Find Out the Hidden Meanings Behind These 30 Famous Logos

Company logos are an essential part of an organization's advertising and public relations operations. A well designed and easy to recognize brand logo has a fantastic effect on a company's bottom line and sales worldwide. In some circumstances, they are so well recognized that you can simply look at a cropped section of it and you'll instantly know where it comes from!

The following list is a hand-picked selection of some of the biggest brands across the world. We have clumped them together into groups if they share the same industry. For all others, we have included them in a "catch-all" category of "others". In some instances, the company logo may seem simple enough, but look closer and you'll see a "hidden" or subtle message. We hope you enjoy the following list and please do share your suggestions for other company logos out there. Let's get stuck in shall we? Here is our list of the meanings of some company logos.

Automotive Industry

1. BMW

The meaning of the first entry on our list of company logos is an interesting one. Motor industry giant BMW has a long and illustrious history. Their logo has its roots in the companies history in aviation. The iconic blue and white checkered logo are said to represent a propeller in motion. This is in fact quite wrong.

[Image Source: Lord Laitinen via Wikimedia Commons]

The blue and white colors are the official ones of the Bavarian Free State. The logo appears to first been used in around 1918 at it was an evolution of its former incarnation company RAPP's logo. Sometime later in 1929, the logo appeared on the cover of a BMW aircraft magazine. It's mistaken connection to aviation seems to stem from this time.

2. Toyota

Founded by Sakichi Toyoda in the early Twentieth Century, Toyota has become a household name in car manufacturing the world over. A name change occurred in the 1930's with the current name in Japanese meaning Toyo (Fertile/plentiful) and "Ta" (Rice). In eastern cultures, an abundance of rice is synonymous with prosperity.

If you hadn't noticed their logo is somewhat of a stylized "T" within a ring, made up of three eclipses. This logo was debuted in 1990 on Toyota's American vehicles. According to the company's website, these eclipses represent three hearts. The heart of the customer, the heart of the product and the heart of progress in technology! Bet you didn't see that coming!

[Image Source: Toyota]

3. Volkswagen

The next entry our list of company logos comes from another German manufacturer. Volkswagen has its origins in the 1930's when the German government was looking for an affordable family car to satisfy the needs of the people of Germany. The company's name is literally a combination of the words people "Volks" and wagon "Wagen" in German. Given the simple name, "people's car", you'll not be surprised that the symbol is equally as simple merging the first letters from each word.

[Image Source: High Contrast via Wikimedia Commons]

4. Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz's logo is pretty self-aggrandizing, to be honest, they can probably justify it. The Tri-Star represents the company's dominance in quality, not to mention style over all things on land, sea and air! Fair enough.

5. Audi

Audi was formed when four companies decided to merge together to form Audi's predecessor company Auto Union; DKM, Horch, Wanderer and Audi. Interestingly, the name Audi is the latin form for "hear or listen" which is Audi founder August Horch's surname's meaning in German. Each of the rings, therefore, symbolize each of these founder companies.

The logo underwent minor changes in 2009 to celebrate Audi's 100th birthday.

[Image Source: Joachim Köhler via Wikimedia Commons]

6. Formula 1

More commonly known as F1, the iconic black "F" and red blur pattern is one of the most highly recognizable company logos. But where is the 1? It may hurt your eyes but have a closer look at the space between the "F" and red blur. See it? Neat right? The streaky nature of the red portion of the logo is meant to symbolize speed or passion, and energy, which is pretty fitting given the organization. The modern logo was designed in 2000 and has proved so successful it hasn't changed since.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

7. Mitsubishi

This entry on our list of company logos shows Mitsubishi's company lineage. The company was first established as a shipping firm in the 1800's. This later evolved through a merger of two companies to become the company we know today. The logo is a combination of the crests of the merger companies. These were the three-leaf crest of the Tosa Clan and the three diamond stacked on top of each other of the Iwasaki Family crest.

The diamonds are said to represent reliability, integrity, and success. The red color symbolizes confidence and also makes the symbol more attractive to customers.

Food and Drinks Industry

8. McDonald's

Well, we think you can guess this one! The iconic "golden arches" are of course representative of the letter M. Their logo has undergone a series of evolutions over time. The current Golden M only truly came into being after 1968. The following short video demonstrates the evolution of the McDonald's logo and shows the company's expansion over the years.

9. Pepsi

Like other long-standing companies, Pepsi's logo has undergone constant change over the last hundred years or so. The more iconic "Ying-yang" symbol has recently been replaced, at the cost of $1 million to a more or less similar design. Apparently, the logo is three-dimensional in nature. It is meant to represent a globe with two opposingly colored hemispheres separated by a swirl.

The current logo has been much criticized by the press and consumers. It is meant to feature a "smile" with a less rounded and formal lowercase typeface. To be honest, the author hadn't actually noticed the change, but then he prefers Coca Cola.

