One might be on a passerby's carrier bag, another on a van and a third on a hot link from your favourite web site. Whether or not you notice them, the average consumer is exposed to 5,000 corporate messages every day--and most include a logo.
Some are cute. Others are witty. Many are boring. Which are the best ones? The Nike swoosh? The hand-lettered Coca-Cola script? Apple's half-eaten fruit? IBM's stripy initials? Or the
lovable Michelin Man? And what makes them so memorable? R.O.B. Magazine teamed up with the London Financial Times to identify the Top 50 corporate logos of all time.
A panel of judges was assembled, including eminent architect Norman Foster, design, retail and restaurant mogul Terence Conran, and the acclaimed industrial designers Marc Newson and Karim Rashid. Also on the panel were Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, John Hegarty, one of the world's top advertising art directors, Tyler Brûlé, the Canadian journalist who founded Wallpaper* magazine, and John Pylypczak, the Toronto graphic artist who designed the new logo for this magazine, first seen on the cover of last month's re-launch issue.
The judges (a full list appears on page 96) were first asked to contribute to a long list of more than 100 logos, from which the final Top 50 would be chosen. They then awarded points out of five to each of the logos on the long list. The criteria were that the logo should not only look great, but should accurately reflect the company's activities and aspirations. The judges also had to be convinced that the logo had had a positive effect on perceptions of the company among employees and the public. To win five points, a logo had to fulfill all those criteria.
Voting papers, sent in from around the world, were collated in late summer, and now the Top 50, published here in reverse order, can be revealed. The winning logos are an extraordinary collection. Some were the work of celebrated graphic artists: IBM, ABC and UPS were all designed by Paul Rand, Yves Saint Laurent by Cassandre, and Bell System by Saul Bass. Other equally famous symbols have more haphazard histories. No one knows who designed Volkswagen's VW, or Rolls Royce's double R. The Citroën chevron came from an engineering sketch of an early 1900s car gear, and Mercedes' three-pointed star was originally a doodle on a postcard.
One logo--the Red Cross--is not a corporate logo at all. But the brilliant simplicity of its design made it irresistible to our judges--so much so that it very nearly beat some of the greatest corporate logos to the No. 1 spot.
What the winning logos have in common is that they are so cleverly designed and conceived that they instantly convey the owner's chosen message. Norman Foster, one of the judges, likens the best ones to "the hands of an analogue clock, which can tell you the time at a glance--no thinking, no mental processing. The clock face doesn't even need numerals."
If R.O.B. Magazine were to repeat this exercise in 10, or even five, years time, the Top 50 might look very different. Many of the older logos in this Top 50 were created at a time when they were expected to appear only in print. These days, more and more corporate messages are conveyed on screen, and companies increasingly need symbols that will be equally effective in all media.
One or two of the Top 50 have already been "retired" because they did not work on the internet. The Reuters dots, for instance, were too fuzzy. Many companies will commission new logos, but let's hope that the best of the existing ones will be adaptable for the screen, because life would be duller without them. As Terence Conran says of the corporate logo voted No. 1 by our judges, "It's been drawn in thousands of different ways over the years, but always looks extremely stylish and, most importantly, always makes me smile." You will have to turn to the end of our Top 50 to discover which one he is describing.
50 - ABC: The letters A, B and C were a dream for an accomplished designer like Paul Rand, who realized that, in lower case, they had a natural rhythm. Even so, his idea of depicting the letters in three circles of the same size framed by
a bigger circle was brilliant. Rand came up with another designer's trick for the TV network's new logo: Just as car designers distort lines to create the optical illusion of perfect ones, Rand dented his big circle to make it look rounder. "This is Mr. Rand
at his best," says Tyler Brûlé. "Authority, softness and a sense of the international in a little black circle."
49 - Wrangler: In the late 1940s, the Blue Bell clothing company of North Carolina decided to launch a line of tough denim jeans, named after the cowboys--or wranglers--who worked on ranches in the West. The jeans were designed by Rodeo Ben, the personal tailor to celebrity cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Asked to create an appropriate logo, Rodeo Ben's response was to spell out the name with one of the thick ropes cowboys used to lasso their horses. To judge Deyan Sudjic,
the logo is "cute, folksy and authentic looking."
