewer to identify and connect to the brand personally.

IBM

The History/Inspiration

IBM’s logo started out in 1889 as intertwined letters spelling out “ITRC”, when the company was known as International Time Recording Company. Through mergers and reformations, this company was rebranded as International Business Machines, with the logo those three words shaped to appear like a globe.

In 1946, the logo was shortened to blue IBM in all-caps on a white background, sticking around in a similar form ever since. The most famous version was made in 1967, when the letters were stricken through by white lines.

Color Psychology

Blue and white were adopted as brand colors, seeing how IBM staff’s code was so strict that it mandated blue suits and white shirts. Those two colors radiate professionalism and friendliness, which certainly helps in business negotiations.

The Design

IBM’s logo was written out in a custom typeface resembling Galleria, with some tweaks to give it a sharper, more orderly look. All elements of the wordmark, such as curves and angles, are shaped and placed to fit a grid, which is a major component of IBM’s design.

Grid represents guidance through foolproof instructions leading to effortless achievement, which is one of core IBM values. When clients find themselves in a mess, IBM is always there to provide guidance and lead them to success. The calm blue color denotes teamwork and cooperation rather than authoritative intrusion.

Key Takeaways

A logo is meant to be a part of the branding strategy and hence can draw inspiration from something like a dress code. By leveraging the proven branding strategies, you can easily create a logo that is immediately associated with your staff in the field, serving as an advanced vetting strategy.

Amazon

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The History/Inspiration

Looking at Amazon’s humble origins in 1994, especially the quaint logo of a meandering river creating the letter “A”, you’d never guess it was destined for great things. But, thanks to relentless work and constant focus on customer satisfaction, it’s now a monumental seller in the global market.

The old logo went through several iterations until 2000, when Jeff Bezos created the version, we have today: the word “amazon” with an arrow going from A to Z.

Color Psychology

Black and orange dominate the Amazon logo. Black is associated with refinement, mystery and dignity while orange most often represents extroverted excitement, the combined message being that Amazon’s riches bring you excitement and put a smile on your face.

The Design

Amazon’s logo revamp was done in the Officina Sans typeface. With small tweaks, this font and logo remained to this day. An arrow going from to A to Z represents Amazon switching over from selling books to selling everything. The arrow also creates a smiley face, with the baseline line in “z” curved upwards to accommodate the arrow and enhance the similarity to the human face.

In earlier versions, the logo also had the “.com” suffix that was done in a different font to remind viewers it’s an online-only seller. Thankfully, it was later removed for greater visual coherence.

Key Takeaways

Core services of a company can be represented through the logo without adding many frills. In the case of Amazon, the 2000 pivot ensued after the dot-com bust, with Amazon wanting to advertise itself as a universal selling platform. The revamped logo succinctly relayed the core message of Amazon, that of making customers happy by selling them stuff.

BMW

BMW logo

The History/Inspiration

From 1916, the Munich-based carmaker has been providing its customers with valuable vehicles and a noticeable logo: two blue and two white alternating quarters in a circle, surrounded by a black ring on which stands “BMW”, short for Bayerische Motoren Werk or “Bavarian Motor Producers”.

In 2020, the BMW logo was made flat, removing the black outer ring and the subtle shading in various elements, such as between the quarters of color.

Color Psychology

Blue and white are neutral, calm colors that blend well with many other colors. They suggest friendliness, openness and tolerance in all aspects. In other words, BMW cars are easy to learn, pleasant to drive and tolerate driver mistakes.

The Design

As is common with so many fonts, the letters “BMW” are done in a Helvetica font to imprint the viewer’s consciousness with the ideas of reliability, steadfastness and weight. Alternating colors provide for a 3D effect of depth and subtle shading that captures the gaze and tickles the imagination.

Blue and white are the official flag colors of Bavaria, the German state in which BMW is located. These colors were chosen to inspire regional pride in the craftsmanship of the products and closely mimic the Bavaria flag’s emblem and overall design.

Key Takeaways

Regional pride expressed through the logo can be a valuable marketing asset, giving your brand a steady base of customers. By leveraging that emotion, you can work on the brand while retaining the original elements that made it popular. Keep in mind that colors, shapes and shading synergize well to create a unified, layered look.

Unilever

Unilever logo

The History/Inspiration

Unilever’s logo was a singular letter since its inception in 1964 — “U”. At first, the letter was blue and resembled twin towers the company was housed in. Two curved, symmetrical white lines go through the towers and taper near the bottom of the letter. Beneath that image, a word “Unilever” was written in a plain serif font.

