The Truth Behind Everyday Logos

09/06/2015 13:29:51

The Truth Behind Everyday Logos

You see them everywhere you go – from the office to the gym – and they form an immediate association in your mind as a trusted hallmark of quality. The world’s most recognisable logos inform your purchasing decisions both on a conscious and subconscious level, but when it comes to a logo’s design, how do they get to have such an immediate and lasting impact in customers’ minds? And what can you learn from the world’s best-known designs to influence the creation of your own?



The world-famous coffee chain has seen changes to its near-ubiquitous logo throughout the past 20 years, most notably in dropping the words ‘Starbucks Coffee’ from the outer edges and closing in on the maritime mascot. The striped patterns which adorn the edges here are actually tails – the Starbucks ‘Siren’ is a two-tailed mermaid.

But it’s the white-on-green which really catches the eye – an unusual combination used here to denote freshness and the natural touch of the coffee bean grower. This is a far cry from the original, white-on-brown logo which, while a good indicator of their caffeine-fuelled refreshment, showed the mermaid in a much less family-friendly light.


A good logo doesn’t need a whole wash of colours – pick two or three which most closely prompt the emotional reaction you’re looking to get; green and white indicate fresh and natural, while a cool blue or solid grey can denote a more tech-savvy offering. A good combination of colours will look pretty striking on a custom poster to grab attention.



Combining a natural form with a techy online twist, social networking site Twitter created their iconic bird logo. This symbol is now instantly recognisable as the widely accepted shorthand way to join the conversation about any topic as it unfolds in real time.

Formed from three overlapping circles which represent the coming together of people, their interests and the events which unite the two, the Twitter bird has become one of the most common sights online, used on company websites and news feeds alike as a way to help people promote themselves.

Tip: The Twitter bird has become a shorthand call to action for new followers and interested observers – your logo should be equally inviting and conversational. Try testing a few designs out on promotional flyers which best demonstrate the feel you’re going for.

British Rail


For many commuters it might be an omen of a late or overcrowded journey, but the British Rail logo has remained much the same ever since 1965, when it was reportedly sketched on the back of an envelope by a young designer on his way to the pitch.

In post-war Britain, a new initiative called the Design Research Unit was tasked with giving the country a sense of identity through the branding of some of its emerging infrastructure. The British Rail logo – a simple enough design depicting arrows moving in both directions along a track each – has since become a fixture of town and city signage throughout Britain, with the warm red signifying the urgency of our journey and their desire to make it a pleasant one.

Tip: Although a soft red can denote vibrancy or importance, be careful not to overuse it as the colour red more often connotes hazards or dangers. It’s certainly eye-catching but also at risk of overplaying your product if it isn’t simply essential. Print up a few colour charts in various poster sizes to see what goes together best.




When Phil Knight paid student Carolyn Davidson just $35 to design a logo for his new range of athletic gear in 1971 – a little over $200 in today’s money - neither of them knew just what an iconic symbol of sporting greatness they’d come up with. But ten years later, Carolyn received a kind gesture – stock options in Nike which are now worth more than half a million dollars.

Commonly known as ‘the swoosh’, the symbol is derived from the wing of the eponymous Greek goddess of victory and suggests the gliding movement that one would expect to gain from wearing Nike footwear. The white-on-red represents a mix of vitality and nobility – just the tonic for an athletics brand with such a highbrow mythical namesake.

Tip: Though once accompanied by the brand name, in 1995 Nike took the bold move of going with the logo alone. In design terms, less is more – don’t overcrowd your logo with words and symbols if one symbol can be used more effectively. Your business cards will definitely benefit from this philosophy without cluttering up valuable space.


MicrosoftIn 2012, computing giants Microsoft transitioned from the italic black font which adorned the previous quarter-century of products in favour of a softer grey Romanised type. This coincided somewhat with the tech world becoming entirely more accessible to both younger and older users, through mobile and tablet.

According to the Microsoft blog, the four-colour square symbol represents “the company's diverse portfolio of products” – and yet it remains synonymous with their best-known product, Windows, which until this iteration had looked more like a flag than a source of illumination.

Tip: Your logo is the most accessible route to your company. The numerous softer tones used in the new Microsoft logo represent there being something for everyone. What is it about your company that has ‘something for everyone’ and how is it best and most simply represented?