Reader Poll Results: Your favourite corporate logos of all time

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Published:  September 10, 2014
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Over the past two weeks, we’ve conducted a social media poll via desktop’s Facebook and Twitter to uncover what corporate logos were our audience’s favourite, and to list their ‘best of all time’. The most mentioned logo is a surprise to no-one, but there were some startling omissions, and the discussion around the choices uncovered some interesting ideas and stories.

Along with the most mentioned corporate logo (announced at the bottom of the page), were a diverse range of icons and branding elements from a diverse number of international studios or individuals, yet most featuring a palette of either black, red or yellow.

Sports

Adidas founder Adolf “Adi” Dessler designed the original logo himself back in 1967, and redesigned it again in 1971. The current logo was redesigned in 1997 by Adidas creative director Peter Moore, but interestingly, all retained the original type and the basic structure of the “three stripe” icon.

The original 1967 logo

The 1971 redesign

The current logo

The Nike “Swoosh” was mentioned more often, however, as one of the most widely recognised and distinct logos of all time. It also carries its own design legend, the story of Carolyn Davidson, a student in 1971, who had a chance meeting with Nike co-founder Nick Bowerman. He offered her work so should could afford to take an oil painting class, which lead to him paying her $2 per hour to design the logo of, what was then, his side business. The $35 bill is often quoted as a small price to pay for such a recognisable logo, but Bowerman was surprised at how much it cost at the time. “I never thought she would spend 17.5 hours on the project!” he said in 1987. Davidson was gifted Nike stocks, however, which are currently valued at over $650k.

The Nike ‘Swoosh’

The only other sporting logo mentioned were the rings of the International Olympic Committee. Yes, the IOC are technically a corporation, but they rings are symbols, or icons, rather than a logo. Nevertheless, they are an internationally recognised symbol associated with an idea and brand, so we have included them. Designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who was cofounder of the modern Olympic Games, and referenced the flags of every competing nation at the time. The rings were not released until 1920, due to the interruption of the Olympic program by World War I.

The Olympic rings

The Big Four

With the omission of the ‘most mentioned’ logo, there were four more of the most globally recognised corporate logos voted. These were, of course, of no surprise, although appeared to be mentioned purely for their staying power and visibility, rather than their design integrity.

The current McDonalds logo. The “golden arches” were designed in 1962 by Jim Schindler.

The current shell logo, the 10th in the company’s 100+ year history, is a further-simplified version of the 1971 redesign by Raymond Loewy.

The current monochrome Apple logo, introduced in 1998 from Rob Janoff’s rainbow logo, to allow easier, cheaper embossing on metal.

The Coca-Cola script logo was drawn by the company’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885. It has been refined over time, but essentially changed very little.

Australian Logos

The three most mentioned Australian logos came from three of the biggest branding agencies in the country. The modern QANTAS logo (voted #2 in our Top 10 Australian Logos feature) has passed through the hands of Tony Lunn, Ken Cato AO and most recently, Hans Hulshosch. The subtle ‘m’ ligature and Southern Cross formation of the Commonwealth Bank logo was designed by Ken Cato, and the more recent City of Melbourne logo by Landor (controversially, through their Sydney office.)

The simplified, modern iteration of the Qantas logo by Hulsbosch.

The Commonwealth Bank logo (before “CAN”) with the subtle “m” ligature and Southern Cross formation, by Ken Cato

The City of Melbourne logo by Landor (SYD)

Other Notable Mentions

Receiving one or two votes each, these logos were also mentioned by our polled audience.

The much-imitated Unilever logo, by Wolff Olins

The current Lego logo, designed in house, is the 12th redesign in the company’s history.

Playboy’s original logo has changed little over the years. Designed by Playboy magazine’s first art director Art Paul, he has said he “probably spent half an hour on it.”

The Target “bullseye”.

Amazon’s “A to Z + smile” logo by Turner Duckworth. “Anyone who doesn’t like the logo, doesn’t like puppies” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.

Wildcard: The original Open Universities logo was nominated.

Omissions

There were some surprising omissions from the list, including the #6 voted Australian logo for Woolmark, every logo by Paul Rand, Herb Lubalin, Saul Bass and Milton Glaser, and Paula Scher’s Citi logo, which is often the logo referenced when the design process is misunderstood as impulsive. Scrawled on a napkin in seconds by Scher during a initial client meeting, she had to later explain that she may have done it in seconds, but “it’s a second done over 34 years”.

Paula Scher’s Citi logo sketch

The finished Citi logo

1964 (current) logo Francesco Saroglia.

Various logos by Paul Rand

The Most Mentioned Corporate Logo

If there is a winner to a poll like this, then it must be the Fedex logo. The legendary logo has won over 40 design awards and is celebrated for its ingenious use of negative space. Designed by Lindon Leader in 1994 while senior design director in the San Francisco Landor office, Leader learned the trade under Saul Bass, who gave him his first job.

“We had two or three teams working on it,” he explains. “We developed about 200 design concepts, everything from evolutionary to revolutionary.” Working between his two favourite fonts, Univers 67 and Futura Bold, he started squeezing the letter spacing. “I saw a white arrow start to appear between the E and the x. I thought, ‘There’s something there.’ I took the high x of Univers and mixed it with the stroke of Futura Bold. The x rose to the crossbar of a lowered E. I kept tweaking, and eventually not only did the arrow look natural and unforced, but I ended up with a whole new letterform.”

Thank you to everyone who got involved! Our next reader poll starts next Monday – keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter!

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