Famous Logo Designers & What They Got Right

Wondering what makes a logo unique, intriguing, and attractive? We’ve got you covered with our guide on world-famous symbols and what their designers got right.

Photo of Kristi Ray
Kristi Ray

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is an old formula that graphic designers have sworn by!

Any logo designer will tell you that a single picture, symbol, or a few words can create a powerful impression, pique curiosity, and convey the brands intended message. Like a book cover can speak volumes for the book, a logo can make or break a brand.

Logo designers are entrusted with bringing their clients’ vision to life. They take a simple idea and use illustrations to attract buyers and deliver a fresh, creative, and timeless logo.

Famous Logo Designers What They Got Right

In this guide, we will take a look at some of the most famous logos around the world, analyse what their designers got right, discuss the things you need to keep in mind to be a successful designer, and a lot more!

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

World’s Most Famous Graphic Designers

The 20th century was a landmark year for companies across the world with a growing focus on branding. As a result, designers were encouraged to create unique and emblematic logos with the right amount of visual appeal and style.

While social media was still far from the picture, print and other mass media industries were thriving. Hence, there was a need for companies to establish a connection with potential buyers. As such, the importance of graphic designers was felt more than ever, and several iconic names burst forth onto the scene.

Graphic design has become a popular art form, and many modern designers draw inspiration from trailblazers such as Carolyn Davidson, Paula Scher, and Milton Glaser. These world-famous designers and their unique styles entirely reformed the logo designing scenario.

Given their rich creative history, the logos left behind an indelible impact on the graphic design scene. They are still admired all over the world for their skilful use of colours, style, and excellence.

So, in this section, we will look at the world’s most famous graphic designers and the logos they created. Let’s begin.

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1. Carolyn Davidson

The Nike swoosh is unmissable, and Davidson is the brains behind it. She conceptualised the logo in 1971 while still pursuing her education at Portland State University.

Carolyn Davidson Logo Designs

Nike founder Phil Knight was initially sceptical about the logo but went ahead with it for the lack of a better alternative. However, Carolyn Davidson was paid merely 35 dollars for it. Nevertheless, she continued to work for Nike right up till her retirement in 2000. Thankfully, Knight wasn’t ungrateful and later gifted Davidson a gold ring with the Nike logo on it. For those who might not know, the Greek goddess Nike was the inspiration behind the design. She was considered the symbol of victory, strength, and speed - all of which Davidson thought best represented the brand. A simple search for the Nike statue will show you what we are talking about - outstretched arms with wings that look exactly like the world-famous swoosh.

Although Phil Knight didn’t think the minimalistic design would work, it became an iconic logo with long-lasting appeal. Like the Apple logo, the Nike swoosh is universally recognised today, and the tick has also come to represent affirmation and positivity.

Carolyn Davidson understood the trick: the goal isn’t to make something extraordinary but to make minimalism look cool. It is to represent the brand in the most creative way possible.

The message to future logo designers is pretty straightforward: simplicity and a commitment to meeting deadlines go a long way in fuelling your creativity. If these two things combined can give birth to the Nike logo, it is bound to serve you well. Besides, great logos do not need text to back them up. If done right, they remain powerful on their own.

Photograph Of Carolyn Davidson And Nike

2. Saul Bass

Graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass was tasked with designing logos for companies such as Geffen Records, Warner Communications, and Continental Airlines. His best-known work is for AT & T Services. This telecommunications company enjoyed a monopoly over phone services (through a network of companies dubbed as the Bell System) in Canada and the United States.

In 1969, Bass replaced the intricate bell symbol with a more simplistic design to create a scalable icon that can be used anywhere - from buildings, phone booths to print ads and letterheads. He even made a pitch video for the same, stating that the purpose behind the upgrade was to create a logo design that can be adapted into large and small scales.

That’s not it! Saul Bass also designed the logo for Kleenex, Warner Bros and United Airlines. The common point of similarity in all these designs was their crisp and modern style, free of any bells and whistles.

Various Logos Done By Saul Bass

What was remarkable about these designs was Bass’s insight. Even in the pre-digital age, he had the ingenuity to create distinctive, clean layouts that can be scaled as per requirements. This principle has become one of the critical components of digital marketing campaigns today.

Saul Bass’ designs thus became synonymous with reliability, formed an immediate connection with the audience, and stood the test of time. Even with the advent of digital marketing, there was no need to redesign or upgrade the logos - they were thoughtfully designed, sophisticated, and solid enough to appeal to a contemporary audience.

