1. Apple

In 1976, Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne (co-founders) designed Apple’s first logo, which depicted Isaac Newton sitting under a tree with a single apple hanging from a branch above him, and the William Wordsworth quote “Newton…a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought”. It was a detailed and ornate design and, for good reason, Steve Jobs was not satisfied with it, so a year later he commissioned designer Rob Janoff to create something around the apple element. The result was the Apple logo that is globally recognised today, only in rainbow colors. 

The idea behind this design was to represent Isaac Newton’s discovery of both gravity and the separation of light with the apple and colors respectively. Interestingly enough, Jobs was also living as a frugivore at that time and practically living off apples; ‘Macintosh’ being one of his favorite varieties. It is speculated that the apple is also symbolic of the ‘fruit of the Tree of Knowledge’ from the creation story. Others believed that the colorful logo was used to advertise the color capability of the Apple II computer, and author Sadie Plant was one of many who consider the Apple logo as homage to the father of modern computing, Alan Turing, who was persecuted for his sexuality and took his own life by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Since then the logo has undergone small alterations over the years, adopting a sleek black look in 1998, followed by 3D versions and finally the white and chrome versions we see today.

2. Coca-Cola

Atlanta, Georgia, 1886 and John Pemberton is unsure of what to name the concoction he has just perfected the recipe for in his own back yard. Who should he go to for some creative inspiration but his accountant, Frank Robinson, who happened to have a natural flair for advertising. “Coca Cola” was the only name he suggested, stating that “the two C’s would work aesthetically in advertising”, and Pemberton took an instant liking to it. At this point no logo existed so the pair opted for a very simple serif font to advertise the new soda in local newspapers.

In just one year, Coca Cola had gained popularity throughout the United States and Pemberton decided it was due time the brand had an official logo. Again he teamed up with Robinson, and as it turned out, Pemberton’s trusted bookkeeper also had a talent for penmanship. His satisfyingly sophisticated hand-written version of the brand name he had so much confidence in became the Coca-Cola logo that makes our mouths water and our tongues tingle when we see it today.

An interesting theory as to how the Coca-Cola brand adopted its iconic bold red color goes as follows. At the time (over 130 years ago) Coca-Cola was sold in barrels at American drug stores and pharmacies. Alcohol was distributed in the same way, but while alcohol was taxed, soft drinks were not. So, the Coca-Cola Company began painting its barrels red in order to help customs and tax officials distinguish them from barrels of booze.

3. Nike

The story of the Nike ‘Swoosh’ begins in 1971 with then graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson, who was looking for a way to make some extra cash to fund some oil painting classes she was keen to attend. Two years earlier she had met Phil Knight, who was assistant professor at her University, but went on to found Blue Ribbon Sports, which then evolved into ‘Nike’. After hearing that Davidson was looking for work, Knight offered her just $2 an hour to help him out on some projects.

One of these projects happened to be coming up with a logo – or “stripe” – to appear on the side of the Nike sneakers. Keen to capture the feeling of movement and speed, Davidson came up with the Nike Swoosh, a check mark inspired by the wing of the Greek goddess of victory, who the brand was named after. After a little work on the logo, Davidson handed the design over to Knight for just $35, and upon receiving it he said: “I don’t love it, but I think it will grow on me”, and he launched the brand with the Swoosh on the side of each shoe.

Davidson may not have profited greatly from her work on the Swoosh at first, but she was given a generous amount of stock in the company which is now estimated to be worth upwards of $1,000,000, as well as a diamond and gold ring featuring the logo.

4. Disney

The logo that would originally appear before Disney features was an animated Mickey Mouse profile that would revolve and change colors. The intention with this design was twofold: to, of course, develop an association between the logo and the wonder of Disney motion pictures, but also to showcase the unprecedented technological advancements in animation that Disney was making at the time.

In 1995, the Disney Pixar unity debuted with the movie Toy Story, and the opening logo underwent a transformation into what would be the basis for the Disney logo we see today, featuring a light blue castle and the text “Walt Disney Pictures” across it. This new logo also featured a computer-animated castle for the first time, and has since served the same function as the original Disney logo; evolving to showcase Disney’s ever-developing graphic technological advances. With each new picture the classic castle and “Wish Upon a Star” instrumental becomes more and more creative, elaborate and impressive, tantalizing viewers with a taste of the movie they are about to experience.

A showreel of the evolution of the Disney opening logo can be viewed here.

5. McDonalds

With over 35,000 restaurants in 120 different countries, McDonald’s golden arches are without a doubt one of the most recognizable logos on the globe. It’s story begins in 1940 with brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald and a food stand in San Bernardino, California called “McDonald’s Bar-B-Que” that sold – as the name would suggest – predominantly barbecued foods.  

Eight years later, the McDonald brothers are beginning to hone in on the maximisation of efficiency and profitability in their restaurant’s service process. At this point they were also beginning to realize that the majority of their profits were coming from the sale of their hamburgers and in 1952 they dropped the “Bar-B-Que” out of the restaurant name and thus it became “McDonald’s”. A year later, the time came to expand their chain to a second location, and it was in the creation of this restaurant that the golden arches were born. The brothers enlisted architect Stanley Clark Meston to draw up a design for the new building and from his drawings they built a restaurant that was both eye-catching and ultra-efficient.

It was only eight years later, however, that the golden arches were incorporated into the McDonald’s logo. At first Fred Turner (business president at the time) attempted to come up with a design for the logo himself, but eventually appointed head of constructions Jim Schindler to take over the project. Schindler designed the first version of the golden arches logo before it underwent several more iterations right up until 2003, and has remained the same ever since, accompanied by the carefree “i’m lovin’ it” slogan.

One of the more subtle reasons that the McDonald’s logo is so effective is that it abstractly resembles two french fries, causing a subconscious association in the mind of anyone who views the McDonald’s signs with one of the most popular and comforting menu items. It is also said that in the ‘60s, McDonald’s wanted to change their logo, but were advised against it by their design consultant (psychologist Louis Cheskin) who insisted that the golden arches would be unconsciously recognized by customers as “symbolism of a pair of nourishing breasts.” Whether this situation really happened or not, advertisers and marketers have been successfully utilizing psychological and subliminal techniques to sell products and ideas for a century.