48 - Rolls Royce: Even Rolls-Royce's archivists are not sure who first designed the double R's that have dominated the car company's logo since the early 1900s. Was it the founder, Sir Henry Royce, who signed his engineering sketches with a double R? Or Eric Gill, one of the most celebrated typographers of the day? Or even Beatrice Eccles, who claimed to have won a public competition to design it? Whoever. The double R's first appeared on a wheel hub in 1904, were printed on company stationery from 1906, and have remained in place despite a 1970s modernization of the logo.
47 - 7-Up: As brand names go, Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda was not exactly catchy. And as
timing goes, launching a new soda on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash did not bode so
well. Undaunted, the soda's inventor, C. L. Grigg, simply shortened the product's name to
7-Up, reputedly after a seven helped him to win a crucial game of poker. 7-Up adopted various logos over the years, but added the jaunty red dot, known
as the "character spot," in the 1970s. "This is so tacky, but fabulous in its own way," says Peter Saville, one
of the judges. "It's like a downmarket Louis Vuitton."
46 - Kellogg's: It is not an inspired piece of typography, but this logo has been used so cleverly for so long that it has crept into the consumer's consciousness. Like Ford, Kellogg's has always played up the age of its logo to remind the public of its long corporate history. Whereas Ford's emblem looks like Henry Ford's signature, but was actually written by an assistant, the Kellogg's symbol really was drafted by Will Keith Kellogg, the company's founder. (His brother, Dr. John Kellogg, is credited with inventing the Corn Flake.)
45 - Greyhound: There is a story that the Greyhound Bus Company chose its name in 1914, when a reporter described a new Silverside bus as being "as sleek as a greyhound." Various draftsmen sketched greyhounds as the company's logo from 1926 onward, but none was
as memorable as the elegant running dog drawn by the great designer Raymond Loewy in the 1950s. Along with his Lucky Strike "target," Loewy's greyhound remains one of the most enduring icons of modern America.
44 - Louis Vuitton: Just as Levi Strauss resorted to stitching the leather "Two Horse" logo on the back of its jeans to ward off copyists in the 1880s California rag trade, Louis Vuitton invented its now-notorious LV monogram to foil the copycat manufacturers who were churning out cheap copies of its canvas bags in late 19th-century Paris. Judge Deyan Sudjic sees the LV monogram as "the initials that gave logos a bad name." But it has proved remarkably resilient and still sells bags more than 100 years after Georges Vuitton (Louis's son) first instructed the company's artisans to weave his father's initials into the canvas of a trunk.
43 - Bic: Nicknamed l'homme de choc, or "the shock guy," cartoonist Raymond Savignac had created dozens of advertising posters for Bic, the French penmaker, when he was asked to produce one for a new ballpoint pen in 1961. Savignac sketched a schoolboy with a shiny black ball as his head, a uniform in the same shade of orange as Bic's logo, and a ballpoint pen peeping from behind his back. The Bic boy proved so popular that Marcel Bich, Bic's founder, included him in the company logo. "It's so memorable, and very French," says judge Jasper Morrison.
42 - Vitra: Design dominates the office furniture company Vitra. It not only makes furniture by such accomplished designers as Jasper Morrison and Antonio Citterio, but it is an important architectural patron, having commissioned the first European buildings by Frank Gehry and Tadao Ando. When it came to changing its corporate identity in 1990, Vitra did so with the rigour it applies to every other area of design. It settled for a witty reworking of its name into a neat parallelogram by Mendell & Oberer of Munich. "This is the way it should be done," says judge Vittorio Radice.
