Iconic logos and what you can learn from them

Logo design is one of those areas of graphic design that looks easy, but can be fiendishly difficult to get right. So classic logos that have stood the test of time can offer some handy pointers when you come to work on your own designs.

In this post, we look at seven logos that became world-famous, and explore how they were designed and the lessons we can learn from their success.



In short, a logo doesn’t need to explain anything.

— Paul Rand

The Apple logo.

Many urban legends have arisen about the meaning behind the bite in the apple of the computer giant’s logo, ranging from a reference to the Bible story of Adam and Eve to a pun on the word ‘byte’. In fact, the truth is more boringly straightforward, according to Rob Janoff, who designed it in early 1977 while working at advertising and PR agency Regis McKenna.

Quite simply, it was important that the design would scale, and Janoff found that when his apple design shrunk down to a small size, it looked like a cherry. Adding the bite made it clear, however, that it was still an apple at any size.

If the importance of your logo design being able to scale was important in the 1970s, it’s even more important in today’s world of tablets and smartphones (ironically, a situation for which Apple itself is partially responsible). But that’s not the only lesson to be learned here. The success of the Apple logo also teaches us that a logo needn’t be literal. There’s little to suggest it represents a computer company, any more than the VW logo needs to portray a car, or the Dominos logo needs to include a graphic representation of a pizza.