[Image Source:Wikimedia Commons]

10. Coca-Cola

Our next entry on our list of company logos is probably the best known in the world. When John Pemberton and Frank Robinson decided on a name for their new finalized formula for their drink they believed that "two C's would look well in advertising". John decided to a play around with different scripts, settling on Spencerian which was very popular at the time in 1886. Coca-Cola's logo went through a few minor alterations throughout their history but the basic design didn't really change significantly. Slight tweaks to the overall design and addition of a "swish" underlining the name appeared in 1969.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Coincidentally you can, apparently, make out a Danish flag in the negative space between the "O" and "L". This was exploited during an advertising campaign in Denmark, as you can appreciate!

11. Carrefour

Carrefour or "crossroads" in English has a rather simple logo to match. The logo consists of two stylized arrows in the French colors of red, white and blue. The space between the arrows subtly forms the letter C. Pretty neat!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

12. Tesco

Founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen, Tesco is a British global retailer focussing on groceries and other general merchandise. Tesco's logo is one of the most popular and well-recognised ones in the world with its current version released in 1996. The colors of the logo primarily represent that colors of the Union Flag, yes Union Flag not Union Jack! Apparently, red also signifies prosperity, joy, and happiness. Blue symbolizes excellence, reliability, and trustworthiness. And white depicts nobility, elegance, and purity!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

13. Starbucks

Ever wondered what's actually going on with the Starbucks log0? According to Starbucks , the choice of logo goes back to their foundation in Seattle. The city has a long history of seafaring and sea trade and in 1971 the company's founders wanted to capture this in their logo. They searched through many old marine books in search for a likely image. Then they found it. A 16th Century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, aka a siren.

[Image Source: Pixabay]

Apparently, they were taken by the image:-

"There was something about her – a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme that was exactly what the founders were looking for. A logo was designed around her, and our long relationship with the Siren began."

The image has changed somewhat since the company's early days and has seen the image cropped to its current form.

14. Toblerone

Founded in Bern, Switzerland, Toblerone's are filled with spiky chocolatey goodness! But what about the logo? Bern is also known as "The City of the Bears". All well and good but have you ever noticed the bear hiding in the mountain of their logo? No? Look again...

[Image Source: Pixabay]

Information Technology and Electronics Industries

15. LG

LG's logo is probably one of the simplest to explain on our list of company logos. The symbol is a construction of the letters L and G that are arranged to resemble a simplified face. But the meaning does go a bit deeper. According to LG:-

"The letters "L" and "G" in a circle symbolize the world, future, youth, humanity, and technology. Our philosophy is based on Humanity. ... The symbol mark consists of two elements: the LG logo in LG Grey and the stylized image of a human face in the unique LG Red color." -

[Image Source:Wikimedia Commons]

16. IBM

IBM's logo to some hides a hidden message. The eight blue or seven white horizontal lines could hide an "equals" sign in the lower right corner symbolizing equality. To others, the design has a less cryptic source. Their current symbol has its origins in the 1970's when photocopiers and printers had issued printing large solid colored areas. The solution was to play around with the number of stripes from an initial 13 to the current 8 to avoid issues printing on low-resolution printers. The logo can be seen as portraying a "feeling" of dynamism and give the impression of speed and agility etc.

17. Google

Google is such a massive organization we couldn't really omit it from our list of company logos. Google's logo has undergone quite a bit of change throughout its history. It was first created using GIMP. The current logo was unveiled in 2015.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

As regular users will be aware the logo undergoes regular modifications for holidays, birthdays for famous people or major events. These special logos, some designed by Dennis Hwang, have become known as Google Doodles.

Graphic designer Ruth Kedar explains the logo's colours:- “There were a lot of different color iterations”, “We ended up with the primary colors, but instead of having the pattern go in order, we put a secondary color on the L, which brought back the idea that Google doesn’t follow the rules.”

If course, given Google's industry, it's not just a logo...

18. Apple

Apple's logo is said to represent eating the forbidden fruit from the "Tree of Knowledge". But the actual origin of the logo might be a little less symbolic. The logo was designed by Rob Janoff in 1977. In his own words, he explains what the bite part means.

"Anyway, when I explain the real reason why I did the bite it's kind of a letdown. But I'll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry. Also, it was kind of iconic about taking a bite out of an apple. Something that everyone can experience. It goes across cultures. If anybody ever had an apple he probably bitten into it and that's what you get. It was after I designed it, that my creative director told me: "Well you know, there is a computer term called byte". And I was like: "You're kidding!" So, it was like perfect, but it was coincidental that it was also a computer term. At the time I had to be told everything about basic computer terms." - Jeff Janoff in his interview with creative bits in 2009.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

19. Sony VAIO

VAIO's logo is one of the more "cryptic" included on our list of company logos. It is a great example of a logo with a hidden message, in fact pretty well hidden! Their logo integrates the concepts of analog and digital technology in one. The V and A are connected in a stylized analog wave with the I and O representing the binary code of the digital world! Pretty awesome! now we doubt you'll ever see it any other way!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

