Top Logo Designers And Their Most Famous Creations

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Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Michelangelo’s “David.” Raymond Loewy’s “Shell.” Wait. What?!? Like it or not, corporate logos have become as iconic as other forms or art.

Many logos are so recognizable, like Shell, they no longer need their company’s name. Some logos are well known just by using a few words, like “Golden Arches” or, simply, “Swoosh.”

When most advertisers consider logos, they think impressions, not impressionism. Viewing the same logo over and over certainly can create a lasting, well, impression. However, can our affinity for certain logos be merely explained as the result of repeated exposure? Your Guerrilla Marketer believes some logos we have come to know (and, in some cases, love) have lasted and endured because they were designed by extremely talented individuals.

In a recent blog, I took a look at the evolution of famous logos and asked “Is it time to change your logo?”

This blog takes a look at some of my favorite logo designers. Most of these artists have had amazing careers beyond any logo they designed. I cannot do their careers justice in a few sentences, so I will mainly cover their more famous logo designs.

Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) was known as “the man who changed the face of industrial design” and his work was featured as an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. His work included designing for Greyhound Buses, Coca-Cola bottles, Pennsylvania Railroad and Air Force One. As a testament to the power of his Shell logo design, Shell dropped its name from their advertisements.

Saul Bass (1920-1996) has designed dozens of memorable corporate logos, however he may be better known for his design of over four dozen movie title sequences. An Academy Award-winning filmmaker, he created stop-animation, full-animation and live action title sequences for movies such as The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo, Psycho, Big, Goodfellas and Casino.

Bass not only designed the Bell Telephone logo in 1969, but its successor, the AT&T globe in 1983. He designed the logo for Continental Airlines in 1968 and, six years later, its competitor, United Airlines. Paul Rand (1914-1996), a prestigious member of the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, he may be best remembered for his IBM logo designs. Rand updated the IBM logo by applying stripes to give the look of scan lines on video terminals. He designed two versions – the first published version known as the “ThirteenStriper,” and the eight striped version we know today.

Known as a pioneer in the advertising world, he demonstrated the importance of having an art director in an agency. Rand may have put it best when he said simply, “A logo does not sell, it identifies.”Walter Landor (1913-1995) was best known for his creative re-design of the Fedex logo. The brilliant use of negative space to create an “arrow” has caused many to consider this one of the best logo designs in the world.Chermayeff & Geismar – Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar were two students at Yale in the mid 1950s who founded their own firm in 1957. They have done recognizable work for large corporations such as Mobil, Time Warner, Chase Bank, NBC, Cornell University, National Geographic, Viacom, and Xerox.

These designers made my list for their considerable contributions to the world of logos. Their bodies of work speak for themselves. They were all influential in their field and their creations have stood the test of time. Who are your favorites? Who do you think should have made the list? Please post your thoughts below!

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7 thoughts on “Top Logo Designers And Their Most Famous Creations

  1. Shell Oil is terrific since it utilizes an outline of a clam shell, thus reinforcing the name of the company readily.

    The UPS logo is great as it incorporates the letters of the company with a package atop – very quick read yet highly appropriate with what they do.

    Northwest Airline’s logo has the arrow pointing to the northwest, excellent reinforcement to the name of the company (and how they once focused on servicing the Northwest USA and the Northwest “Orient”).

    PBS . . . the PUBLIC Broadcasting System logo is strategic yet impactful, utilizing a human being icon to represent the PUBLIC

    Walter Landor’s company is still in existence and may be the best known company that focuses on branding

    I think Verizon’s logo should be on the list; the logo contains the name of the company and incorporates a visual element that quickly says communications. very clean; very clear. No ambiguity whatsoever.

  2. “our Guerrilla Marketer believes some logos we have come to know (and, in some cases, love) have lasted and endured because they were designed by extremely talented individuals.”

    Yes, these are memorable logos, most are identifiable just by the iconography.
    But many of your examples are no longer being used!

    The PBS logo is the third iteration. The first “logo” were just words, the second logo had all three letters in that style, and the “P face” faced to the left, since it was a P.
    From Wikipedia:
    “This ident was designed by Ernie Smith and Herb Lubalin of the Lubalin Smith Carnase design studio, on assignment from the Lawrence K. Grossman advertising agency, whose creative chief, Ron Aigen, directed the logo search.”

    Xerox no longer uses that “logo” (it’s a name in a special typeface!), it’s now a red ball with an X.

    UPS now uses a shield with a swoosh up top, since 2003.

    BP uses the “sunflower” burst, since 2003.

    The Ford logo was rejected by the company and never used.
    The oval dates back to 1909.

    Rockwell International was split into two companies in 2001. Neither company uses that logo.

    Continental changed to their “globe” trademark in 1991, and United Airlines stopped using their “U” when they merged with Continental, rebranding their planes with the Continental globe.

    Quaker has returned to a more realistic depiction of their namesake.

    The United Way altered their logo in 2004.

    The United States Postal Service has used the “sonic eagle” since 1993.

    The AT+T “death star” was changed to a ball in 2005.

    The Bell circle logo is used very little, mostly to maintain the trademark, and is not part of any current phone company branding.

    The CCC logo fails… I don’t recognize it among the others (I’m 42). Ah, it’s a cigar company…and the logo does not suggest that. “Dutch Masters” is better known. That company no longer exists, it’s now part of AltaDis.

    The same can be said of “Atlas”.

    I read the “fish” in the logo, but didn’t know it was the National Aquarium.

    Northwest Airlines adopted a more stylized “NWA” logo in 2003, and eventually was merged into Delta. (The Delta Widget is a hall-of-famer, in use since 1959!)

    • Thanks, Torsten, for a nice update. Yes, many logos do end up going through several transformations. This post was mostly to pay tribute to some of my favorite designers and show a portion of their body of work. An earlier blog talked more about how logos change over their lifetime and whether to consider changing your own company’s logo. Delta’s widget is a classic, and was designed by Robert Bragg, who also did graphic design for Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, Lowe’s and Lockheed. The original design for the widget had a set of wings inside the delta triangle!

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  4. Great article! I have to wonder, though, were these great talents freelancers who were paid specifically for these designs (and paid handsomely with a full rights buyout), or were they just employees creating “work-for-hire” at their regular salary, like so many others were?

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