41 - Yves Saint Laurent: When Yves Saint Laurent opened his fashion house in January, 1962, money was so tight that his business partner, Pierre Bergé, coaxed their friends into working on the first haute couture show for nothing, and fobbed off suppliers until the collection was sold. There was nothing left to pay for a logo, but Cassandre, one of the great French graphic artists, offered to do it for free. Then in his 60s, Cassandre drafted an exquisitely elegant "signature" for Yves Saint Laurent, as well as an insignia of his entwined initials Y, S and L. "This is just fabulous," says judge Peter Saville. "It encapsulates everything YSL stands for."
40 - Comme des Garçons: Rei Kawakubo discovered a name for her fashion company when she heard the phrase "comme des garçons" in a French song. Then working as a fashion stylist in Tokyo, she had just started to design clothes. Kawakubo chose a clean, modernist typeface for her logo, and, in place of the cedilla, used a five-pointed star. By 1973, Kawakubo had registered her company, now one of Japan's most famous fashion houses, as Comme des Garçons. "It's fashion's first non-logo," says judge Paola Antonelli, who also admires the way it captures Comme's spirit of "complicated simplicity."
39 - Bell: New York designer Saul Bass was best known for dreaming up Alfred Hitchcock's movie titles
--the blood seeping across the screen at the start of Vertigo, or the scrambled lines in the Psycho credits--when the 23 telephone companies belonging to the Bell System asked him to design a collective corporate symbol in 1969. By then, Bass was itching to direct his own films, and the Bell project looked like an enjoyable stopgap while he struggled to finance his first feature film. The original Bell System did not last for long, but the symbol Bass conceived--as a tribute to Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone's inventor--has survived.
38 - Canadian National Railways: Most railway companies harked back to the past by choosing nouveau heraldic crests, shields and griffins for their logos, until Canadian National Railways asked Toronto-born graphic designer Allan Fleming to modernize the image of the company in 1960 with a new logo to replace their existing maple leaf design (see below). His CN type treatment--intended to symbolize a railroad on the move, racing toward the future--was unmistakably contemporary. Having hit upon the idea of presenting the letters "C" and "N" in a single stroke, Fleming sketched the first version of the logo on a cocktail napkin while flying from Toronto to New York. Forty years later, it still looks modern and, as the English industrial designer Jasper Morrison puts it, "a perfect blend of symbol, typography and intent." Karim Rashid, the Canadian industrial designer now based in New York, says: "The continuum of the line is obviously of a train in motion, travelling across the country. I remember as a seven-year-old that the train was a great icon. I wanted to travel across the country, and every time I see this logo, I think of that freedom, that journey."
37 - Camel: Having chosen Camel as a suitably exotic name for his new Turkish cigarettes, R.J. Reynolds asked a lithographer to draw a camel on the packet. The scrawny beast with a drooping neck looked so forlorn that Reynolds sent an assistant to Barnum & Bailey Circus to photograph livelier camels. He returned with a shot of a dromedary called "Old Joe." The picture of Old Joe strolling across the desert proved so popular that when Reynolds made a few subtle changes in 1958, the public protested and the original was restored.
36 - Levi Strauss: Back in the 1880s, small clothing companies would churn out blatant copies of Levi Strauss's riveted cotton jeans. No sooner had Levi clamped down on one cheat, than another would emerge. Levi's solution was to distinguish its products by stitching on a leather patch bearing a trademarked sketch of a contest in which two horses try to tear a pair of jeans in two. The contest was probably fictitious, although no one knows for sure, as Levi's archive was destroyed in a 1906 earthquake. When an enterprising Hawaiian store staged a "replay" with two mules in the 1940s, one animal died of exhaustion.
35 - Habitat: Suggestions included a sketch of a house and a piece of furniture. Terence Conran finally decided that the logo for the furniture shop he was opening in a derelict London pub should simply consist of the company name--Habitat. To add a modernist twist, Conran told the typographer to use all lower-case letters. Graphic designer Peter Saville, one of the judges, sees the result as "a lovely piece of 1960s modernism that symbolizes everything Habitat aimed to do--bringing decent design to the mass market."
