14 Top-Recognized Logos —
and the Stories Behind Them 

Companies that know their Marketing 101 make it a priority to have a brand that is recognized above all others. In the last century, there are a few brands that have risen to the highest echelon — broad global recognition. Many of these companies are now so iconic that their message comes across clearly from the mere visual shape of the logo, shown without any words to help explain. Though a striking visual is important in a company logo, a key factor to note is that these top brands have been “in your face” — showing their logo for many, many years with awareness campaigns that cannot be ignored — and they don’t mix messages.

Times do change, however, and sometimes a company that wants to remain current and relevant in the minds of modern customers needs to update their brand image. When a brand has already gained a good bit of traction with its audience, this idea must be approached with caution. Below are several instantly recognizable logos and a bit of history as to how they came about, how they have changed with the times, or how they have remained timeless over the years.

~ • ~ • ~

Pepsi logoPepsi
The Pepsi logo was originally created in 1902 and remained relatively unchanged. Its style was only red and written in script similar to Coca-Cola, but as a move to separate its brand, in 1962, the current red, white and blue logo made its first appearance. Since its first appearance in 1962, the logo has been continually modernized with its latest version having a nearly 3D appearance.

apple logoApple
The original idea of this logo goes all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve, and the Apple itself is said to symbolize knowledge. There are so many stories around the Apple logo, none of which have really been confirmed. In an interview with the Apple Logo designer, Rob Janoff, he has very cryptic about the logo origins. Stories have circulated that the name and logo of Apple, pays tribute to computer pioneer Alan Turing. Turing is said to have committed suicide in 1954 by eating a cyanide laced apple due to the lack of recognition and a host of legal issues — the legend has never been confirmed but dues drum up some intrigue. The original logo was multicolored and since introduced has went through several versions, until its current flat design.

coca-cola logoCoca-Cola
The original Coca-Cola logo came about in 1890, and has remained relatively unchanged since. The Name Coca-Cola actually came about because the brand founder believed having two C’s in the name would be great for marketing. In 1969, the “White Wave,” was added under the name in the official logo, but it has been inconsistently used since its creation.

mcdonalds logoMcDonald’s
The original iteration of the McDonald’s logo was created by the McDonald brothers in 1948, and featured a chef running called the “Speedy Chef,” to emphasize their fast service. The current version first saw the light of day in 1961, and was the brain child of Ray Croc and contained a slash through the “M.” The slash through the logo only lasted till 1962, but Croc saw to it that the “M” was incorporated to the design of all restaurant locations. Over the years, the logo has been continually modernized, but no real major changes have been made to the logo since its creation in 1962.

mcdonalds logoStarbucks
The Starbucks logo though appearing similar to Lady Godiva, is actually intended to be a symbol of Seattle itself as seen by the company founders. They encountered woodcut carving in Seattle’s marina of 16th century Norse Goddess, since referred to as the “Siren.” Over the years, its seen some pretty major changes, the original version in brown and not resembling anything close to the correct green and black version.

nike logoNike
In 1971, Portland State University student, Carolyn Davidson, was paid $35 for the 17.5 hours it took her to create the iconic Nike logo. Davidson was looking to earn extra money to take oil painting classes, and hired by Nike founder, Phil Knight, to assist him on projects related to start Nike. At the time, she was paid $35 and received 150 shares of Nike stock in exchange for the logo — those shares are now worth over 1 million dollars. Since its creation, the Nike logo has been one of the most recognizable logo of all time.

disney logoDisney
The Disney logo, has been very consistent since its creation in 1923, though it has seen some very small variations. More recently, it has been shortened to Disney, but it began a stylized version of founder, Walt Disney’s signature in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

harley-davidson logoHarley Davidson
Since it’s founding in 1901, there has been very little change to the Harley-Davidson logo, as designed by William Harley and the three Davidson brothers. The logo is called “Bar and Shield,” but the origin of it is totally unknown, however, it is thought that the logo may be styled after the workshop that Harley built bicycles out of.

toyota logoToyota
Since its founding in 1930, the Toyota logo has seen from pretty drastic changes over the years. There have been three very different versions over the years. The original logo, a diamond, containing the name of the company founder “Toyoda,” written in it, was used until 1938 — at which time, the company held a contest to create a replacement logo. The winning version contained the three Japanese letters that stood for Toyoda, however, the Japanese characters that stand  “-ta” and “da” are very similar, and that is how the current spelling of Toyota occurred. The modern version, was created first for the American market, as three circle creating a letter “T,” and was quickly adopted globally.

chevrolet logoChevy
The Chevy “Bowtie” was designed by co-founder William C. Durrant in 1913 on a napkin at a family dinner. Though the logo has been stylized in different ways since its creation, it has maintained the exact patterns created by Durrant over 100 years ago.

ford logoFord
The Ford Motor Company Logo was created by Henry Ford and the Dodge Brothers in 1927, and has not changed since. The blue oval, even without the word “Ford” scrawled across the middle is extremely recognizable, even accounting for its own color, “Ford Blue.” For the company’s 100th anniversary in 2003, the logo was minorly updated with edging and a slightly darker blue.

nbc logoNBC
The original version of the iconic NBC logo was designed as an 11-feather peacock by John J. Graham in 1957, in an effort to show the variety of colors that the channels color programing featured. In the mid 1970’s a stylized “N” was used for a brief period, then a combination of the “N” and the peacock, before the final peacock version was created in 1986, having only 6 feathers.

fedex logoFedEx
The current FedEx logo was created in 1974 by Lindon Leader, and was rated by Rolling Stone Magazine as one the the 8 best logos of all time. The previous FedEx logo was created in 1973, and was very short-lived. The logo is also one of the most awarded of all time, with over 40 awards in design. The design includes an arrow (created by the negative space between the E and The X) to show FedEx’s movement forward and fast action.

ibm logoIBM
Originally, called the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, in 1924 it became International Business Machines, the words of which formed a globe for the company’s logo. It was not well received and in 1947, the company began its new identity as IBM, and the block letter logo was born. The modern version of the logo was introduced in 1972 by Paul Rand, the lines through the letters IBM symbolize productivity, speed and dynamic spirit.

~ • ~ • ~

In making a brand first in the eyes of consumers, it is important to understand the quantity of times the logo and the SAME message needs to be shown.  The design of these logos is extremely important, but the strategy of the marketing program, including the quantity of times the public are exposed to the logo and on which communication channels, has been vital to the growth of these brands and has dictated the level of recognition they currently enjoy.

Can you think of more of these which didn’t make our cut?
Post a comment and let us know!