15 Famous Logos to Inspire You While Designing
A logo’s design can make or break your brand. That is why it is essential to invest time and money in a catchy, simple, unique logo that will make your brand stand out.
Some say the ultimate goal of a brand is to beat its competition.
Some say their ultimate goal is to be successful. And some say that the ultimate goal is to be instantly recognized by only its logo.
For some companies, being recognized by their logo may be the equivalent of being successful.
If you are looking for logo inspiration before creating your own, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most famous company logos and give a bit of background on each of them.
So get ready to be inspired by today’s popular logos and take notes on the logos and design elements you like the most. This may be helpful if you want to create a mood board before actually starting the logo design process.
If you are hiring someone else to design your logo, the mood board will also be helpful for the designer to understand what you like.
This way, they will keep in mind the things they might need to incorporate in the different logo designs so that the result will be satisfying for all parties.
1. Google Logo
- Google was first called BackRub.
- The logo used to contain an exclamation point.
Since its 1996 logo, Google has come a long way. At some point, the logo also contained an exclamation point. Why? Because Yahoo! had an exclamation point included in their design. It seems like even then, popular companies followed each other’s leads.
It's kind of the same story with Social Media apps nowadays, trying to use the same blue color. We are looking at you, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
While the logo of Google nowadays is more refined and polished, the colors of the letters are still the same ones used in the very first official logo of Google in 1998.
Google’s modern flat design contains the same color sequence of blue, red, yellow, blue, green, and red used over two decades ago, but instead of rounded edges through shadowing, it uses flat color and sharper edges.
2. Apple Logo
- There are numerous theories about the origin of its logo.
- Ronald Wayne designed the first logo in 1976.
Apple’s logo is now everywhere, and it is often associated with innovation, style, wealth, and power. But the current logo you see nowadays has also overcome a lot of changes throughout the years.
The very first logo designed in 1976 included a bitten apple with rainbow colors on it. However, the logo did not follow the natural orders of the rainbow colors. It dared to be different and inspire change. The company used this logo from 1977 to 1998.
Why an Apple?
As Steve Jobs said in a press conference in 1981, he loved to eat apples, which may be why the company’s name was called Apple.
It is also said that Apple was inspired by the event that led Isaac Newton to discover the law of gravity.
And Why a Bitten Apple?
Many theories surround the origin of the bitten apple.
Some say the logo is inspired by Adam and Eve taking a bite of “the forbidden fruit.”
According to Rob Janoff, the bite differentiates this fruit from similar fruits, vegetables, and objects. Rob’s creative director, Mr. Chip, however, believed the bite stands for byte.
No matter which theory you believe the most, Apple has managed to create an iconic logo that is highly recognizable.
3. Coca-Cola Logo
- The logo used to be all black until 1891.
- Coca Cola’s current logo is the same one used in 1941.
As you may expect, the history of Coca-Cola’s logo is as rich as the history of the brand itself. The earliest version of the logo was designed in 1886, and it used only black color.
All earlier versions used a black color only. It wasn’t until 1891 that the logo switched to using red color.
This logo might be the most famous one using typography, in this case, handwriting, as the main “design element.” The Spencerian script gives it a vintage look, and Coca-Cola first introduced this look in 1887.
Even though it went through many changes in the first few years the company launched, this logo is one of the best examples that consistency works best if you want to be recognized easily.
From 1891 to now, there have only been minor changes to the logo, such as making the letter bolder or italic but not changing the more significant part of it.
The current logo of Coca-Cola is the same one used in 1941. The brand decided to go back to this version in 2003.
4. Amazon Logo
- Neither of the first two logos stuck around for long.
- The current logo has been used since 2000.
If you look at the first two logos Amazon used during the early stages of the company, you might not recognize the company. The very first logo was introduced in 1995. It included the letter A and a shape of a river inside the letter.
Besides adding amazon.com to its logo, they added the one-liner: “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” As you can imagine, the logo was too complicated compared to Amazon’s current one.
However, to be fair, very few logos were “good” or “refined” at the beginning of the digital era, when only a few design tools were available (and most of the tools were offering poor quality). Now, designers can take advantage of technological advancement to keep up with any design trend.