34 - Kodak: Like the Nike swoosh, the Kodak click was devised by a local graphic designer who happened to work near the company's headquarters, rather than a star designer or a heavyweight identity consultancy. Kodak chose Peter Oestreich, whose studio was close to its Rochester, N.Y., offices. Just as the name, Kodak, sounds like the click of a camera, Oestreich was asked to create a symbol that looked like a click. To judge Brian Boylan, this logo is "a stand-out. It looks so much like a click you almost hear the sound. And whenever you see those colours, you think of Kodak."
33 - The New Yorker: In its first 75 years, The New Yorker may have gone through "five editors, four homes, one guy with a monocle, and such a plethora of cat cartoons that sensitive readers have been known to complain of hairballs," as the magazine's Comment writer put it recently, but its logo has remained exactly (or almost exactly) the same. The title on the 75th anniversary cover was virtually identical to the one hand-drawn by Rea Irvin for its first issue on Feb. 21, 1925, and registered as the Irvin typeface. The only change was that it had been discreetly digitized in the mid-1980s.
32 - Evian: People have flocked for centuries to (literally) "take the waters" at the pretty Alpine town of Evian-les-Bains on
the French side of Lake Geneva. By far thebiggest--and one of the most elegant--of the town's buildings is the 19th-century headquarters of the company, which bottles and sells, as "Evian," the water bubbling down from the nearby Alps and up from the local springs. When the company commissioned a new identity for itself and its spring water in 1995, Landor Associates included a stylish image of snow-capped Alps as the original source of the water.
31 - Ford: As a teenager, Childe Harold Willis earned extra money by printing visiting cards on an old press in his family home. Years later, he dredged the press out of the attic for his new boss, the automotive engineer Henry Ford. It was summer, 1903; Henry Ford was poised to launch the Ford Motor Company, and he needed a corporate logo. Willis printed a stylized version of the company's name using one of the old-fashioned script typefaces left from his visiting cards. An elaborate art-nouveau border was chosen to frame the first version of the logo, followed by a winged triangle. The modern Ford motif did not appear until 1928, when the company placed Willis's script in white on a blue oval background. Any changes since then have been remarkably subtle. Ford management toyed with the idea of ditching the logo in 1966, asking veteran graphic designer Paul Rand to devise a new one. Rand made the oval chunkier and streamlined Willis's delicate script. But Henry Ford III decided it was too radical a departure, and reinstated his grandfather's choice. "It is so familiar that we take it for granted as part of the corporate landscape," says Peter Saville.
30 - UPS: Some things are too good to change. When UPS asked designer Michael Bierut to review its identity in 1998,
he spent a day in one of the company's brown vans, and a night at a sorting depot, before recommending that it stick with Paul Rand's 1961 logo. Before that, UPS had sported a heraldic shield. Rand's first inclination was to ditch it, until he saw how proud UPS's employees were of it. Instead, he modernized the shield and added the gift box. "UPS's identity is brilliant," says judge Deyan Sudjic. "The trucks, the uniforms, the way the makers' names are removed from the trucks--it's absolutely consistent."
29 - Swiss Air: Few countries embraced the principles of Bauhaus graphics as enthusiastically as Switzerland, and one
of the best examples is the corporate identity created for Swiss Air in 1978 by Karl Gerstner, the Basel-based typographer. At first glance, it seems as simple as can be: just the airline's name beside Switzerland's national cross. But by framing the cross--and setting the name--in parallelograms, Gerstner makes an elegant allusion to flight. "It's refreshing to know that you can look out on any airport runway in the world and see this simple, straightforward symbol standing out from the usual tail-fin clutter," says Brian Boylan.
28 - Esso: Motor racing was highly popular in 1920s Britain, and the Anglo-American Oil Company felt that it would be a clever ploy to develop a fuel designed to make racing cars go faster. It named the new fuel by phoneticizing the initials of its U.S. parent company, Standard Oil, to Esso. Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the world land-speed record using Esso in 1935, and an Esso-powered Queen Mary won the Blue Riband in 1936. Anglo-American adopted the name--and curvy red-white-and-blue logo--for more and more gasoline brands and, in 1951, rechristened itself the Esso Petroleum Co.