20. Beats

On the first inspection, you might think the Beats logo is simply a lower case b on a colored background. However, there is more than meets the eye. In fact, the positioning of the b within the circle represents a person wearing headphones. Look again and you'll see it!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

21. Cisco

In case you don't know, Cisco is a high technology company focusing on WIFI routers and other networking hardware and software. They were founded in San Francisco (the company name suddenly becomes clear). Reference to San Francisco doesn't just end there, however. The series of blue lines are meant to represent an electromagnet but it is also symbolic of the Golden Gate Bridge! Pretty cool.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Oil Industries

22. Mobil

Previously known as Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, Mobil merged with Exxon in 1999 to form the giant conglomeration ExxonMobil. Mobil was previously one of the so-called seven sisters of the global petroleum industry from the 1940's to the 1970's.

Their current logo was designed in 1964 by the famous advertising group Chermayeff and Geismar Inc. The colors of the letters do have a meaning, of course. The red "O" stands for Mobil's commitment and passion to its customers whereas the blue letters characterize Mobil's reliance, trust and commitment.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

23. Shell

Shell's logo is one of the most recognized brand images in the world. The company has been around since 1904 and has grown to be a world giant in the oil industry. Their yellow-red Shell logo has been changed considerably over the years. Raymond Loewy designed the current logo in 1971 and it has changed very little since. Originally, the logo was a, more or less, realistic representation of a pecten shell. Over the years this has become more and more stylized.

[Image Source: WJonathan Billinger via Wikimedia Commons]

The choice of a pecten or scallop shell is symbolic of the company's self-image and ethics and is intended to extend a message of exceptional reputation and charisma. What about the colors? The red and yellow for the coloration may have their origins from the company's Scottish Director in 1915. Red and yellow form the basis of the Royal Standard of Scotland.

Other Industries

24. FedEx

Have you ever noticed the arrow between the E and X? No? Well you'll never "not" see it again! You're welcome. FedEx's logo, specifically the arrow, is meant to act as a subliminal message for speed and precision. And you thought it was just stylized colored typeface!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

25. Adidas

The brand name is a construction of Adolf "Adi" and Dassler "das". The three stripes became not only an integral part of their shoe design but also their logo. These stripes are said to represent a mountain symbolizing the challenges that need to be overcome by athletes.

[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]

26. Amazon

A close inspection of the Amazon logo will reveal its rather simple meaning. You will notice that the arrow serves two purposes. The first is quite simply a smile. We'll let you guess what this means! The second is the fact that the arrow connects the letters A and Z. The message is pretty clear. With Amazon you can get any product from A to Z! Simple yet effective!

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

27. Gillette

"The best a man can get!". Quite an advertising campaign eh? I still remember the tune clearly to this day! Showing my age. Anyway, Gilette's logo is pretty subtle until you look closely at the logo itself.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Did you miss it? Have a look at the "G" and "I" at the beginning of the name. You'll notice that they seem to have been trimmed or cut at an angle! The reason for this is obvious given the companies primary products, razors! The design is meant to represent the sharpness and precision of their razor blade products.

28. Unilever

The letter "U" in the logo is pretty self-explanatory but look closer and you'll see it's actually a mosaic of many little images. Every single one of these actually represents some aspect of the Unilever empire. By way of example you may be able to see a recycling symbol representing their commitment to sustainability and perhaps you can see a pair of lips that symbolizes beauty and taste.

[Image Source: Unilever]

29. Eighty 20

Eighty 20 is a consultancy based in Cape Town, South Africa. They specialize in delivering customer centric strategies and solutions. Their logo is one of the more cryptic on our list of company logos. What's with the name? Well according to their website the name represents the 80:20 principle, or Pareto Principle. You may struggle to see the hidden message in the logo. The different colored squares actually display the binary pattern for 1010000 and 0010100. This spells eighty and twenty in binary. Nice work!

[Image Source: Eighty20]

30. NBC

One of the more colorful company logos, NBC's peacock has an interesting past. First used as the network's logo in 1956, the iconic Peacock has its origins in the network's original name, Peacock Network. This logo has since evolved into its current 6 colored tail form. These colors are said to represent each of the company's departments; News, Sports, Entertainment, Stations, Networks, and Productions.

The head of the peacock faces to the right to symbolize the network's ethos of constantly looking to the future.

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

So there you go that concludes our list of company logos. Did you know the meanings of most of these? Were some of them a surprise to you? Which other brands would you have liked to see on our list? Let us know in the comments. below.

Sources: LifeBuzz, Hongkiat, Sploid/Gizmodo, MadeByMagnitude

SEE ALSO: Almost Everything You Need to Know About Google's History

Watch the video: 16 Secrets Behind Famous Logos and Brand Names (May 2021).