The Story and Meaning of #7 Iconic Logos

Deeper meanings are what make abstract logos great, as they help the logo tie into the brand's core values

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By Callum Humphreys

Callum Humphreys

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An iconic logo became that way for a reason. Here, I break down what each logo's story and meaning are and share what insights you can gain from these iconic examples.


Many know that Toyota's logo forms a "T" for Toyota, but few realize that there is a deeper meaning. The three ellipses within the logo actually represent three hearts. One ellipse is the heart of the customer, another represents the heart of the product. The last ellipses are the heart of progress in the field of technology.

From a design perspective, this is exactly what a business should look for in an abstract logo. Deeper meanings are what make abstract logos great, as they help the logo tie into the brand's core values.


The meaning and/or story behind the M in McDonald's varies based on who you ask. The most interesting story I've heard has to be the one about their design consultant and psychologist Louis Cheskin.

McDonald's had a desire to redesign their logo back in the 60's, but Louis Cheskin advised them not to. What makes the story interesting is his reasoning against the redesign. Cheskin believed that customers would subconsciously recognize the McDonald's logo as "symbolism of a pair of nourishing breasts."

I can't say whether that reasoning is valid or not, but you can't deny that the McDonald's logo is one of the most recognizable in the world.

This also highlights an important factor in logo design. You need to understand, and take into account, how people subconsciously perceive your logo.

3. BMW

Few realize this, but BMW actually began as an aircraft manufacturing firm. They only began producing cars and motorcycles because the Versailles peace treaty forced them to stop producing aircraft after WWI. In WWII, BMW again began producing aircraft engines, even making some of the first jet engines during the war!

Why is BMW's history in aircraft manufacturing and design important? Because it's such a big part of BMW's history that it helped shape their logo. Have you've ever wondered what the BMW emblem's blue and white quarters represent? If so, it's actually meant to look like a propeller in motion.

The white is an aircraft's prop and the blue is the sky as it peeks through. A very neat logo that is relevant to the history of the company.

The BMW emblem is a perfect example of using simplicity in logo design. They could have made the logo an actual prop, but in making it so simple it's easy to remember and replicate across marketing materials.

4. Apple

Apple's old rainbow logo is a great example of a logo that is influenced by the product a company sells. The designer of the old logo decided on the color bars because the color on an Apple computer's display was much more vibrant than on other computers.

The colors, in this case, were a nod to the brilliant colors on an Apple display.

If you're working to redesign or create your organization's logo, don't forget that a logo can (and should) represent what makes your products and services better than the competition!

5. Adidas

The Adidas logo is interesting because originally, their logo had no meaning. The "Three Stripe Company" as they called themselves, simply put three stripes on everything because they could. Even their second logo design, the trefoil didn't have much meaning.

But, their most recent redesign has introduced a lot more meaning into the iconic three stripes. They've angled and placed the three stripes so that their logo now resembles a mountain. This is symbolic for the challenges that people must overcome in both exercise and life. It also represents how Adidas products are up to the challenge. The kicker is, it does all this while remaining true to the original three lines.

Adidas is a great example if you're redesigning your logo and aren't sure how to incorporate more meaning while remaining true to your original branding.

6. Google

Google's logo is a lesson in how to convey meaning with a simple, text based logo. When using only text in your logo, the color and font are the only tools at your disposal to create meaning.

Google uses these tools expertly. Let's start with their use of color.

Their logo initially contains four primary colors in a row. After that, the pattern is broken with a secondary color: green. The importance of this change is not to be underplayed. See, this simple use of color shows that Google is fun and playful, and that they don't play by the rules. Pretty clever!

Next, let's analyze their font. Google's logo has been largely similar during their almost 20-year history, but the small tweaks they've made have a significant impact.

In 1999, we saw the first major edit to the logo, which featured a more sophisticated font/look. It's not unplayful though, with the e turned a bit on its side, almost as if it's laughing.

In 2010, there was a small edit which made the logo brighter. This helped increase the playfulness of the design a bit. Then, in 2013, the logo went from 3D to flat. This makes it easier to replicate across marketing materials and made for a cleaner look.

In 2015, we saw the second major revision which included a new, sans-serif font. This helped the logo fit in with Google's design aesthetic which was being applied to other products in the Google family.

This is a great example to follow for companies who have a text based logo. It also serves to show how small, but purposeful tweaks to a logo can make a world of a difference.

7. Domino's

Domino's is actually an example of what not to do when coming up with a design for a logo. No, I'm not talking about the current logo, I'm actually referring to what it was originally intended to be.

Originally, a new dot was supposed to be added for every new store opened. While it sounds neat on paper, the idea was abandoned after a year and I'm sure you can figure out the reason. You simply can only add so many dots to the logo before it becomes too much.

To put things in perspective, there'd be over 10,000 dots by now if they had stuck with the original design idea.

The takeaway here is: don't be overly ambitious when creating a logo. Understand the limits of logo design, and try to keep things on the simpler side. Remember - the simpler your logo is, the more memorable it'll be!

Callum Humphreys

Creative Director, Creato Design Sydney

Callum is an entrepreneur and graphic designer based in Sydney Australia. He is the owner of a logo and graphic design company- Creato. You can stay up to date with Callum & Creato by following the Creato Design Blog.

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