Besides, although he used limited colours, the palette was vivid with plenty of reds, blues, and blacks. Not to forget, he combined his choice of colours with extensive use of attractive typography, best exemplified by the soft curves of the Kleenex logo.

Thus, Bass proved contemporary logos didn’t have to be ornate to be eye-catching; simple curves, neat cuts, and adaptability can go a long way in establishing a brand’s identity.

Photograph Of Caul Bass

3. Milton Glaser

Multi-award-winning graphic designer Milton Glaser’s work portfolio remains as prolific as his designs. In his career spanning decades, he designed and illustrated film posters and brand logos. He also founded the New York Magazine (1968) and Push Pin Studios (1954).

Mad Men By Milton Glaser

Perhaps his best-known work is the ’I Love New York’ logo, designed in the mid-1970s to showcase New York in a favourable light after a series of crimes had impacted tourism in the city. The logo was well-received instantly and became the official state slogan. It continues to be a prominent part of pop culture, and its timeless appeal lies in its captivating design, simple font, and emotion-infused message.

This iconic emblem is found on billboards, trains, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and hats in New York. If the aim was to boost tourism, Glaser couldn’t have done any better. The logo became even more significant after the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Glaser struck a chord with American citizens, fuelling their patriotism and emotions, bridging the gap between a carefully structured marketing campaign and the city’s rich heritage. The bold red heart, the condensed message, and innovation became symbolic of the spirit of New York City - one that is resilient and full of hope.

Milton Glaser also created the Brooklyn Brewery logo. The brand was earlier marketed as ’Brooklyn Eagle Beer,’ but he changed the name to ’Brooklyn Brewery,’ which their beers carry.

Photograph Of Milton Glaser

A vital lesson potential designers can take from Glaser is that it is imperative to ask questions, know about the brand’s history and imbibe its spirit. Use visual language and keep your work individualistic, but most of all, ensure that your work does justice to the company’s narrative.

4. Paul Rand

If no-frills designs had a name on them, it would be Paul Rand’s. Known mainly for creating monogram logos for company giants such as IBM, USP, and AMC, Rand became a world-famous designer thanks to his unique vision and subtlety. Besides being a graphic designer, he was an art director.

Logos Done By Paul Rand

He firmly believed that for a logo to stand the test of time, it has to be designed with ’utmost simplicity and restraint,’ and there’s no better example of this than the IBM logo. Made of 8 horizontal stripes, it was a brilliant upgrade from the 1956 design but took over a decade to complete.

Paul Rand experimented with various fonts, sizes, and design elements to create a cohesive logo that best represented the brand’s dynamism. Long after he had formulated the new logo, he continued to keep a close eye on its use and played an essential role in IBM’s branding.

Paul Rand also collaborated with Steve Jobs for the logo of his computer and software development company, NeXT. What we can learn from him is patience - a solid logo doesn’t necessarily have to be born overnight. However, the focus should be on creating a robust and eye-catching logo that tells a story and represents the brand.

Photograph Of Paul Rand

5. Paula Scher

Paula Scher has an impressive list of clients that includes Citibank, Coca-Cola, Tiffany & Co, and Microsoft.

Logos Done By Paula Scher

Although her career began as a record designer, working for CBS and Atlantic Records, she is today known as a modern-day graphic designer who gave us some of the most iconic logotypes of the 20th century. The brands she worked with had a very distinct appeal, with catchy names. Since drawings weren’t her strong suit, Scher used typography intensively to foster brand recognition.

Photograph Of Paula Scher

Logotypes or font-based logos became her way to create compelling designs, and she found it easier to represent the brand’s style through words.

6. Rob Janoff

Undoubtedly the most famous logo of all time, Apple struck gold when it got Rob Janoff on board. Although Steve Jobs originally conceptualised the brand’s logo, he later recruited Janoff, who designed the half-bitten, rainbow Apple logo.

As Jobs puts it, the purpose was to bring “simplicity to the audience in the most sophisticated way,” and needless to say, Rob Janoff delivered on all accounts. The design has undergone many changes and is currently a steel grey logo, but the basic outline remains the same.

Rob Janoff Apple Logo

Janoff believed in keeping things simple because, according to him, people cannot remember complex images - but a half-bitten apple piques your curiosity, is instantly appealing, and memorable. Besides, it conveys the brand’s essence - user-friendly, reliable, and symbolic of all the knowledge consumers can ’bite’ into.

