10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage
Nikka Estefani

Updated on September 19, 2019

As designers, we are always fascinated with different examples of designs. You wonder how the designer came up with his/her concept. What’s the story behind the design? In this article, we will look at just that – specifically, we will explore some stories about the famous logos, many of which we use or associate with.

These are not stories about the logo’s hidden meaning, although we will mostly touch them, too. These are stories that simply tells us how the designers came up with their logo design. Maybe, we can also learn a thing or two about logo designing.

So, let’s dive in! Let’s take a look at some of the famous logos and their stories!

1) BMW

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Let’s look at one of the most famous car brands in the world – and the symbol of style, class, and sophistication.

Many people love BMW, but do we ever wonder the meaning behind their logo? Especially, what’s behind the (sky) blue/white design?

There’s a little mystery behind BMW’s logo, and until now its mystery is not clearly solved that two interpretations still exist about its logo.

The first one is linked to aviation: the quartered blue-and-white represents a spinning propeller while “flying” in a clear blue sky. This makes sense because BMW was actually once an aircraft engine manufacturer. Due to economic and political reasons, BMW’s aircraft engine business isn’t stable, leading them to explore car and motorcycle manufacturing. During the post-WWII era, around 1950s-1960s, they finally stopped manufacturing aircraft engines for good, but the logo representing a propeller is still used today.

The other interpretation could be that BMW linked its blue-and-white design to the Bavarian Flag – BMW originated in Bavaria.

German trademark laws prohibit using “national sovereignty” symbols in logos, but somehow, BMW’s marketers managed to find a way to keep the blue-and-white logo.

It’s still not clear why BMW’s logo design is such, but nevertheless, it rose to the top and became one of the famous brands that represent class, luxury, and sophistication.

2) Amazon

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Fun fact: Jeff Bezos’ first name to his company is actually not “Amazon” – it’s “Cadabra”. When he realized that the name resembles “cadaver” – meaning a corpse or dead body – he decided to change the name to Amazon.

Amazon’s first logo is a simple A-shape with a figure of a river inside, depicted the Amazon River.

In a few years, they changed the logo, spelling out “amazon.com” with the tagline below, “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”. The font used was typical for any bookstore or book-related fonts, and yes, Amazon’s first niche is books.

When Amazon became a retail giant, they decided to adjust their logo to fit their new brand. In 1998, the font we know today was used and instead of “amazon.com”, the logo simply spelled “amazon”. The only difference between now and that was its orange curve – it simply ran the whole world and it’s curved down.

After realized that there’s a better way to design their logo, that’s when their “smile” design was born – the orange curve was turned up to depict smile, and it was shortened to run only from “a” to “z”, with an arrow pointing to “z”, depicting that they have everything you need – from A to Z!

As designers, what can we learn? Think about your company’s main selling point (in marketing, this is called USP or Unique Selling Proposition) and you can use your logo to emphasize on your company’s USP. Later, we’ll see that many logo designs use this philosophy.

3) Baskin Robbins

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

You have probably eaten a lot of Baskin Robbins’ ice cream, but do you know that there is a hidden meaning to their logo?

If you look closely at BR’s logo, you’ll see that there’s a number “31” wisely crafted from their “B” and “R”, respectively. But, why 31?

When Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins started Baskin Robbins in 1953, by merging their own individual ice cream stores, they sell plenty of flavors – 31 flavors to be exact! At that time, selling plenty of ice cream flavors weren’t common, so they made their numbers their USP.

Ever since the number “31” was already on their logo even before the logo they use today.

Again, be creative with your business’ USP. While this is not necessary for success – BMW’s logo has nothing to do with their USP – it’s one way to get a creative idea for making a logo!

4) FedEx

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

FedEx’s original logo was nothing to do with what it is today – it’s a typical old, 1970s logo. Things turn around for their logo in 1994, when they rebranded from Federal Express to simply FedEx. This is to match their new brand as an overseas delivery carrier.

After garnering 200 design concept, it was Lindon Leader’s design that was chosen by FedEx founder himself, Fred Smith. The design is what we have today, the typical FedEx with an arrow-shaped formed from E-and-x’s negative space.

According to Leader, the arrow represents speed, precision and the act of moving forward.

This design also started the more simplistic approach where we don’t need to complicate it. In logo designing, some of the most notable examples that followed this simplistic approach are Apple and Google.

5) Toblerone

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Oh, that delicious chocolate treat!

Toblerone was founded in the capital of Switzerland, Bern. Similar to BMW’s logo and its connection to the Bavarian flag, Toblerone designed its logo with a “hidden” bear in the middle of it, an ode to Bern’s coat of arms – which also has a bear.

Also, the name “Bern” is spelled secretly in the name Toblerone itself: TOBLERONE.

6) UPS

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Another carrier giant, UPS started from a $100 loan in a dingy basement. Its logo history centered on a shield and the color brown, something which we still see until today.

