What Makes a World Famous Logo?
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Everyone wants an amazing, world famous logo. A logo that people recognize, trust and associate with a credible brand. The logo is the spokesperson for a brand, and has more impact on a business than you’d expect. First impressions are important, and with so many logos out there, it’s more important than ever that yours breaks through the clutter, stands out and represents its brand.
In this post I’m going to:
List the Top 5 World Famous Logos
Give a brief history on them
Explain why they perform so well
Top 5 World Famous Logos
Keep in mind that Top Logo lists are dependant upon where you’re from, the current year, and what criteria the ratings are based on. Are they the most recognized? Do they have the most loyal markets? Are they the most valuable? While you may find different variations of Top logos elsewhere, I’ve made my list based on a combination of the merits of the logos, how widely recognized they are and how successful the company is.
1. Apple – Founded April 1, 1976
Image courtesy of Agnostica.com
Often shown to design students as the bar to reach for, Apple has put out consistently gorgeous design over the years. Their logo is versatile enough to fit the current trends while retaining its integrity and avoiding a redesign to keep up. Note: Redesigns can often go badly, upsetting the market’s vision of the brand, like what happened with Gap in 2010. While the earliest version was too complex, it got the ball rolling with the brand’s logo concept – Isaac Newtown sitting under an apple tree. The subsequent 1977 apple logo signified a combination of the discoveries of Gravity (apple), Light (colours) and a tribute to the Tree of Knowledge (detailed here).
There were many other ideas about the meaning of the 1977 logo. From gay rights to Steve Job’s favourite fruit to the colour capacity of the computers, and even the Golden Ratio. The evolution of the Apple logo after 1977 reflects the need to keep up with the trends, match their products and packaging, and compete for the market with superior branding.
So, what does Apple do well?
- Timeless: The main icon shape has remained consistent for 40 years – regardless of style, it’s still just an apple.
- Simple: Yes, they stylize here and there, but overall the logo is minimal and retains its basic shape.
- Versatile: The logo is so basic that it can be adapted easily to adhere to trends and changes in technology.
- Memorable: There are few logos like it in the world. It stands out well from the mass of wordmark-based tech logos.
2. Coca-Cola – First sold May 8, 1886
Image Courtesy of Holidays & Observances
Coca-Cola is a great example of an old-fashioned logo that has stood the test of time. The logo hasn’t changed much since the early 1900’s, but it’s continued to reinvent itself around the original wordmark (with a short-lived rebrand named New Coke in 1985). Coca-Cola has always had some serious competition from Pepsi, so its attempts to keep tweaking its style and improve its logo are warranted. Since the invention of the white wave, it has played with that design element in numerous ways, which keeps the brand consistent, yet innovative.
So, what does Coca-Cola do well?
- Relevant: It keeps the logo as the market wants it – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Their rebrand failed and they haven’t altered their logo to such an extent since then.
- Consistent: It sticks closely to the brand’s design elements. The logo, wave and classic coke bottle are all reused and reworked to keep the brand consistent and fresh.
- Memorable: This is a longtime legacy advantage of course, but the fact that the logo retains its original design and colour builds trust, recognition and loyalty with consumers.
3. Nike – Founded on January 25, 1964
Image Courtesy of Vardot.com
Originally called “Blue Ribbon Sports” in 1964, the company changed its name in 1971 to Nike, the winged greek Goddess of Victory. The swoosh is meant to indicate wing shapes/movements. Co-Founder Phil Knight didn’t actually like the simple logo that was developed for them at the time. He’s quoted as saying “Well, I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.” They went ahead with it of course and it’s worked very well for them. The shape and colour of the entire logo hasn’t changed much in over 40 years, other than an update in 1978. You’re able to see all the logo’s variations in use across Nike’s products and media.
So, what does Nike do well?
- Consistent: It’s barely changed the logo since 1971, creating longevity and therefore trust with its market.
- Simple: The logo is a basic colour, with a simple wordmark and icon that are flexible in their use and options.
- Timeless: The sans serif wordmark and basic icon rise above the trends, establishing a timeless logo.