7. Alan Fletcher

Any list of famous 20th-century graphic designers would be incomplete without Alan Fletcher. He used elaborate typography to bring his designs to life, as evidenced by his work for Victoria & Albert Museum. With elegant black and white hues, he conveyed the museum’s historical importance while ensuring the design remains timeless and functional.

Alan Fletcher Logo Concepts

He also designed the logo for the international news agency Reuters back in 1965, marked by the same ease of use and adaptability that characterised his earlier works.

Alan Fletcher founded the design firm Pentagram in 1972 with a few other graphic designers. The company trained several top-notch logo designers who went on to design for firms like Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Starbucks, and Verizon.

Photograph Of Alan Fletcher

8. Lindon Leader

FedEx is one of the leading logistics and delivery brands, but it faces stiff competition in the industry from UPS. To establish its identity as a dominant business force, FedEx had to rely on an original logo that conveys the brand’s essence while making it stand out.

Created by Leader in 1994, the FedEx emblem is among the most iconic logo designs. The inclusion of the white arrow between ’E’ and ’x’ is pretty clever and symbolises speed and precision.

The traditional colours of the FedEx logo were purple and orange - striking and creative choices that add tremendously to the branding. However, the company made slight modifications to its design where different colours were used for the ’Ex’ portion of the logo, depending on the product type. For instance, it used yellow for trade networks and red for freight.

Logos By Lindon Leader

Types Of Logos A Graphic Designer Can Choose From

Choosing a creative and modern logo for your company with stunning visual appeal is not easy. As a graphic designer, you’ll have 7 different options to choose from when it comes to logo design. Let’s take a look at what they are:

1. Monogram Logos

Also known as letter marks, this type of logo has letters, usually the company initials. Through monograms, you can form a connection between the brand name and its visual identity. For instance, Home Box Office is known as HBO, and the acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration is NASA. Brands with long names use this type of logo since it gives them the necessary limelight without making it look dull.

Besides, as a graphic designer, you get to experiment with different font types and choose one that is readable and can be scaled down to business cards. Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, IBM, CNN, etc, use monogram logos to represent their brands, and in its simplicity lies the appeal.

Example Of Monogram Logos

2. Logotypes

Another font-based logo, logotypes or wordmarks solely focus on the company’s name. Take, for instance, Google, Coca-Cola, Visa, etc. These companies have catchy and distinct names, and logo designers need to spell them out.

Logotypes Logo Examples

The focus here is on typography. With a vivid colour palette and an attractive font style, you can establish a strong brand identity. Some brands opt for attractive calligraphies, while others (mostly fashion brands) choose to keep it elegant.

Let’s look at Google, for example. Although the font is minimalistic, the use of bold colours stands for the company’s diverse range of products and the multiple results that pop up during a search. Not to forget, the combination of yellow, red, green, and blue looks vibrant and user-friendly, which is exactly what the search engine aims to be.

3. Pictorial Marks

Pictorial marks are graphic-based logos and are ideal for popular businesses that are well-established and do not need their names spelled out. Their logos are emblematic of the company, create a unique identity for the brand, and become almost more popular than it.

Let’s look at some famous designs: the Twitter bird, the Apple logo, the Snapchat logo, the panda for WWF, and Target’s bullseye. All these brands are renowned, and therefore, their brand marks are instantly recognisable.

Examples Of Pictorial Mark Logos

Although this logo style works well for famous brands, we wouldn’t recommend it for new businesses still building their name.

Of course, one of the most significant considerations for any graphic designer is the choice of picture to be created. The image you use should convey the spirit of the brand and be memorable. It should be eye-catching and fun yet simple.

4. Abstract Logo Marks

Unlike pictorial marks that use distinct images, abstract logo marks make use of geometric patterns. Take, for example, the Nike swoosh, Pepsi’s circle, Adidas’ flower, etc. All these are abstract concepts that have become popular thanks to famous logo designers who saw great creative potential in them.

Examples Of Abstract Logos

What makes this type of logo stand out is that it leaves room for multiple interpretations and thus allows customers to identify with your brand as they please.

The colours, powerful designs, and bold strokes allow you to convey what your company symbolises, but you’re not limited by pictorial representations. It gives your brand a distinctive style and a serious tone.