Its early logos were quite complicated on font and other design concepts, but over time, and especially to make the logo look modern – as with the case of many logos here – UPS designed a logo so simple and remarkable that it became a trademark of delivery carriers.

One feature of the UPS logo’s success was its intentional design of a shield, which meant your deliveries are safe and secured with them. The brown color, on the other hand, represents professionalism. The “brown shield” ever since becoming a trademark of UPS whenever we talk about parcel delivery carriers.

7) Virgin

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Whether you’re a fan of Richard Branson or Virgin itself, most people will tell you that Virgin is one of the most amazing companies around, in and of itself. This is probably so because of the personality embedded in the company; whereas other companies depict a cold, formal aura.

So, what about the logo?

Virgin’s first logo resembled their culture of the time, the early ’70s, and the artists they worked with – Virgin’s first business is a record label.

Their logo then, designed by Roger Dean, was a naked twin, sitting on a tree with a dragon beside them. The word “virgin” was also included in the logo. As you can picture, this is a very complex logo of theirs, comparing to what they have today.

Soon, when Richard Branson decided that he wants to expand and explore different industries, he wanted a logo that’s so simple it can fit any business.

The result? The Virgin logo that they currently, which was first designed on a napkin by a young designer who came to Branson’s houseboat.

Richard Branson loved the idea; after all, he prefers a logo that’s a “little less hippy and a little edgier”. When he saw the design, he loved it and described it as, “It looked like a signature. It had an attitude. It had energy. It was in-your-face simplistic.”

The main feature of Virgin’s logo is simplicity. After all, as Richard Branson himself said, simplicity is how they do business in Virgin.

For more of the story, read it on their blog, which was written by Richard Branson himself.

8) Hyundai

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

Whether you’re a fan of the car brand or not, if you’re a logo designer, you should take note of whoever designed Hyundai’s logo.

At first glance, it seemed that the “H” of Hyundai is just that, a reference to Hyundai’s first letter, “H”. And it was slanted to, you know, design purposes.

Hyundai came from the Korean word 現代 which means “hanja” or “modernity” in English. It was the vision of Hyundai to represent utmost trust and professionalism to their industry, so their marketers and designers thought of a clever way to incorporate that to their logo.

The slanted “H” actually represents, aside from the actual letter “H”, two men shaking hands together. On the left side is Hyundai’s representative; on the right side, a customer who shows trust and is satisfied with Hyundai’s products. The horizontal part of “H” is slanted in the logo to depict an actual handshake.

Hyundai’s logo is one example of simplicity, while at the same time, embedding a deep meaning within it.

9) Unilever

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

If you’re designing for a company or institution with a humanistic or environmental cause, you should take note of Unilever’s logo as an example.

Unilever is a combination of both simplicity and complexity (at least in design). It seems simple at first: it’s just a “U”, right – with some strange carvings around? But the fun starts in its carvings.

If you look closely, the “carvings” that made the “U” actually represents sustainable living, one of the core values of the company. Some of the figures include a tree, clothes, lips, and dove. If you’re interested, you can check the different figures of their logo on their official website.

Even if you don’t work for an environmental cause or sustainability advocacy, you can take note of their design concept in the industry you’re working with.

What a simple-complex genius!

10) Lacoste

10 Hidden Stories Behind Well-known Logos from UIGarage

If you’re a fan of Lacoste, or if you know someone is a fan of Lacoste, you’ll know them by what they wear. To some of them, they’re even proud of showing it:

“Hey, look!” Then raising the crocodile logo from the shirt, “It’s Lacoste, baby!” But what’s the meaning behind Lacoste’s logo?

Unlike others in the list, this has less to do with the design concept, color psychology and other design factors, and more of the owner’s personal preference.

The founder of Lacoste is René Lacoste. René is a French tennis player and built a company, Lacoste, which was first marketed as a tennis brand.

Before creating his company, René, one day, saw a crocodile skin suitcase. He immediately wanted it, so he made a bet to the captain of French Davis Cup team: if he wins, they’ll buy it for him.

Sadly, he lost the match and he didn’t get the suitcase. But ever since, he was referred to as the “crocodile”. He still loves the crocodile skin that one day, he placed an embroidered crocodile design on his court blazer.

When he started Lacoste clothing, well, the rest is history. So, for all Lacoste fans there, you know why there’s a crocodile design in your shirt!

As for designers, sometimes the logo inspiration simply comes from personal preference. Lacoste’s logo, after all, was nothing than a crocodile, yet it’s one of the famous clothing brands in the world!

Conclusion

Logo design comes in all forms and inspirations, but as you can see, simplicity rules for most of our designs.

But personal preference (Lacoste), an ode to your company’s origin (Toblerone and BMW) and your core values (Unilever) can be a big inspiration for your logo as well.

I hope you learn something about logo designing. They’re simply interesting and inspiring to learn from!