Branding is an art form. Whether you are creating the perfect jingle that will become an ear worm and remind people what the ingredients of a Big Mac are, or a symbol that people instantly connect with a product, branding is very important. The art of creating a logo though, is the single most effective way to establish yourself in the minds of consumers and potential customers. More important than the words in the logo (those are probably the least important part truthfully), are the images and the arrangement of those images. They can be simple or more complex, but in order to make them effective, they’ve got to be sewn everywhere, like seeds.
The idea is that over time, the logo just sort of blends into the mind and is a gentle reminder of what that company does or provides. It often shows a certain status to the rest of the world, making us something of a walking billboard. But there are a number of companies that have gone to great lengths to create a logo that has either hidden symbols or messaging to either scream to your subconscious mind or create a topic of conversation (much like this article). After scouring through countless logos, here are 15 that have hidden symbols that you will never see the same way again and will blow your mind!
15 Baskin Robbins
Baskin Robbins has been around for decades. Founded in 1945, the founders believed it was important to allow the customer to sample different flavors at no charge as part of the customer service and selection experience. Since the early 1950s, the wildly successful chain of ice cream shops offered 31 flavors of ice cream. In fact, they have insanely more than that today, but still believe in using the 31 flavors as part of their branding. Take a good long look at the Baskin Robbins logo. Do you see the “31” in pink as part of the “BR?” The color choice is also important, since they have become well known for their pink sampling spoons. It’s clever branding and now, your eyes will likely go straight to the 31 when you see the logo!
Tostitos is a staple brand in the world of tortilla chips. They are perhaps the best known brand in the world. The logo for this mammoth in the chip world is more complex than you may realize though. Take a look in the middle of the word “Tostitos” and you’ll see that the “t’s” are made to look like stick people. They have a small little triangle chip being held by both of them, with the red dot of the “i” underneath. This is meant to give the illusion of people dunking a chip into some salsa (a popular condiment for the chips). Interestingly, Tostitos also sells salsa as a separate product. It’s another one of those fun subliminal messages placed neatly in the logo. Either way... enjoy the chips and salsa.
13 The Bronx Zoo
Zoo logos are just so cool! They always seem to push the envelope when it comes to putting hidden objects into logos. In the case of The Bronx Zoo, the logo uses the negative space (the white area) underneath the giraffes to give the outline of the New York City skyline. The Bronx Zoo is the largest city zoo in the United States. People come from all over the world to visit the zoo and marvel at the amazing creatures they have come to shelter and protect. The next time you’re visiting the city, make sure you head over there and check out what they have to offer. But the next time you take a look at the logo, just grin a little bit to yourself because you see the hidden secret.
You’ll never be able to unsee this, so be forewarned that once you read it, you’ll find yourself pointing it out to anyone in the car with you when you come upon a FedEx truck. FedEx is a shipping company that just about everyone in the world recognizes. If you haven’t heard of FedEx, then chances are good that you have been living under a rock! If you’ll look in between the E and the X, you should be able to see a white arrow. This is likely used to represent that FedEx is always on the go and never stops. This is one of the cooler examples of how one little look at some negative space can change your whole focal point! Tell a friend and blow their mind!
11 Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems was a computer company founded in 1982. The company was purchased by Oracle in 2010, but the logo is still widely known by many. Sun Microsystems was responsible for a lot of developments in the computer world, beyond just hardware and software sales. They were actually responsible for the creation of the Java programming language. If you look at their logo, you’ll see a block of what looks like squiggly lines. If you look closer though, you’ll be able to see that those squiggly lines actually spell out the word “SUN” in a variety of different ways. At first glance, it’s just a block with curvy lines, but not after you look deeper. The Sun Microsystems logo isn’t around much anymore, but it’s a part of marketing nostalgia that will live on in infamy.
We all pretty much have come to see Amazon as a giant among internet shoppers. Anything and everything you can imagine can be purchased on Amazon. Whereas once upon a time, it was used as a book and media retailer, today they handle everything from grocery items to diapers. They have expanded into the entertainment industry as well with their own streaming movie and series service. Amazon truly is an all-encompassing giant, so the subliminal messaging within their logo is quite fitting. Take a look at the curved arrow underneath the word Amazon. The arrow goes from A to Z. This is no accident and speaks highly to what they do for consumers. This is proof that the logo doesn’t have to be intricate and complicated to be clever and make a point. Simple logos can be the most effective of them all.
9 Hershey’s Kisses
The Hershey company is known for its chocolate. They are one of the top competitors when it comes to chocolate candy. Unlike any other chocolate creation on the market is the Hershey Kiss with its unique design and concept. The Hershey Kiss is a small, bite sized piece of chocolate shaped similarly to a bell. It is wrapped in foil with a little flag coming out the top. Just about everyone is familiar with the Hershey Kiss and they are the perfect bite sized treat when you need some chocolate. When you take a look at the Hershey Kiss logo though, you can see in between the “K” and “I” an actual Hershey Kiss in the negative space. Just one more little fun fact in the world of advertising and marketing!