In 2004, Unilever revamped its logo to make it friendlier. The wordmark was now written in the Olivier font beneath a “U” letter composed out of 25 symbols representing products sold by Unilever.

Color Psychology

The first version of the logo had what’s known as “psychological primary blue”. The second version switched to a darker, “pigment blue” that’s closer to purple. The switch is meant to more closely represent the company’s newfound rich product portfolio.

The Design

Unilever’s initial logo served the purpose in representing a distant and immovable company, while the modern design is composite, varied and in motion, to better represent a mixed portfolio of services and products. The new logo contains imagery such as food, clothing, fashion and other iconic products.

Unilever modernizing its logo was meant to make the customer feel involved in the company’s dealings and convey to them that their opinion matters. Instead of being a distant, cold entity, the new Unilever is alive, constantly moving and approachable, especially to the discerning customer of the 21st century.

Key Takeaways

A detailed, rich logo can engage the viewer and make him or her want to participate in the company’s business. Instead of serving as a one-way message, the logo invites for a discussion and sharing of opinions and ideas. The logo is rich with details and the wordmark that mimics handwriting imprints a lot of personality in the logo.

Audi

The History/Inspiration

Audi is a conglomerate of auto parts manufacturers that started congealing in the early 20th century. It then makes sense that the logo will reflect that history. Each of the four manufacturers had a separate logo in a ring; for Audi, the logo was a stylized “1” on an inverted pyramid.

In 1985, the logo has been simplified to fare better on the global market, with only the four rings remaining and some shading on them.

Color Psychology

As the metalworking methods changed, so did the logo color, going through brown and black phases before settling on silver. That color shines with elegance and exemplifies precision machining of all parts of the vehicle.

The Design

In 2009, the Audi logo went through further simplification to look better in digital media and on mobile devices. Therefore, the shading was removed and all elements of the logo were flattened. The font was changed from Audi Sans to Audi Type, a left-aligned font sporting slightly thinner and more balanced letters. Both of these fonts were derived from the Univers font family.

In some cases, the tagline “Vorsprung durch Technik” (advancement through technology) was also used near the logo. That tagline was translated as “truth in engineering” in the United States.

Key Takeaways

Logo doesn’t have to be an abstract element but can actually represent a crucial part of the product production method. In the case of Audi, the logo both shows that the car is made through joint effort by several parts manufacturers and that there’s uniform quality between them, allowing for a superb product.

Gillette

The History/Inspiration

The Gillette brand was created in 1901 as a supplier of personal hygiene products. The logo of the time had a sans-serif “Gillette” with a dropped G and an arrow piercing through the wordmark from left to right, imbuing it with sharpness. The arrow reflected negatively on legibility, making the logo nearly unreadable at smaller sizes.

The logo went through several changes, always retaining the same wordmark. In 2009, the company settled on a slightly left-angled but otherwise generic sans-serif font.

Color Psychology

When Gillette’s logo had color, it was a dark blue at the left and right end of the wordmark but light blue nearer the center. The hues were gentle and subdued, representing refinement that comes through personal hygiene.

The Design

Gillette logo represents finely-tuned razor blades that provide a close shave but also a comfortable experience. The angled letters closely mimic the angle of the blades and the way they’re closely bunched in the wordmark showcase how they’re placed in a multi-blade disposable razor.

Still, the logo suffers from the lack of definition. There’s very little communication with regards to what the company behind the logo is producing or why it matters to the customer. Overall, the logo has gone through little improvement over the decades and hasn’t adapted to the digital age.

Key Takeaways

Personality matters in the logo. From the choice of logo to the choice of colors, everything should go hand in hand with the overall brand and marketing strategy. Gillette is the perfect example of a stagnating, deprecated marketing strategy, which hasn’t given any personality to the logo or found a way to distinguish itself on the market.

Cisco

The History/Inspiration

Since 1984, Cisco provided IT services to California and then the United States. With headquarters in San Francisco, which is nicknamed “Cisco”, the company wanted to tie its brand identity to the city. Hence, the logo was a stylized Golden Gate Bridge.

The same shape was retained through all iterations of the logo, though it was simplified and the color was changed. Near the logo, an all-caps “CISCO” was added in a Ricardo Extra Bold font.

Color Psychology

The logo and the wordmark changed color through iterations, with the two most recent versions having a dark blue/red and sea blue/sea blue combinations. The dominant sea blues across versions of the logo glorifies the Californian waterfront.