27 - Pirelli: By the time Pirelli adopted its "long P" logo in 1907, it was not only among the biggest companies in Italy, but one of the world's largest manufacturers of rubber products--everything from bicycle tires to submarine parts, raincoats and the cables for La Scala opera house. The only thing Pirelli's products had in common was elasticity--a quality perfectly expressed by the stretched "P". "The logo always reminds me of a racing track," says Marc Newson, "and, like all the best 20th-century Italian design, it still looks modern."
26 - Biba: John McConnell cannot remember whether he was ever paid for designing the elegant art-nouveau motif that became the trademark of Biba, the '60s London boutique. "It was a favour for a friend, and if I was paid, it was only a few pounds," he says. McConnell got the job because his wife was a friend of Biba's owner, Barbara Hulanicki, who asked him to design a perfume bottle in the style of her favourite art-nouveau antiques. When Hulanicki saw the bottle, she made its motif the symbol of her boutique and all Biba's products. The favour for a friend is now cherished as a hippie de luxe icon.
25 - CBS: Few international corporate logos are as clever as the monochrome eye William Golden designed for the CBS TV network in 1951. Golden knew the company backwards, having worked there as an art director and then creative director for nearly 15 years. His simple, but striking, rendering produced an unforgettable motif of both the viewer's eye and the lens of a CBS camera, which has served the network since its infancy. "It is their watchful eye on the world, and your watchful and intent eye as a viewer," says Paola Antonelli. "This logo refers exactly to CBS's mission."
24 - I Love New York: Scarred by rising crime and economic recession, New York had hit the doldrums in 1975, when advertising agency Wells, Rich and Greene was charged with orchestrating a marketing campaign to drum up tourism. I Love New York was chosen as the campaign slogan, and graphic designer Milton Glaser was asked to create an appropriate logo. Glaser's first proposal, that the slogan be spelled out, was rejected, and he then suggested reducing it to four symbols. "This image owes an awful lot to the artist Robert Indiana," observes Peter Saville, one of the judges. "But as a logo of its era, it's very, very good."
23 - Luck Strike: Until the Second World War, Lucky Strike cigarettes were famous for their khaki-green packaging, but it was thought tactless for cigarettes to look so militaristic in wartime. In 1941, George Washington Hill, president of American Tobacco, the brand's owner, asked Raymond Loewy to create a new packet. He gave him $20,000 upfront, and offered to pay another $30,000 if he liked the finished design. Loewy won the $30,000 with a crisp white packet bearing identical target motifs front and back. "It's a very clever, very beautiful piece of typography," says judge Rolf Fehlbaum.
22 - IBM: When graphic designer Paul Rand was first asked in 1956 to devise a logo to reflect IBM's transition into computing, he decided that the company was not ready for radical change and simply spruced up the existing lettering. Four years later, Rand felt that IBM would be more receptive, and introduced stripes. The stripes made the logo more distinctive and more fitting for the computer age. They also solved a tricky typographical problem. "The letters I, B and M are a nightmare to work with," says judge Peter Saville. "There's a squidy-thin one, a round-fat one and then an angular-fat one. Rand's solution--of introducing stripes--gave the letters an illusion of continuity and produced a fabulous symbol for a communications company. But the most brilliant part of this logo is the absolute consistency in the way IBM uses it." Rand insisted on that from the start. Manuals were circulated on the correct use of the logo, and Rand dispatched IBM's New York design team to far-flung subsidiaries to ensure that it looked exactly the same way everywhere. However, Rand himself enjoyed playing with the famous initials by drawing doodles as the letters, or pictograms of an eye and a bee, followed by the usual stripy "M".
21 - Apple: Apple called itself after a fruit because it seemed such an improbable name for a computer company that it was bound to be memorable. It then commissioned a symbol in the same humorous spirit. The multi-coloured stripes in the original apple were a jokey reference to the stripy initials of arch-enemy IBM. The bite is a raffish biblical allusion to sin and a visual pun on a computer byte. "Apple's logo was the perfect counter to IBM's monolith," says Richard Lambert, editor of the Financial Times, and one of the judges. "And it has managed to retain a cheeky independence through the ups and downs of the company's life."
