Firstly, let’s go over the basic logo design truths. The general opinion among designers is that logos should be unique, scalable, simple, and work well in monochrome. This is all sound practice, and this article does not argue against any of these mantras. That being said, there is more to benchmark quality than these common prerequisites.
The growing use of tools like online logo makers and sites like Upwork or Fiverr, discovering good logo design work is actually quite difficult in the age of the internet.
Large companies and even medium-sized organisations are daunting for an agency to reach, and startups most of the times prefer to outsource their work. Also, due to the digitisation of design, we often see less creative forms because graphics rendering programs afford linear forms such as squares, triangles, and simple ovals. In other words, illustrative uniqueness isn’t as popular now because paper and pen skills are actually declining per capita.
What is the Purpose of a Logo?
For us to list the best logos, we must first consider its purpose. A logo is essentially the face of your brand. Businesses need a way to differentiate their products and services from their competitors, and they do this through unique stylisation of the packaging, advertisements, and messages that they offer. If logos and branding didn't exist, there would be no way to easily indicate who you were buying from. We would be stuck reading every single label and description for every product. Products and services would then be stripped down to their utility. We could only determine the value of something based on its actual function.
Although that might sound like a Marxist dream, imagine if every product, restaurant, and company had the exact same label set in the same type with the same colours. Would that not be a boring world to live in? Novelty is extremely important in business, culture, and branding. To conclude, a logo is a unique form that communicates the ownership of a particular good or service.
Here are our top picks for the "Best Logos of All Time - Ever" in no particular order.
Swoosh, the emotion or motion of rushing forward. On the side of a sports shoe this dynamic symbol demands that your foot will follow the forward motion of the design, advancing with strength.
Against Adidas and Puma, Nike does the accelerative momentum imagery best. In the early days it was always accompanied by custom-made logo lettering which is almost identical to Futura Condensed Extra Black. These days, the swoosh appears alone and is recognized immediately in every corner of the world.
The creation of this, the most famous of all sporting logos, was rather uneventful. Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University, designed the logo with a few alternatives as a freelance gig for what was then known as Blue Ribbon Sports Inc. Named after the winged Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike Inc. adapted the Swoosh as its official logo soon after its incorporation in 1971.
In our imagination, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were huddled over the circuit boards and protruding wires emanating from a metal box that was to become a computer.
"Let's call the company Apple!" one said. "As good as any other fruit," said the other.
Then came time for a logo, so Steve Jobs called a designer he knew, Rob Janoff, all very casual-like. From Janoff’s recollection, the brief was minimal: ‘We’re calling it Apple,’ was about all that was said. A very open brief.
Janoff claims the bite out of the apple was for balance and precise definition, so even when tiny - it was still an image of an apple, not a cherry.
So all those myths you hear about Alan Turing biting into a poison apple, or Adam and Eve symbolism as inspiration have all been discounted as pure nonsense.
The Apple icon has evolved from a striped rainbow apple to a gleaming "Titanium' finish at present, but the shape and usage have never changed. For a company named Apple, this is the purest symbol possible, and its brilliance is that it screams the company name on first glance. In similar cavalier fashion, these same guys called their computer a ‘Macintosh’, which has no logo at all.
Richard Runyon designed the original Federal Express (FedEx) logo in 1973. However, it was redesigned soon after the expansion of FedEx’s business into a company offering courier, freight, and logistics services. In 1994, Lindon Leader of Lander Associates created FedEx’s now most recognized corporate symbol.
There is a subliminal design within the logo that many people miss. There is a space between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’ that contains an arrow pointing towards the right. FedEx’s logo design and hidden arrow symbol show how a simple and thoughtful design can still be extremely effective.
As one of the few tech companies worth $1 trillion, Amazon has made its way into hundreds of millions of households across the world. The company’s logo is clean and straight-forward, using a unique-yet-simple font and an arrow icon.
This icon is sometimes called the "smiley arrow". It's a clever design that serves two purposes: the first is a subtle smile, the second is an arrow pointing from the A to the Z. This suggests that Amazon can fulfill all of your needs, from A to Z.
It’s also worth noting that branding firm Turner Duckworth made the Amazon arrow and the McDonald’s arches. They’re nailing it.
