We live in a consumerist society, and we’ve come to take it for granted that we are bombarded with logos everyday and everywhere. But how well do you know them, really? Below, the secret messages, symbols, and other cleverness in 12 exemplary logos.
In one of the better-known logo tricks out there, the FedEx logo has an arrow concealed between the E and the X. Because they deliver stuff to destinations! I just learned about this yesterday, and my life is forever changed.
The yellow curved line under the logo isn’t just a smiley face: It also symbolizes that Amazon carries everything from A to Z.
Though today networking giant Cisco makes its home in San Jose, it was founded in San Francisco, and its name is an abbreviated form of the city. (According to Wikipedia, early Cisco engineers refused to capitalize the company name for this reason.) Which explains the logo: Rolled out in 2006, it supposedly symbolizes both an electromagnetic wave and a bridge between the past and the future, which also gives a shoutout to San Fran’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
4. Sony Vaio
Sony’s Vaio line stands out for its great design, and its logo is no exception: The V and the A represent an analog symbol, and the I and O represent the 1 and 0 of binary code.
The two t’s in the middle of the Tostitos logo are also guys sharing a tortilla chip, and the i in between them is a bowl of salsa on some sort of pedestal. This. Changes. Everything.
6. Big Ten (old)
When the Big Ten athletic conference added Penn State in 1990, it wanted to keep its name, and so it snuck an 11 around the T. It recently announced it would phase out this logo with the addition of The University of Nebraska–Lincoln as the conference’s 12th member.
Another numeric logo trick: After Baskin-Robbins dropped the “31 flavors” slogan, it highlighted the number 31 in pink using parts of the B and R.
Toblerone bars may not be particularly amazing as chocolate goes (commence the flamewars), but it has the distinction of a very clever logo: The company was founded in Bern, Switzerland, rumored to mean “a city of bears,” and the logo features the shape of a bear on the mountain.
As for the mountain, it is “in the shape of the summit of the Matterhorn, which is in the BERner OBERland.”
So it’s the letter G, but it’s also a smiling person. Very good, Goodwill.
10. Northwest Airlines (old)
The old Northwest Airlines logo featured an N and a triangle, which could be read together as a W. But that’s not all: Placed in a circle, it also represents a compass pointing northwest. That was too subtle, apparently, so Northwest restyled themselves after a gangsta rap group.
11. Sun Microsystems
Prior to Sun’s acquisition by Oracle, its logo contained four interleaved copies of the word “sun” in a square formation.
12. U.S. Cyber Command
The award for what is by far the geekiest — and toughest to solve — logo we’ve seen goes to the United States Cyber Command. The 32 numbers in the gold circle around the eagle form a secret code. Run it through an md5 cryptographic hash and you get the group’s mission statement:
(Update: Commenter Jota suggests a more accurate phrasing based on how an MD5 hash actually works: “Run the group’s mission statement through an md5 cryptographic hash and you get the 32 numbers in the gold circle.”)
USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.
Well, we thought the bear and arrow and stuff were pretty cool too.