The Design

The two latest iterations of the logo show the Golden Gate Bridge outline represented by nine vertical lines of varying length and a “CISCO” wordmark beneath. The wordmark is done in an elegant, rounded, sans-serif font that showcases poise and pride in technological aptitude while still looking like art.

In digital space, Cisco changed up the color palette of its logo, making the bridge outline rainbow-colored and the wordmark a deep, dark blue. This is to signify inclusion, diversity and openness to new ideas while still retaining the initial fascination with San Francisco and its geography.

Key Takeaways

Regional focus can be a branding strategy if the design is abstract enough. In all likelihood, only those familiar with Californian nicknames and landmarks were able to relate to Cisco, making the logo and wordmark have a narrow meaning. It appears Cisco realized this as well, playing with the color scheme and adding another layer of meaning to the logo.

NBC

The History/Inspiration

Founded in 1926, the National Broadcasting Corporation focused on radio broadcasts, which was reflected in the logo depicting a microphone and sparks flying out of it. As the technology advanced, NBC switched to video broadcasts and the logo changed to reflect it.

By 1953, the logo started showing color and by 1956 it had a half-circle resembling the peacock’s tail. After some changes, the logo was changed in 1986 to a fully mature peacock and it was retained to this day.

Color Psychology

Peacocks have long, impressive tails to impress the world with their health and courage. NBC adopted the same gung ho attitude and projected it into its programming using the rainbow-like colors in the logo.

The Design

The colorful and peacock designs changed quite a bit but always remained in some form due to NBC priding itself in the fact that it broadcast shows in full color. Brightly colored peacock feathers were eventually flattened, as is common with detailed logos, and made more abstract to better fit the digital media and look nicer on smartphone screens.

In some instances, the logo was animated, with an even brighter, bolder and more daring array of details. Again, the purpose was to showcase the technological advance just like the peacock showcases his beauty.

Key Takeaways

Abstracted animals form a great foundation for a logo. Their distinguishing features should be put front and center in the logo, with everything else minimized and only hinted at. In the case of NBC’s logo, the peacock’s head is still visible but only barely, with just a subtle nod to the original inspiration for the logo.

Baskin Robins

The History/Inspiration

Baskin Robbins was created through the merger of two ice cream making companies in 1953. Combined, they offered a whopping 31 flavors of ice cream. Hence, making the logo of their new company was straightforward: the names of founders and the number 31. How that was represented in the logo was what changed through the decades.

In 1991, the logo was spruced up and in 2006 modernized to a youthful version done in the Variex Regular font.

Color Psychology

Blue and pink in the youthful version make the letters pop and invoke the feeling of a creamy, delicious ice cream flavor dancing on the tongue. The lowercase wordmark adds the joy but the blue color calms the vibe down.

The Design

The Baskin Robbins logo cleverly disassembles letters and combines them into unique forms, in this case the number 31. That deconstruction and reconstruction defines the logo and the overall branding of the company, giving it a unique aura of chaotic playfulness and child’s play. The letters don’t align with one another but don’t clash violently either, appearing as if though drawn in crayon.

The lowercase wordmark drops all the pretense out of the brand and makes it seem like the entire branding strategy was done by a toddler. As it turns out, that’s a smashing success.

Key Takeaways

Speak to the target audience in a language it understands well. In the case of Baskin Robbins, the target audience would ideally be youngsters and those who feel young, in which case the playful, snappy logo invites experimentation. The audience is enticed to experiment and build its own favorite combination, the same way the logo does it.

HP

HP logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG

The History/Inspiration

In 1939, the world got Hewlett-Packard, a US-based IT company, providing software and computing accessories. The logo already contained the iconic logo, with the lowercase cursive “hp” but also crowded with verbiage describing the products sold. There were several iterations of the logo until 1981, when everything was dropped except the “hp”.

The two letters in the logo are diagonally symmetrical, giving equal weight to each letter and equal importance to both sides of the company.

Color Psychology

The color of the “hp” was at first blue on white in a blue rounded rectangle, only to be changed in 2008 to white on black and then white on light blue in 2012.

The Design

The font used in the logo is quite an obscure one: Baucher Gothic. It represents the letters “hp” as four diagonal slashes angled at 13 degrees, two of which strike out of the white circle. This symbolizes breaking out of the conventional circle of methods and systems to provide genuinely new solutions.

