What’s in a logo?

Posted on 7/02/2011 by Emma Dadswell


Creative Review (CR) magazine, with the help of their readers, are in the process of compiling a list of the 20 top logos of all time. Whilst putting this together they asked readers of the website and their blog to nominate their top five of all time and this is how the list looks:

  1. Apple
  2. V&A
  3. Nike
  4. FedEx
  5. London Underground
  6. BR
  7. Mother & Child
  8. Rolling stones
  9. Woolmark
  10. Addidas trefoil
  11. Channel 4
  12. Coca Cola
  13. Guild of Food Writers
  14. VW
  15. Mercedes-Benz


At number one is Apple –with a logo designed back in 1976 by Rob Janiff.  It is worth pondering whether (as CR point out) the logo is top of the list because it’s a great logo OR is it because Apple are such a popular brand and an admired company?  

So what’s in a logo?  We all know that they are what distinguish one company from another and help to identify a brand. Not only do they provide a visual identity that consumers can recognise and relate to, but culturally the colours and images used help groups to relate or identify with that brand.  Over the last year HSBC have based their ad campaigns on being a bank which understands culture and local customs, particularly relevant where you have a brand which needs to go international. Colours and images that work in one culture may mean something very different in another, so when a logo is being designed this should be taken into account.

But it’s not just pretty colours or a nice name. Often the actual design of a logo is what imprints the image on our memory.  At No.4 on the list is the FedEx logo – look closely at the hidden arrow between Ex – a hidden icon to remind us that FedEx is all about logistics.



Similarly as trends and tastes change or a brand becomes stronger – a company will often update and renew their logo. A recent example of that is Starbucks who changed their logo in a bold move, to solely feature the mermaid or ‘siren’ icon and remove all mention of their name.  Commentators have asked whether the icon is strong enough to carry the brand and wonder, when they celebrate their 40th anniversary in March, will they remain with just this logo or go back to the name? 

We’ll have to wait until April to see what gets polled in top 20 greatest logos of all time, but the list will surely highlight original, impactful and stylish examples – as all good logos should. But in the meantime for all you consumers and brand devotees we’d like to know what your favourite logo is and why?