20 - Gitanes: Jean-Paul Sartre smoked them. So did Jacques Prévert and Serge Gainsbourg. Much as they may have enjoyed the taste of Gitanes cigarettes, the brand also owed its appeal to the smoke wafting over the flamenco dancer on its deep-blue packet. "It's so romantic, and always makes me think of smoky French cafés," says Terence Conran. The design was chosen from a competition held in 1947. The artist was Max Ponty, and his model a Peruvian flamenco dancer called Nana de Herrera.
19 - Mercedes-Benze: Back in the late 1800s, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler sent a postcard to his wife with a three-pointed star sketched above his home in the town of Deutz. He told her that the star would bring good luck to his new motor company. A few years after Daimler's death in 1900, his two sons registered the three-pointed star as the company's trademark. By the time Daimler merged with its arch-rival, Benz, in 1924, the star was so famous that it was adopted by the new company. To judge Brian Boylan, the postcard doodle is today "a symbol of engineering precision."
18 - FedEx: When FedEx's employees were mysteriously called to meetings in Memphis, Hong Kong, Paris and Toronto in June, 1994, they arrived to find that an airplane had flown overnight to each location, emblazoned with the company's new identity. The logo is bold, bright and instantly recognizable, but FedEx has enhanced its impact by using it so imaginatively. "This logo is as effective when moving on a van as when stationary on an envelope," says Rolf Fehlbaum. FedEx even threw in a joke: What do you see between the "E" and the "x"?
17 - Vogue: For its first 50 years, Vogue flirted with different title designs from issue to issue. Often it used capitals, sometimes script. Once the title was spelled out by cut-outs of the model Lisa Fonssagrives. Soon after Alexander Liberman joined Vogue's New York art department in 1940, he developed a new logo to be used in every issue and in all international editions. Vogue has since refined that logo, but gently--except for when Liberman replaced the "O" with a beach ball balanced on a model's toe. "It's classy, subtle and distinctive," says judge Deyan Sudjic. "And that's exactly how the magazine wants to be seen."
16 - Citroën: When, as a young engineer, André Citroën started a new gear company on the Quai de Javel in Paris in 1901, he invented a revolutionary gear with chevron-shaped teeth. Having made his fortune from that gear, Citroën used the chevron in his engineering sketches as a corporate symbol, and kept it even after his company diversified into cars and, eventually, stopped making gears. "This is a fabulous logo: beautifully executed and visually arresting," says judge Peter Saville. "All you have to do is look at the chevron on a Citroën bonnet to know which company made the car. It's instantly recognizable without the name."
15 - NASA: When the Soviets kicked off the space race in 1957 by launching Sputnik 1 as the world's first artificial satellite, the U.S. retaliated by launching the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Its first logo was a star-clustered planet officially known as "the insignia," and unofficially as "meatball." By the mid-1970s, NASA wanted to modernize its image and commissioned "the worm" (above), a new logo of fluid lettering. By the early 1990s, NASA was nostalgic for its 1960s heyday, and decided to revive "meatball."
14 - Chanel: Dangling from a ceiling in Gabrielle Chanel's Parisian apartment was an enormous chandelier decorated with rock crystals carved into her favourite symbols. There was "2"-- her lucky number-- "G" for Gabrielle, "5" for her best-selling Chanel No. 5 perfume, and the double "C" motif she had chosen as the marque for her fashion house. The double "C" first appeared on the catalogue with which Chanel launched her perfumes in 1924. "It isn't just a stylish logo," says Terence Conran, one of the judges. "The double 'C' adds the Chanel ethos to everything it appears on."
13- Playboy: A few years after Playboy magazine was launched, a letter was delivered to its Chicago offices with no address on the envelope, just a bow-tied rabbit head on the envelope. Hugh Hefner, Playboy's founder, and his art director, Arthur Paul, had chosen a rabbit as their corporate emblem because it was the friskiest member of the animal kingdom. For judge Paola Antonelli of MoMA, the Playboy rabbit represents "not simply sex, but sophisticated eroticism and joie de vivre." The motif is still integral to Playboy, and,
of course, it inspired the bow ties, floppy ears and cotton tails of the bunnies in its old Playboy clubs.