A circle represents balance and the two lines that strike out represent disruption of that balance. Yet, they are still symmetrical and the balance is still retained, making the logo reminiscent of the yin-yang symbol more than anything else.

Key Takeaways

A logo can upset branding conventions and still appear striking enough to attract and hold attention. In the case of HP, it’s all about maintaining the symmetry while still having the audacity to risk and try something new. The customers who align with that brand philosophy are immediately drawn to the company.

Vaio

The History/Inspiration

Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer aka. VAIO is a Japanese computer hardware manufacturer. The VAIO logo is a stylized wordmark incorporating many different computing concepts. For example, the first two letters are represent by a sine wave graph while the final two letters symbolize the binary digits. Combined, the logo represents the merger of analog and digital technologies to provide intelligent computing solutions.

The left part of the logo represents history and the right part is the future, moving from analog to digital.

Color Psychology

The VAIO logo is monochrome, underlining the subtle grace of the brand. That color combination represents conservative and authoritative approach to any problem, with the solution always being mechanically sound and engineered to perfection.

The Design

The VAIO logo is all about the underlying technology being made user-friendly while retaining high fidelity and superb performance. Numbers, graphs and precise machining must take the leading role in the brand but the logo promises to make the experience pleasant and error-free.

Despite having the option to introduce sharp lines, the entire logo is smooth, giving it a welcoming vibe. When these two meanings are combined, the VAIO logo represents the attitude of welcoming everyone into the world of technology, especially when it comes to personal computing, regardless of experience level.

Key Takeaways

User feedback plays a big role in determining how the logo ends up looking and what the overall vibe of the brand is. In this case, we can safely conclude VAIO received plenty of user feedback that their technology isn’t user-friendly enough, prompting the company to make it more welcoming.

Netflix

The History/Inspiration

Netflix is a California-based entertainment company created in 1997, just as the internet was going mainstream. At first, Netflix was sending DVDs through mail, only to switch to exclusively streaming video content over the internet.

The early version of the logo, used until 2000, had the celluloid tape wrapped around “Net”. From then to 2014, the logo was changed to a white, heavily shaded all-caps NETFLIX on a red background. Finally, the logo was changed to a folded tape-like N that hailed back to the original logo.

Color Psychology

Red and white is a popular logo combo, representing an emerging passion. The logo changed its colors two times, going from white on red to purely red letters for better visibility.

The Design

Gotham Bold font was used for the wordmark, which was slightly curved at the ends to represent a widescreen viewing experience, like that of a cinema. Earlier versions of the logo featured a deep, heavy drop shadow, which was meant to represent a stack. The idea was to mimic a stack of digital media with movies on them in the shape of the wordmark.

Therefore, Netflix aimed at movie collectors and cinema aficionados who wanted a customized collection for home enjoyment. This audience was naturally willing to pay a premium, which is how Netflix hit it big.

Key Takeaways

A logo itself may promise a deluxe, customizable experience to draw in the high-powered customer. In that way, the company doesn’t need a large turnover to stay afloat. Those who enjoy having a personal cinema experience will get immediately drawn to Netflix and pay any asking price for it, as long as the quality is there.

Facebook

The History/Inspiration

The most enduring social media has gone through surprisingly few logo changes over the course of 17 years. In 2003, the company used a logo spelling out “FACEMASH” in white on red, changing it to “the Facebook” in light blue and inside square brackets on dark blue in 2004.

One rumor states Mark Zuckerberg liked the blue/blue combination in the logo because he has the red-green blindness, leaving only blue as visible. In any case, the logo stuck and was later simplified to a white lowercase “f” inside a blue circle.

Color Psychology

When used in high tech, blue most often represents a sophisticated approach to life. In the case of Facebook, it’s also the color of friendship and positive vibes shared through the internet globally.

The Design

Klavika font was used for the original wordmark and logo but over time the kerning and letter angles were fiddled with until a brand-new font emerged. These small changes are meant to accommodate dyslexic users and otherwise improve accessibility. The most notable change is in the letter “a”, which has been turned from a single-storey letter to a double-storey one.

The blue color used in the logo and elsewhere in branding is one of five shades of blue hues, the most famous of which has the hex value of 3B5998.

Key Takeaways

Accessibility matters in a logo as well, serving as an invite and a promise of non-discrimination. Facebook has made tremendous strides when it comes to improving user reach, in particular serving disabled users who have trouble navigating other social media. Also, Facebook has shown it’s possible to retain branding power without succumbing to the simplification craze.

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