8 ideas you can borrow from famous logos

Designer sketching logo studies

Ever wondered how brands create iconic logos that are instantly recognizable across the world? Did it happen by chance, or, was it the outcome of a strategic design choice? We like to think it’s the second option. Below, we share some ideas you can borrow from some of the most famous logos ever designed.

When designing a logo for your business or personal brand, it’s helpful to think of it as the welcome mat to your home: the first thing guests see.

Not only is a logo the first thing potential customers interact with, it is also the element of your business they see the most while commuting to work, or scrolling through social media. Which leaves one question: what is your logo telling them?

While there are logo trends that come and go every year when it comes to color, layout, and typography, there are a few key design strategies mega-brands have used to make their logos stand out against the competition, and better yet, become instantly recognizable.

Google

The redesigned Google logo

Designing their first logo in 1997, Google has iterated their original design a few times since launch. The latest redesign took place in 2015 and changed from a serif to san serif font—giving the logo a modern edge. However, while the fonts have slightly changed throughout the years, the core colors—blue, red, yellow and green—used in Google’s logo remains the same. Also, when creating other icons for the different services they provide, Google uses the same color palette, thus creating a sense of consistency.

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Source: 99designs

Design tip: Google is known for changing its logo based on key international dates throughout the calendar year—which, if you’re apart of a smaller company, is probably too time-consuming to emulate. But another way Google has created a stand-out logo is through the use of a bold color palette. When designing your own logo, it’s important to consider whether the colors you have chosen represent your brand and whether they will stand out against your competitive set.

Apple

Black version of the Apple logo

When you look at the first logo Apple created in 1976, it’s clear the brand has come a long way since its launch—which proves that updating your logo isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, the brand recently reverted back to the logo they used in 2000, showing that if your logo is strong enough, your audience will still recognize you after a few tweaks have been made.

evolution of the apple logo

The evolution of the Apple logo has gone through numerous changes over the years

Source: Vardot

The first logo ever created by Apple was a sketch of Isaac Newtown sitting beneath a tree where an apple is ready to drop—this is how he supposedly discovered gravity. However, this was quickly simplified to a drawing of an apple.

Design tip: While Apple has adapted its logo to specific trends throughout the years—the rainbow-colored design was to coincide with their first color display computer—the logo has always represented what their product is known for: Sleek and intelligent design. Due to the simplicity of the Apple logo outline, it is able to be adapted and changed and still be clearly recognizable to customers.

FedEx

FedEx logo

Can you spot the arrow?

For a courier delivery service, FedEx's logo is wildly famous. While it’s likely that the strong color juxtaposition of orange and purple and bold font has helped with this, it’s also worth noting the hidden icon within the text. Can you see the arrow between the “e” and the “x”? This hidden meaning serves as a subliminal message of sorts and helps the customer feel like FedEx is fast and always on the move.

Design Tip: Hidden meanings can be a good idea when creating a logo. And it’s an idea that many international companies have done before. In fact, it’s a great way to get the attention you’ve been looking for because it provides your audience with their own “aha” moment when looking at your logo.

Target

Target logo

Target's logo uses a literal target in bright red

Target’s logo is simple, bright and effective—using a literal target as a logo is genius! However, there’s a little more to the story. According to color psychology, red denotes feelings of passion and importance. And if you’re building any brand, those two emotions are an important feeling to encourage.

Design tip: When it comes to designing a logo, you can make a great impact with the use of white space. Translation: Bigger and busier isn’t always better.

Nike

Nike Swoosh Logo

The Nike logo was created by Carolyn Davidson in 1971 and was initially rejected by the company's co-founder, Phil Knight.

Nike’s name is inspired by Greek mythology. The Goddess of Victory goes by the same moniker. The swoosh tick mimics the wing of this goddess. And when you think about it, using a shape that also looks like a tick is a subtle way to make consumers feel a sense of accomplishment. Fun fact: The original logo was designed in 1971 by graphic design student Carolyn Davidson. She designed the logo and sold it to Nike co-founder Phil Knight for the affordable price of $35. Now that’s a good investment, right?

Different versions of the Nike logo

The evolution of the Nike logo

Source: The Nike logo evolution—the $35 Swoosh

Design tip: If we look at the evolution of Nike’s logo, we can see that over the years they have simplified their design significantly. Their current logo doesn’t reveal their name (one of the benefits of being such an iconic brand.) It’s worth noting that a simple icon can be just as effective as a busy logo—if marketed correctly.

Instagram

Instagram logo

Instagram's current logo was unveiled in 2016

The Instagram logo wasn’t always a cool gradient image. When the social media giant first launched, they actually chose to go with a vintage polaroid illustration. However, as the brand evolved they wanted this new logo to reflect the "vibrant and diverse" community of users who use the application for more than just posting pictures.

Evolution of the instagram logo

Source: iMore

Design tip: As your brand grows and evolves, it’s worth performing an audit on your logo to see whether it still represents the product you are offering to your customers. With their current logo, Instagram has also tapped into a modern logo trend of incorporating gradient colors into the background.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola logo

While many brands have updated their logos according to the times and opted for modern fonts, Coca-cola has always kept a classic feel to their logo. While there have been small tweaks to the typography, the font and colors have remained the same since the company began in 1886.

Design tip: Though brands may follow certain design trends, sometimes a classic, timeless logo will stand the test of time and provide customers with a sense of stability towards your brand and product.

McDonald’s

The iconic golden arches weren’t always the popular logo by fast-food chain McDonald's. In fact, before choosing their signature yellow, red and white color palette, McDonald’s set the stage for minimal logo design with a black-and-white logo that used simple and elegant typography. Experts suggest that yellow is an appetite-stimulating color, and as we mentioned before, red promotes a feeling of passion, so we can only assume there was some strategy when choosing the core colors that the brand has used since the 60s.

McDonald

While the McDonald's logo has gone through numerous changes in the years, its color palette and iconic M has remained steady since 1968

Source: 1000 logos

Design tip: When it comes to designing your logo, it’s important to think about how to make it memorable in different scenarios: on paper, on a screen, or (like with Mcdonald’s) as a neon sign.

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