12 - British Rail: This was the logo that Harold Wilson, the 1960s Labour Prime Minister, hoped would symbolize Britain's newly nationalized industries. Instead, British Rail was reduced to a national joke. But its emblem proved so popular that it has survived as a generic sign for UK railway stations. "This was one of the most thorough corporate identity campaigns ever carried out," says judge Deyan Sudjic. "It swept away all those heraldic lions and winged wheels by presenting British Rail as modern and up-to-date." But as for the poor service, "no amount of image-doctoring could cure that."
11 - Reuters: The news agency Reuters was looking for a modern, technocratic image when it commissioned graphic designer Alan Fletcher in 1966. He spelled out the company's name in 87 black dots in a typographical replica of Reuters' printed news reports. "The dots give the logo a sense of nostalgia, but there's an urgency as well," says judge Tyler Brûlé. Unhappily, the dots did not work so well on screen, especially on the internet, where they were confusingly fuzzy. A new logo writes out Reuters in conventional line letters, and features a cluster of dots beside a globe.
10 - Pan Am: Ever since 1927, when it started off with one route from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, Pan Am had sported a winged globe logo. By the early 1960s, its founder, Juan Trippe, wanted a new symbol to take his airline into the jet age. He called in Edward Barnes, a Manhattan architect whom Trippe's secretary remembers as "very young, rather good-looking and always late." Barnes produced the famous "Blue Globe" that Pan Am pasted on the tail fins of its first Boeing 747s. After Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991, a consortium paid $1.3 million (U.S.) for the name--and the now famous logo--to start up again.
9 - Coca-Cola: For an icon of American consumerism, Coca-Cola's symbol came about in a remarkably amateurish way. The name was dreamed up by Frank Robinson, a business partner of Dr. Pemberton, inventor of the Coke formula. They persuaded their colleagues that the double "C" would work well in advertising, and Robinson wrote it out in elaborate Spencerian script. His lettering was registered as a trademark in 1887. Coca-Cola has modified the logo over the years--most recently in 1995--but it remains, as judge Jasper Morrison puts it, "a masterpiece of freehand exotica."
8 - Penguin Books: Having decided to publish cheap editions of good contemporary fiction, Allen Lane asked his secretary to think of a "dignified, but flippant" name for his company. She suggested Penguin, and Lane sent an office junior, Edward Young, to sketch the penguins at London Zoo. When the first paperbacks came out in 1935, Young's sketches were on the covers. After
the war, Lane hired Jan Tscichold to define a new design style as Penguin's art director. For judge Vittorio Radice, Tscichold's penguin motif is still synonymous with "consistency and expertise."
7 - Woolmark: In the early 1960s, when the clothing market was flooded with new types of man-made fibres, the world's wool growers decided that they needed to find a way of differentiating their pure new wool products from man-made ones. The International Wool Secretariat, the industry's representative body, commissioned the Italian graphic artist Francesco Saroglia to produce such a symbol. His answer was, literally, to draw a ball of wool. "Like all the best ideas, the Woolmark is simple, elegant and memorable," says judge Melanie Clore. "It is so tactile, I can almost feel the wool!"
6 - Shell: Question: Why would an oil company call itself Shell? Answer: Because it began in business in late 19th-century London by importing Oriental seashells to decorate Victorian trinket boxes. When it started shipping kerosene to Asia in 1891, the company chose Shell as its trademark, and later formed the Shell Transport and Trading Company. A monochrome sketch of a Pecten seashell became the corporate logo in 1904. The colours, red and yellow, were introduced in 1915, when Shell's Californian subsidiary sought to liven up its petrol stations. A red and yellow corporate logo bearing the word Shell was launched in 1948, and modified in 1961. Ten years later, Shell asked Raymond Loewy, the veteran U.S. designer, to modernize its symbol. He created a bolder, starker version of the shell motif, with the company's name spelled out beneath it. By 1999, the Shell logo was so well known that the company felt confident enough to erase the name. "This logo not only communicates the values of the brand, but does so, remarkably, without saying Shell," says John Hegarty, one of the judges.