As time went by and Amazon kept growing, it also kept changing its design to reflect its growth. If you haven’t realized it yet, the current logo of Amazon has an arrow starting from the letter A and pointing to the letter Z.
As the company has confirmed, this was meant to show that the company offers products ranging from A to Z.
The arrow is also added so that its curve looks like a smile, reflecting the excellent customer support the brand offers.
5. Nike Logo
- The last words of a double-murderer inspired its slogan.
- Nike used red and white color palette on its logo for a long time.
- Graphic design student Carolyn Davidson designed the iconic swoosh logo for just $35.
Nike’s unique but straightforward logo design has not only turned the company into a trustworthy brand but has also become part of sports culture.
This is one of the few logos you keep thinking of its slogan “Just do it” every time you see the Nike sign. You see the logo, and you think, “Just do it.” They are inseparable.
But did you know that Nike’s slogan was inspired by the last words a double murderer said in January 1977? When he was asked if he had any last words, Utah’s notorious killer said, “Let’s do it.”
During the “Art & Copy” documentary by Doug Pray, Dan Wieden, the founder of ad agency Wieden and Kennedy, “confessed” that he liked the “do it” part. Wieden was inspired to adapt the phrase to "Just Do It" for a TV ad that introduced the slogan to the world in 1988.
Little did he know that slogan was going to be used by Nike to this day. For some versions of the logo, its motto was also sometimes added to the top side.
6. Adidas Logo
- Runner Jesse Owens won the Olympics in 1933 wearing Adidas shoes.
- Across all Adidas logos, the brand name starts with a lowercase letter.
- Adidas never gave up the older versions of its logos.
- Adidas is using all four logos in different product lines and collections.
Since we just talked about Nike, it is time to look at the logo history of its biggest competitor: Adidas. Established in 1949, Adidas has introduced several logos throughout the years.
However, unlike other brands mentioned above, the apparel manufacturer has never given up on its old logos. Instead, the company has found a way to include all the logos for different purposes, some for its product lines and some for its product collections.
One thing that has always been present in Adidas’ logo is the use of three parallel stripes. This classic symbol is also visible on Adidas’ trefoil version of the logo.
The stripes symbolize the company’s focus on variety. The three trefoil leaves stand for North America, Europe, and Asia - the three parts of the world where Adidas’ products are available.
If you pay attention to Adidas logos across its many products, you will notice that the brand name starts with a lowercase letter. This was made on purpose to emphasize the fact that the brand produces casual sportswear accessible to everyone.
Even though its logos have often been described as dull, you cannot deny that they are simple, versatile, and convey a strong message.
We cannot help but admire how the brand has managed to keep all its logos present and how all of them are easily recognizable worldwide.
7. Netflix Logo
- The Netflix logo has changed only three times over the years.
- Netflix was initially called Kibble.
Netflix's first logo was designed in 1997 and was used until 2000. Since the aim of Netflix is to allow viewers to feel like going to the cinema without even leaving their home, the first logo has a movie reel included in its design.
While the first logo gave a theatrical feel to viewers, we are glad they decided to move on and change the look and feel of the logo.
The second logo was launched in 2000 and was used until 2014. In 2014, the logo was redesigned while keeping the essence of the logo the same as before. The current logo of Netflix is bolder than the 2014 version, and it also dropped the shadows.
Netflix’s logo is an excellent example of a well-developed logo. In recent years, the company has also developed an icon that contains only the letter ‘N.’
8. Nivea Logo
- The tops of the letters “A” and “N” are higher than the other letters.
- Eagle, Bovine MVB, and Resolute NF use a similar font in their logos.
Nivea’s logo is one of the most popular ones out there. And the company keeps promoting its brand even though it is already very popular.
If you have been to Times Square (especially on New Year’s Eve) or watched the live show online, you might have noticed how Nivea is almost always occupying ad space on Times Square.
The iconic Nivea logo was refreshed in 2011. This famous logo is a perfect example of how simplicity and the proper color selection can transmit a powerful message.
Its logo is an excellent representation of the brand’s professionalism, reliability, and high quality of its products.