The logo font is curvy, even sexy, but it is the bottle that made a Coke instantly recognizable. In fact, the bottle is as much a part of the logo as the script font and has remained so since the bottle was first designed in the early 19th century. The bottle shape is patented, and a valuable asset to the Coca-Cola company.
No other product’s packaging can match the instant comfortable hold you can get when grasp a Coke bottle. The bottle defines Coke, but the script face is also famous. Together, we admit, the bottle and the script face are perfect partners.
Today, the bottle has taken on graphic form using solid colors and in the newest evolution of the logo design, the bottle has finally found its rightful place in the logo itself.
There’s so much thought that went into this cute little bird. There were many iterations, but Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey immediately knew that this would be the one, even when it was presented with 25 other variations.
The Twitter bird has a surface level meaning: Twitter is a platform of several, short communications, similar to how a bird tweets. But this is one of the best creative logos because of the subtle visual elements they worked in. The smooth, clean lines represent speed and clarity.
My favorite fun fact: Those lines are all so smooth and clean because the Twitter bird is made up of 15 intersecting circles. How cool is that?
At first glance, the Google logo just looks like a colorful spectacle. But when you look a bit closer, you can see that the creators chose the colors carefully.
It mostly uses the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. Red and blue each have two letters, but yellow only has one. And so does green. This is almost an act of rebellion: just the right amount of boldness to defy expectations.
It’s fun to think about how the designers probably looked at and evaluated hundreds or even thousands of color combinations before settling on this one!
Starbuck’s iconic mermaid logo is a unique design that easily catches the interest and attention of onlookers. This memorable symbol is one of the world’s most recognized logos, and has greatly contributed to Starbucks’ worldwide success.
The original logo had the image of a twin-tailed mermaid (also known as a siren). In Greek mythology, sirens would lure sailors to a shipwreck off the coast of what was called Starbuck Island. Starbucks adopted the siren to symbolize the unavoidable allure of their coffee.
Over the last 40 years, the original logo has undergone many changes, including some major changes in 1987 once Howard Schultz acquired the company. Since taking over, Schultz cleaned up Starbucks’ logo and added a more corporate polished look to the logo’s design. Over time, the logo has evolved with the company’s rapid growth, popularity and international presence. However, the iconic Mermaid has remained prominent, luring coffee lovers all over the world.
International Business Machines (IBM) has become one of the world’s most widely recognized brands, largely due to their logo. The logo’s simplicity and attractiveness are captivating, and accurately match the brand name and quality. Its design is representative of the confidence, uniqueness, and superiority that IBM’s products possess, and it has played a crucial role in promoting the company in the IT market.
While the earliest version of the IBM logo consisted of a globe, the company transformed and modified it many times before creating the simpler logo design that we know today. The newly transformed logo featured the letters ‘IBM’ in a bold and sophisticated font style. Although IBM has tweaked the logo several times since, the typeface has remained identical over the last 40 years.
Similar to Nike, the McDonald's logo has its own name. It's not the "yellow M", it’s the Golden Arches. Anyone who has ever cruised through a town, mall, or airport looking for a snack can tell you exactly what those arches mean. And maybe their tummy growls a bit just thinking about it.
The McDonald’s logo uses bright yellow and red colors to grab your attention fast, which adds to how memorable it is. It also stands out more against the crowd, which is a clever strategy for the fast food world, where there’s always a sea of competitors vying for a hungry person’s attention.
The unique curve of the M is another component that helps it stand out from other logos. You just don't see that every day.
When designers reach legend status they can start to work like Paul Rand who charged Steve Jobs $100,000 for the Next logo in 1986. Taking inflation into account that’s roughly $240,000 today. What’s even more profound is that Paul Rand only ever gave one option to Jobs (and most of his clients at the end of his career). Rand despised the politics of design and made it his mission to seek clients that valued his expertise. Steve Jobs, like most great entrepreneurs, know how to select and trust talented people and let them do their work. Poor entrepreneurs can’t trust anyone and thus they resort to micromanaging every part of the business. Company founders then need to spend more time selecting the right people and spend less time managing them.
There’s a difference between great leaders and great egos. If you’re looking for an exceptional logo, find a great designer who charges a higher fixed rate and let them to their work.