Logos serve as the face of a corporation, business, or any entity. They help consumers identify them and identify with them. While they look simple, lots of research is required to elicit the desired impression it wants to make on consumers. Considerations of a respective industry, their target audience, and unique value proposition in the market place are all made before pencil even hits the paper. Shapes, colors, and typography play pivotal roles in making a business right at home in an industry. The best logos are simple, inspiring recall after seeing it a few times, or maybe even once. Less really is more. This is part one of ten successful logos that stood the test of time.
In 1937 Patrick McDonald opened The Airdome in Monrovia, California off Route 66. In 1940 his sons moved the location to San Bernardino, and renamed the restaurant “McDonalds.” It became the first fast food chain where it had a layout like an assembly line to get patrons their food quickly. The idea for the Golden Arches came from a sketch by Richard McDonald of two half circles. Their sign maker, George Dexter, used those half circles in the architecture of their restaurants. It wasn’t until 1961 when Ray Kroc bought the company that they were used in the McDonald’s logo. The first iteration had a slanted line going through the two interlocking arches to illustrate the signature roofline of their locations. The logo had gone through several iterations before the most recent one in 2003. The Golden Arches are now globally recognized.
Apple’s first logo was designed by Ronald Wayne, an early founder of Apple along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. According to Jobs in his biography, he chose the name Apple when he came from an orchard, and thought the name sounded fun, spirited, and not intimidating. The first logo depicted Newton sitting under a tree with a glowing apple about to fall, where he discovered gravity. It wasn’t even used for a year before Jobs hired graphic designer Rob Janoff to design the new Apple logo. The original design had rainbow colors to commemorate the first computer with a color display, the Apple II. At the time, Jobs only cared that green was on top, since that’s where the stem is. That rainbow design was used for twenty-two years before the logo went monochromatic. According to the designer, the bite in the logo was to make it clear that it was an apple and not a cherry tomato. The logo itself has since been in use for forty-four years.
Originally, Coca Cola was invented by John Pemberton as a medicine, with its main ingredients being the coca leaf and the kola nut. His bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, coined the name “Coca-Cola.” Robinson suggested that the two Cs would work well for advertising. He experimented with a Spencerian script, a style of penmanship that was popular at the time. The final design was received unanimously. In 1883 the logo was trademarked with the US Patent Office, and the word “trademark” was inserted into the first C. In 1890, for only one year, the logo was changed so the Cs looked more ornate while the rest of the type appeared more upright. When going back to the original design in 1891 the word “trademark” was omitted from the first C, leaving only the name of the beverage. Many iterations of supporting graphics such as shields, waves, and taglines have been used over time to keep the brand relevant, but the logo itself has been unchanged since 1891.
Phil Knight, an accounting professor at Portland State University, started Blue Ribbon Sports with Bill Bowerman, his former track coach at the same university, in 1964. They got their start by distributing shoes for Onitsuka Tiger, later to become Asics. When their contract ended in 1971 Blue Ribbon Sports developed their own shoes, the Nike Cortez. Carolyn Davis was hired to create the design on the side of the shoe. She got the job when Knight approached her while walking down a hallway in the university’s graphic design department. He asked her to draw up a design for the side of the aforementioned shoe for $35. While coming up with designs she said of the process “I remember being in my studio working on it. I drew a picture of a shoe and then drew the designs on tissue. I’d lay it over and then I’d—“ (makes a motion of crumpling up paper) “Because it has to look good on a shoe. Bill Knight said of the design “I don’t love it, but maybe it’ll grow on me.” It must have grown on him, as the logo has been used since Blue Ribbon Sports become Nike, named after the goddess of victory, in 1978. The company boomed a few years later, and Carolyn Davis was given a gold ring with the famous swoosh on it, and 500 shares of Nike stock, valued at $643,000 today.
Target began as the Dayton Company in Roseville Minnesota, a local discount store. As it expanded, their public relations department sifted through two hundred names before settling on “Target.” The logo was derived from their name. The first design, unveiled in 1962, was made of three red rings, with a black italicized typeface placed overtop. That presented legibility issues, since the typeface’s thin serifs got lost from a distance, not helped by the red color it sat on. In 1968 the logo was simplified; it now had one red ring around a red circle. The type had also been moved to the side, allowing the logo to be unencumbered by the letters that once sat on top. The text had been changed to Helvetica and was displayed in capital letters. Subsequent design changes altered placement and color of the type but the bullseye had been unchanged. A 2003 study by Target found that 96% of American shoppers knew what the bullseye symbolized. In 2004 the type had been placed below the target logo, giving it more prominence. The most recent revision happened in 2018 where the once all capital letters had been converted to lower case.