Logos with hidden symbols and meanings

As a designer, I personally think I can really over-analyse graphic design. “That would have looked a lot better in green than in blue…”, “The spacing of those letters doesn’t look right…”. And that’s just when I nitpick - sometimes I take my analysis a step further, and really think ‘Why’. “Why did they use that image – is it supposed to look like something, or represent a certain idea? Is there something I’m missing?”

I know what you’re thinking – “Come on, Sarah, you’re looking far too deeply into things. Surely not everything has a meaning!”. But… you’d be surprised. Here’s a list of logos that have some kind of hidden meaning or imagery included. Hopefully these prove that I’m not crazy!

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1. Fedex

This is one you may have seen before, but I couldn’t write this list without giving Fedex an honourable mention. Incase you didn’t know – although who doesn’t – FedEx is a global delivery company. Their logo is clear, concise, and… has a hidden symbol. Look closely at the white space between the E and the X.

Here you will see an arrow. Once you see it, it’s clear as day. I remember when I first saw it – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t spotted it before. The use of the arrow connotes motion, direction, speed, travel - all concepts that revolve around the delivery of goods.

This logo is not the only brand to adopt the clever use of negative space. The Formula 1 logo does the same.

Here you can see the white space between the F and the ‘speed stripes’ forms the shape of the 1. This is a little less subtle than the use of white space within the FedEx logo – however, for the F1 logo, it is more important for the ‘1’ to be visible, as this forms part of the name of the brand. That’s what I like most about the FedEx logo – the inclusion of the arrow is like a little treat – an easter egg.

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2. Baskin Robbins

We Brits may not be very familiar with Baskin Robbins – typically our favourite US gelato export is the infamous and diet-threatening Ben & Jerrys. However, Baskin Robbins is actually the world’s largest chain of ice-cream stores, meaning that indulging in some tasty US ice cream can be a more social affair, rather than eating a whole pint of ice cream to yourself in the privacy of your own home whilst harbouring an overwhelming sense of shame. Or is that just me?

Anyway. At the start of Baskin Robbins’ history, they decided that their customers deserved choice – and so they proudly advertised their 31 flavours. This fact has always been reflected in their logo, despite a few rebrands:

Over the course of their 71 years of business and flavour innovation they now offer hundreds of flavours to their customers, though they are still proud of their history, and their roots. This is apparent within their latest reboot of the logo, which cleverly still reflects their original offering of 31 flavours, between the B and the R.

This also means that even if the logo ever needed to be shortened to just the intials, the '31' will still be present.

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3. Toblerone

Toblerone – the perfect present for Dad at Christmas! It is a Swiss chocolate bar created by Theodor Tobler in 1908, and is another brand that is proud of their roots.

One of the most distinctive elements of the Toblerone logo is the image of a mountain. This isn’t just any mountain being depicted though – it’s the Matterhorn, one of the highest summits within the Swiss Alps. An undeniable reference to the chocolate bar’s origin.

But that’s not the only reference to the home of the Toblerone creator. Take a closer look at the mountain. Within it, again using the negative space like some of our previous examples, is the shape of the bear.

This represents the coat of arms of Berne, the city in which Toblerone was created.

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4. Amazon

Amazon – an absolute giant within a number of different industries. Anybody who has ever done any online shopping will have undoubtedly browsed the many pages of Amazon. There’s so much to look at, maybe you can be forgiven for not noticing the hidden meaning within the logo.

Here you’ll see an arrow. Like the FedEx logo, the arrow can represent the delivery aspect of Amazon’s service. However, there’s a little more to it than that.

If you look more closely you’ll notice that the arrow starts at the letter ‘A’ and ends at the letter ‘Z’ – this is Amazon’s way of saying that you can find anything on their website - from A to Z.

Finally, some even go so far as to say that the arrow makes the logo look like it’s ‘smiling’ – suggesting that they make their customers happy. Who knew a simple little arrow could mean so much?!

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5. Beats Electronics

Beats was founded in 2008 by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. They wanted their music to be heard the way artists had intended – not through tinny headphones or shoddy speakers - so they went on to launch their own brand of headphones.

Beats now make headphones, earphones and speakers, and have even launched their own streaming service, Beats Music. So, they’re a big player in the music business, and with their popularity, distinctive design and bright colours, they’re easy to spot.

Something you may not have spotted however is the depiction of their flagship product hidden right within the logo itself. It’s not just a ‘b’ in a circle – it actually depicts a head wearing a pair of headphones.

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This list shows that there’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to branding, for a number of reasons. A lot of companies are proud of where they started from and want to reflect that. Others like to represent their product or services within their logo. And some just want to stand out.

Even with some of our own logo designs, we like to create a meaningful image that resonates with the company and their product/service. For example, for Dream Event Management, we use the colourful spikes to not only draw attention, but to represent spotlights that can be seen at big events. For Laser Learning Awards, we use the bars to the left to represent a book, which itself connotes learning and knowledge, which is what you can expect when embarking on a Laser course. For Business Portraits, we use the circles around the B and P to subtly represent a camera lens, representing the service that Business Portraits provides.

So, next time you’re out and about, take a look around at the logos you see every day. Can you spot any hidden clues or symbols?

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The Two Sarahs, graphic design, Southampton