9. Microsoft Logo
- Microsoft's first-ever logo was created by Microsoft's founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
- In 1980, Microsoft’s rocked a heavy metal logo look.
While Microsoft has emphasized how important it is to use typography to your advantage, the tech giant has made sure that its logos are representative of the ever-changing eras.
For instance, the first logo was a great representation of the Disco year of the 70s. The logo redesign in 1980 introduced a Rock Star Look, with so many rock and heavy metal bands taking over the music world.
The so-called “Pac Man logo” was designed in the late 80s, and Microsoft used that logo for over two decades. The current logo of Microsoft has a sophisticated look. It was first used in 2012, and it is still going strong.
The colorful window added to the logo design makes this logo stand out from the previous versions. It is rumored that the four colors of the window were not chosen randomly.
The red one represents the Office suite or PowerPoint; the blue one represents Windows or Word. The other two colors are green, representing Xbox or Excel, and yellow representing Bing or Outlook.
All in all, Microsoft has shown how you can take advantage of the current era you are living in if you need inspiration for redesigning your logo or freshening up the look.
10. Facebook Logo
- Facebook’s predecessor was called FaceMash, and its logo was red and white
- The currently chosen color palette might have something to do with Zuckerberg’s vision
Facebook’s logo has been redesigned every few years, but it has not changed drastically after each redesign. At the very start, the logo also contained “the,” as the company was called “The Facebook.”
“The” disappeared in 2005. So did the square brackets, making the look of the logo more sophisticated.
In 2015 and 2019, the logo only underwent a few minor changes. Since the logo is changed every few years, it won’t be a big surprise if Facebook introduces a new logo very soon.
Why a Blue Color Palette?
There are two main reasons why Facebook is using blue for its logo. The first reason is quite obvious and is linked with blue’s association with clean, high-tech products.
That is why you see most IT companies choose this color to mark their identity. The combination of white and blue transmits a sense of determination, reliability, and optimism.
The second reason, mostly a “hidden” reason why the company chose blue, is due to Mark Zuckerberg’s red-green color blindness. Zuckerberg could, however, distinguish between shades of blue, so there has been some speculation that his vision was yet another reason why this color palette was chosen at an early stage.
11. McDonald’s Logo
- McDonald's logo uses the McLawsuit font.
- The golden arches were inspired by McDonald’s newly-constructed architecture in 1952.
Have you noticed how fast-food chains are using yellow and red in their logos? Besides McDonald’s, other fast-food chains such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, and In-n-Out Burger are using this color combination as it is known for triggering one’s appetite.
The Golden Arches became part of the logo when the newly-constructed architecture of the first franchised restaurant in 1952 included two golden arches.
In 1961, Ray Kroc incorporated the arches to form the letter ‘M.’ This new logo remained part of McDonald’s identity for over five decades.
The logo has been revamped quite a few times before its final version in 2003, which included the one-liner: “I’m lovin’ it.” It became one of the most successful marketing campaigns in McDonald's history and a slogan that it is now using worldwide.
McDonald’s logo is also a perfect example of how you can use color psychology to your advantage.
12. KFC Logo
- The color scheme (red, black, and white) has stayed the same since 1991
- The mascot is the actual founder of the company
You cannot think of KFC without thinking of fried chicken and the face of Colonel Harland Sanders, who is featured on the KFC logo. While many companies may choose to add a mascot character (usually a fictional one) to their logo, KFC uses its actual founder, Colonel Harland Sanders.
The original logo design was created in 1952, and since the very start, it has contained the stylized face of Colonel Sanders.
The face of Colonel Sander has gone through a few changes throughout the years as well, going from a static pose to a smiling and more inviting look.
The letters “K,” “F,” and “C” are the first initials of Kentucky Fried Chicken. As mentioned before, the logo has gone through quite a few changes over the years but has still managed to keep its essence intact. The latest version of the logo was designed in 2018.
Choosing a mascot for your logo may mean you will have to be very careful with which mascot you choose, as you may have to stick with the mascot for a long time.
Once the company becomes popular and people start to recognize your brand from the mascot of your choice, it may be hard to remove it after some time, as you may risk making your logo unrecognizable.