5 - Volkswagen: No one is certain who designed the Volkswagen logo. We know it was introduced in 1938 by Ferdinand Porsche, who, having failed to persuade any manufacturer to produce his designs for a mass-market "people's car," foundedhis own company. He then asked a designer--Franz Xaver Reimspiess and Martin Freyer are the usual suspects--to devise an emblem. "It's an elegant symbol, but the juxtaposition of the 'V' and 'W' is also very witty," says Rolf Fehlbaum. "So many logos are pompous--it is refreshing to see one as intelligent and humorous as Volkswagen's."
4 - Nike: Little did Carolyn Davidson know, when she accepted $35 from a fledgling company in Oregon to design a logo, that the result would become one of the world's most famous symbols. The only guide from Phil Knight, the running-coach-turned-shoe-maker, was to create something that represented speed and movement. She offered 10 symbols--and Knight chose the swoosh. "It's a beautifully drawn symbol," says Terence Conran, "and it conveys the sensation of speed, which is just brilliant for Nike."
3 - Red Cross: One of the principal problems faced by the 19th-century relief societies seeking to provide medical care on the battlefield was that it was too dangerous for them to treat the wounded because their doctors and nurses were so often mistaken for soldiers. In 1863, an international conference in Geneva voted to adopt a red cross on a white background as a globally recognizable symbol of medical care for the armed forces. Over a century later, judge Jasper Morrison describes the Red Cross as "one of the most widely recognized and understood symbols of all time."
2 - London Underground: One of Frank Pick's first jobs when he joined the London Underground as a traffic officer in 1906 was to provide platform signs for the stations. The signs had to be easily understood by people on the move on crowded platforms, and to stand out from the ads. Pick modelled his sign on a train wheel, and asked a favourite calligrapher, Edward Johnston, to redesign it as a symbol for all the London Underground's publicity. Man Ray once painted the symbol as a planet circling Jupiter on an Underground poster; judge Norman Foster sees it as "original, bold and direct."
AND THE WINNER IS...
1 - Michelin: While walking around an 1898 trade show, the Michelin brothers spotted a pile of different-sized tires stacked high in a corner, and realized that it looked exactly like a man. Not long afterward, they were leafing through the work of a poster artist, O'Galop, when they spotted a cartoon he had drawn for a German brewery, in which a rotund Bavarian was drinking beer from a tankard engraved with the words "Nunc est Bibendum." The Bavarian beer drinker bore a distinct resemblance to the man-shaped pile of tires, and the Michelins asked O'Galop to sketch a new version of the figure, whom they called Monsieur Bibendum.
At first, Monsieur Bibendum appeared on posters. Sometimes he carried Michelin tires, but often he was cast in cartoon adventures, bicycling through France, driving into the country for a picnic, or heading for the Alps to ski. Soon, Michelin employed actors to dress up like him at promotional events and festivals. "The Michelin Man is an iconic logo that touches me in a very emotional way," says advertising executive John Hegarty. "It's a simple, easily recognizable, but very powerful design that communicates so much."
As Michelin diversified into additional products--maps, travel guides and other ploys to encourage its customers to drive more--Monsieur Bibendum played suitably sybaritic roles to promote them. He smoked cigars, quaffed champagne and celebrated his arrival in various countries by donning the national costume: a Stetson for the U.S., a fez for Turkey, and so on. For graphic designer Peter Saville, he's "a fabulous piece of corporate iconography, and probably the first example of a liquid identity. Whatever he does or wears, you always recognize him as a Michelin Man." Industrial designer Marc Newson, another of
our judges, admires Monsieur Bibendum's ability to adapt to three dimensions. "He's always so cute," says Newson. "Whenever I saw him as a kid, I wanted to own one."