5. Mascots

Mascots are fun, creative logos that usually appeal to families and children. Mascots use an illustrated character, either a human figure or a cartoon.

They become the unofficial ambassador for your brand and create a connection between you and potential buyers. The Pillsbury Doughboy, KFC Colonel, and the Kool-Aid Man are famous mascots that add a special touch to the company and have an upbeat vibe to them. They are usually used for food enterprises, sports brands, etc.

Example Of Mascot Logos

The best part about mascots is that they are flexible and can adopt different expressions, depending on what you want to convey. As a logo designer, your biggest challenge will be to make something friendly without making it look ludicrous. Customers should take your brand seriously, and the design shouldn’t be outlandish.

Besides, although mascots are great for social media campaigns, the logo rarely translates well on business cards. So, you might need to come up with something more adaptable for your cards.

6. Combination Mark

If you are confused about the type of logo design that’ll best suit your brand, why not opt for the best of both worlds? Combination marks combine two elements: letters and pictures to create an appealing logo that speaks for itself.

Before moving on to anything else, think about iconic logos such as Burger King, Doritos, Dove, Lacoste, Jaguar, and Taco Bell. What do they all have in common? Well, they combine font and graphics in one logo to send across a coherent message and convey what the brand is all about.

It leaves no room for confusion and is the best way to get people to associate a particular picture or mascot with your brand.

Combination Mark Logo Examples

7. The Emblem

An emblem is a traditional logo design that has been around for decades. It includes text inside of a symbol - like badges and crests. Given their vintage appeal, schools and government organisations often choose them for their branding.

Emblem Logo Examples

Some brands have added a modern twist to this design form and use it to convey a sense of prestige and longevity. Emblems are detailed and not quite versatile since they are difficult to adapt or replicate. However, this design is quite famous in beverage industries and private businesses since it has a unique style and gravitas.

Starbucks, Harley Davidson, and NFL are some brands that use the emblem. Besides, this logo design is used for universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth.

How To Be A Successful Logo Designer?

The one lesson you should learn from the world’s most famous logo designers is that you need to prioritise ingenuity while also focusing on simplicity. Your design should be attractive and fun, not gauche and predictable. Let’s look at a few points that logo designers need to keep in mind:

1. Keep The Design Simple

The logo designers we mentioned above created a unique identity for their clients’ brands while also giving them a timeless appeal. Remember not to make your designs too confusing - too many colours, words, or figures can distract potential buyers and fail to convey the brand’s message.

Graphic design is a simple art form that doesn’t require bells and whistles - decide on the type of design, pick a font style, and choose colours that best reflect your company’s nature. Take iconic logos such as ’I Love New York’ or the Nike swoosh, for example - simple designs that convey a powerful message and speak volumes for the brand’s nature without compromising on style.

2. Know The Brand

As a logo designer, you need to have complete knowledge of the brand and its history and should be able to create a logo that aligns with it. The logo should represent the brand and what it offers. In addition, your logo should serve as an inspiration for future designers who work with the brand.

Besides, remember that the logo design needs to be mesmerising. As a graphic designer, it is your job to develop fresh concepts and innovative ways to draw the audience to your company.

3. Make It Adaptable

No matter what you do, ensure the design is scalable. Modern design requires flexibility and easy adaptability. Your logo design will be on billboards, business cards, pens, and posters. Therefore, it should never look disproportionate.

Graphic Design And Its Modern Relevance

An overview of the history of graphic design will tell you that typography and symbols have always been relevant.

Ever since the 1950s, logo designing has become more important than ever, thanks to the growing emphasis on attractive marketing campaigns to draw customers. It comes as no surprise that graphic design has become a popular career choice today and is the first step towards building a brand image.

With technological advancement and the rise in competitors, it has become essential for any company to create an original logo that has tremendous potential, breathes life into its digital marketing campaigns, and best conveys its message.

Your design should be contemporary, have a unique tone, and a timeless appeal. Most importantly, it should have a profound influence on the potential customer’s decision-making process.

That’s the focus of any graphic design firm - keep it simple, original, and creative!

Photo of Kristi Ray

Kristi Ray

Kristi is head of content production and editing at sitecentre and joined the team in early 2021 based out of our Sunshine Coast office to deliver higher-quality content to our partners. Kristi has a vast knowledge of copywriting styles and experience to accelerate the production of SEO friendly content at the highest levels.

Find them on their website: sitecentre and LinkedIn.

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