13. Starbucks Logo
- Starbucks’ logo was inspired by Greek mythology
- The company redesigned its logo in 2011 to celebrate its 40th anniversary
Since the very beginning, the Starbucks logo has contained the Mermaid “theme.” The logo included a “twin-tailed mermaid,” inspired by Greek mythology, and the mermaids’ superpowers.
Just like the mermaids were believed to lure sailors into shipwrecks, Starbucks aimed to lure or attract coffee lovers from all over the world to taste its coffee and other beverages.
Since 1971, the design of the logo has gone through many changes. It first started as a super complicated emblem logo.
Later, thanks to Howard Schultz, who acquired the company in 1987, the logo was “cleaned up” and transmitted a more polished look. However, it still retained its Mermaid icon, Starbucks signature look.
Using negative space and a green and white color scheme, the Starbucks logo has become one of the most successful logos.
Through the years, you can see that the logo’s basic design elements became more and more polished, aiming towards a simple design. Through these changes and heading toward simple shapes, Starbucks’ logo has switched from an emblem logo to a symbol logo.
The latest version of the logo was designed in 2011 and had a powerful design that can be recognized in a millisecond. This logo, in particular, is the perfect example of how you can switch types of logos and still maintain your brand’s core elements.
14. Audi Logo
- Audi’s four rings stand for four companies, which merged in the 30s
- The first logo of Audi appeared in 1909
Audi’s logo is one of the most popular ones among automotive companies. Did you know that the four rings on Audi’s logo represent the four companies that merged in the 1930s? They were DKW, Horsch, Wanderer, and Audi.
The first logo of Audi appeared in 1909. However, in just a few months, the automobile company decided to replace it with a modernized version.
For many years, the logo has contained the name “Audi” and even gone through a few color palette changes, mainly experimenting with one primary color, either black, red, or blue.
The Audi logo we know today was first launched in 2016 and only contained the four rings. The look is not only powerful but also stylish.
This is another perfect example of how famous brands can remove their name from the logo since people will still recognize them by only looking at the symbol they use.
In this case, the four rings have become associated with Audi, just like the five rings have become associated with the Olympics.
15. Cartier Logo
- The first logo was designed in 1900
- The design of the logo has not changed for over 12 decades
The very first Cartier logo was designed in 1900. However, it took them a decade to patent and register their trademark. Unlike the other logos mentioned above, the Cartier logo has been neither changed nor altered since 1900!
It is one of the few logo designs that has stood the test of time, since it has been around over a century.
We love how clean and refined the logo looks, even though it was designed when graphic design tools were not as popular as they are now. Another remarkable fact is that the logo was created not by a graphic designer but by Pierre Cartier, the grandson of the founder of the Cartier company.
So props to Pierre Cartier for designing a logo that has been timeless for the past 12 decades. Its sophisticated, clean, and simple script stands for beauty, elegance, and family dedication.
Inspired to Make Your Own Logo?
Whether you are looking to create your logo or trying to find inspiration and pass it on to a freelance designer or other professional designers working on-site in your company, know that the tools and inspirations sources are in abundance.
You just need to streamline your focus and decide on the logos and design elements you can use to create an entirely new logo or refine the logo you already have.
It is always advised to read more about the history of some famous logos and research them before you create your own logo.
However, you have to keep in mind that when you design logos for new companies, from a bank company to a beer company, you will need to include the name together with the symbol or other design elements of your choice. This will be helpful for people to identify your company and your brand quickly.
Later on, when you have solid proof that the company does not need the logo or initials, you can go ahead and remove the name.
If that is the case, you may also use that as a chance to redesign the entire logo while sticking to the basic design elements that will need to stay there for people to recognize the new logo.
Feel inspired to start designing your logo right now? There's no better vector tool for logo-making than our very own Vectornator!
If you feel more comfortable sketching your logo on paper first and then transfer it to Vectornator, you can also do that by using Vectornator's Document Scanner. We can’t wait to see what you come up with, so you are more than welcome to share with us!
(Cover Image Source: Unsplash)
September 8, 2021