- Memorable: While “movement” logos are currently multiplying, Nike had one of the first, distinctive versions. It also looks like a check-mark, which has its own connotations.
4. Google – Domain was registered September 15, 1997
Image Courtesy of TechStory
While the search engine giant started off being called “Backrub” in 1996, it quickly came to its senses and started experimenting with logos as it grew. Primary colours were chosen for fun and accessibility, and they’re not in order, indicating that Google doesn’t follow the rules. There were many conceptual iterations in 1999 that included “search” themed graphic elements, but they decided against them so as to remain flexible for expansion. The logo played with the ever-popular drop shadows and 3D curves for over a decade before giving in to the flat graphic trend (with many concepts considered). In recent years, the logo’s changed further still from serif to sans serif. You can sometimes glimpse older versions of the logo in various online platforms.
Google is also a very creative company; it changes its homepage logo frequently to reflect holidays, anniversaries or pay tribute to famous artists and scientists. These are called Google Doodles, and they’re something rarely seen before from a brand. Google retains the main logo, but has fun with it on select days of the year. This keeps users engaged and excited to see what’s coming up next.
So, what does Google do well?
- Consistent: The structure and colours have remained the same through numerous revisions.
- Simple: The wordmark is simple and flexible enough to flow and adapt to the graphic trends without a mass-redesign.
- Memorable: The company keeps users engaged by temporarily changing the homepage logo on special days. This reinforces the company as fun, inclusive and memorable.
- Versatile: The new shortened “G” mark gives the logo increased ability to fit every situation.
5. McDonald’s – First store opened in 1940
Image courtesy of Millennium Marketing Solutions
You’ve no doubt heard of “the golden arches”, or slang names for this brand like Mickey D’s or McDick’s. McDonald’s is arguably the most famous fast food franchise in the world. The brand does very well at rolling with the trends while staying consistent for its market.
Created by the McDonald’s brothers, McDonald’s started to get its logo together in the 60’s. If we look at their logos above, the iconic “M” hasn’t changed much since 1962. The Arches were originally created as part of the restaurant design, with the intent to attract attention from a distance when mounted on top of a restaurant. Over the years, they’ve played with the design around the “M” a bit, trying fresh styles and adapting for campaigns like “I’m loving it” and “trying” to be environmentally conscious. Through it all, the main icon and wordmark have retained their integrity over time.
So, what does McDonald’s do well?
- Memorable: Unique, yet basic, shape for their logo icon.
- Timeless: The wordmark hasn’t altered much over time; you’d barely notice a typography change.
- Consistent: The Arches are used for EVERYTHING – store design, packaging, signage, marketing, etc.
- Memorable: They’ve kept their yellow (a colour often used for discount goods) for nearly 60 years now. People can often remember and associate colours with a brand more than the logo details.
Last but definitely not least…
Honourable Mention: Facebook – Launched February 4, 2004
Image Courtesy of A Little Science A Day
Courtesy of Wikia.com
Depending in the list, you may find this brand in the top 5 (especially if you’re evaluating their financial value). I’m giving them an honourable mention as they’re a newer brand compared to the rest, but they’re just killing it all over the place – starting with their logo. Anyone who’s seen The Social Network will be familiar with how this company (and its name) was created. Their logo has had so few redesigns that you may not have noticed they had any. They dropped “the” from their logo soon after launching, and only changed the typeface of their original wordmark slightly in 11 years. The App icon has adapted well to suit the evolving look and trends of technology, smartphone interfaces and app design.
So, what does Facebook do well?
- Simple: They’ve kept their logo simple since the beginning – a wordmark, one colour and a shortened App icon.
- Consistent: They don’t redesign much – the logo and icon adapt easily to fit the trends.
- Versatile: Original design is such that it fits into every situation seamlessly.
- Memorable: It helps that they have nearly 2 billion users seeing their logo on a daily basis, but their iconic blue and white logo is so simple, it’s hard to forget.
If you take away only one thing today, it is to
keep your logo SIMPLE and CONSISTENT.
You can embellish with design elements within your marketing. Leave them out of your logo. The less you change it, the more people will remember it. It needs to remain timeless and versatile so that it can adapt well.
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