Unilever is the parent company for over 400 different brands, generating billions in profit each and every year! They are a powerhouse corporation when it comes to a ton of the consumer products that we see everyday. The Unilever logo is very specifically designed however. When you look at the logo, you’ll see a very large letter “U” made up of a lot of different singular images. These images aren’t random and they aren’t nonsensical. These images represent a different product that the company owns and manufactures. There are 25 different icons that make up the “U” in the logo. This is a fun fact that is understated and most people don’t realize. But it also speaks volumes on the importance Unilever places on the unity of their brands worldwide.
Many people recognize VAIO from back when they were a subsidiary of Sony. Well, VAIO stands on its own two feet apart from Sony these days, but they are still a recognizable brand in personal computing. They also have an exclusive agreement with Sony, so the two are not breaking ties any time soon. Apart from their products, the VAIO logo is the coolest part of the company. The idea behind the logo is a fusion of old school and new concepts in electronics. The “V” and “A” are meant to look like an analog sine wave, while the “I” and “O” are supposed to represent the binary “1” and “0.” This is a cool idea and even cooler when it’s explained. If nothing else, it is a nice conversation piece and helps consumers remember the company name. Another example of great branding.
6 London Symphony Orchestra
Symphony orchestras are still a huge part of the cultural identity for larger metropolitan areas. The London Symphony Orchestra has been around since 1904 and is still going strong. But there are multiple symphony orchestras in London and other parts of England. The LSO has the huge task of staying relevant and continuing to offer a worldwide appeal. Part of this effort has to be in branding. Take a look at the LSO logo. It’s one of the simpler logos and doesn’t require a whole lot of extras. If you look at the way the letters connect though, you’ll see that it creates the outline of a conductor! When you see this, you will likely stop seeing the letters and just see the outline. One is as good as the other to the LSO, as they just want you to be a loyal patron.
5 Big Ten Conference
The NCAA is composed of several different conferences for each of the college level athletic programs that a school may have. Each conference has its own fan base and is competing with other conferences for fans to a certain extent. The Big Ten Conference is still called the Big Ten despite them having more than ten teams. For a period of time, the conference had 11 teams and now they have 12. If you look at the old logo of the conference, you’ll see (very cleverly) in the negative space between the “G" and the “T” a number 11. While the conference name is the same, the use of negative space was a fun way to accurately reflect the size of the conference. The logo is different now, but for a time, this was their primary branding.
4 Tour de France
The Tour de France is about the biggest event in the world of competitive cycling. It is an annual event and has been around since 1903. The world of competitive cycling isn’t quite what professional baseball, basketball or football are, but it has gained popularity over the last few decades. The logo is representative of this amazing annual event and is quite clever. While it’s not exactly a hidden image, the letters “O U R” of “Tour” are arranged to look like a cyclist on a bicycle. Certainly a clever arrangement of the letters. The event itself has become big business and a huge opportunity for advertisers to get in front of big audiences both in person and on television. This great logo has become iconic in professional sports circles.
3 Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are the major league baseball team located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While the team has never won a World Series, they have a substantial following as evidenced by the thousands of fans that pack the stands at home games. The team got a shiny new stadium in 2001 and have updated their image, including their logo since that time. But the old Brewers logo is highly creative with a hidden surprise. Look at the baseball mitt of the old logo. You’ll see the letter “M” clearly, but underneath, there’s a lowercase letter “B” with a ball in the center. This clearly stands for “Milwaukee Brewers,” and the logo was used by the team beginning in the late 1970s and was designed by an art history major! It has since become a legendary piece of professional sports artwork.
2 The Guild of Food Writers
While this one is certainly a lesser known organization to most, The Guild of Food Writers is a professional organization in the United Kingdom dedicated to those that write about the food and beverage industry. While this is not an organization that most people need to learn more about, we can certainly attest that they have got a very cool logo! Admittedly, the simpler logos seem to be the coolest because there is less to distract the eye. It also has a quiet dignity to its design. If you look at the logo for the guild, there is a black background with a spoon in the middle, using the negative space to create the image. Simple and elegant, this organization has hit the mark when it comes to hidden icons.
1 Pittsburgh Zoo
Now more than ever, it’s important for our zoos to thrive and be well supported. That can only happen through visitors throughout the year. This makes marketing and branding an absolute necessity in the world of zoos and aquariums. Of the zoo logos, the Pittsburgh Zoo has got one of the coolest uses of negative space ever! Take a look at the logo and at first, you’ll see a large and majestic tree. Just like other logos using negative space, when you are looking for it, you can see a gorilla and lion. It is an optical illusion wrapped up in a logo. Those that see it can’t look at it the same way again. People use the logo as a great conversation piece and a gentle reminder of the cool things the zoo has to offer.
Sources: CNBC, Think Design, Ad Week