Logos are everywhere around us. Everywhere we go and wherever we turn our heads, we see logos: at home, at work, in the supermarket, in the street and everywhere else. But do you know the artists who designed these amazing objects so familiar to us? Most likely, the answer is a resounding “no.”
And yet, though logos may seem stupidly ordinary, they're real artworks. Most great logo creations such as Bass, IBM, Microsoft Windows, Coca Cola, Macdonald’s and Chupa Chups have been created by great artists and iconic graphic designers. While these design masters are very famous in the world of graphic art, most people have no clues about them.
So who are the minds behind the famous logos? Here are the great graphic designers and logo creators and the logos they designed.
But let’s first see how professionally designed logos are works of art, and why corporate logo creators are artis who deserve to be known by communicators, graphic design students, business development managers, logo creators and even consumers.
Though graphic design and the art of making logos started much earlier than the modern era, graphic design became a recognized profession with the rise the artistic movement of Modernism in the United States in the 1950s.
The main devices in Modernism’s toolbox are abstract forms, symbols, allusion, myth and psychoanalysis. Modernist art uses these tools as part of a new, modern mode of expression and communication that tries to reflect the sense of fragmentation and chaos that characterise modern life.
All art which relies on this approach is Modernist, including art schools and movements like Impressionism, Postimpressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism and Minimalism.
Thus, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali can all be called Modernist. But so too can icons of graphic design and master logo makers such Paul Rand, Elaine and Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Massimo Vignelli, Susan Kare, and Jessica Walsh.
The visual simplicity and thematic clarity of modernist art formed a powerful inspiration for major graphic designers and logo creators.
Also, Modernist art provided graphic artists with a very useful set of approaches, methods and techniques which they have gladly adopted in graphic art.
In the manner of cubism or surrealism, great logo designers use abstract forms, colors, and combinations of color and form, to capture complex ideas and to convey sophisticated messages about business in connection with modern life.
For example, logos are allusive just like modernist art in general. They make allusion to myth, literature, other works of art and key historical events. The doyen of logos, the famous Bass logo, for instance, clearly refers us to the Pyramids. By the same token, it reminds us of the great religious and historical epics that have taken place during Pharaonic times.
Additionally, many of the great graphic designers and the great logos that they created were inspired by fine art. It’s the case of Paul Rand, for example. Tough Rand himself did not pretend to be an artist the logos he designed definitely have artistic value. Steven Heller compares the great logo maker and pioneer of graphic design to the Swiss painter Paul Klee. Others don’t hesitate to compare Rand’s posters, book covers and corporate logo designs to the work of Henry Matisse.
Today, in 2021, minimalism remains a major logo design trend, embodying Modernist/Postmodernist artist, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous maxim, 'less is more.'
Specialists in graphic art history don’t always agree about who the very best graphic designers and logo creators are. However, the following are often considered as the great masters of logo creation and corporate identity design.
Paul Rand is the most resounding name in the world of graphic design. He is a pioneer of corporate identity design, and is viewed as precursor of the “Swiss Style” of graphic design. Throughout his career, Rand created many posters and corporate logos, including the famous logos for IBM, ABC and UPS.
Rand invented new ideas and methods of business promotion, graphic design and logo making. For example, he recommended that the number of type used in graphic design should be minimal.
According to Rand, design should focus on interaction between form and function. For him, as well, design has to be functional for it to be any beautiful.
A logo, Rand says with his usual ironic wisdom, “should have the look of being useful.” In other words, a logo’s value depends entirely on its success on the ground, inseparably as a business tool and an aesthetic object.
Another legend of design is Saul Bass, one of the most iconic pop artists of the 20th century. Bass is remembered in design for creating famous movie posters and motion picture title sequences for films including for Edge of the City, Vertigo, Psycho, Spartacus and many others.
Bass was also a master logo creator. He designed some of the most recognizable corporate logos, including the logos for the Bell Telephone (1969), AT&T Corporation globe (1983), Continental Airlines (1968), Dixie (1969), United Airlines (1974) and Minolta (1978).
Bass’s style is based on simple geometric shapes and on symbolism. His works often consist of a single dominant image or icon which conveys a strong message. The posters and logos he designed were often hand-made and looked simple, intriguing and powerful.
Bass believed in the power and value of things ordinary. One of his recommendations was: “deal with ordinary things, things that we know so well that we've ceased to see them; deal with them in a way that allows us to understand them anew — in a sense making the ordinary extraordinary.”
Milton Glaser is also one of greatest graphic designers in the world. He is best known for being the creator of the famous I Love New York logo, “the most trended logo” of its century.
Glaser is also famous for having designed the logo for Target and posters for American Pop icon, Bob Dylan.
A technique of Glaser's is layering smooth figures with dynamic colors for the purpose of creating a timeless logo or poster able to stir immediate understanding and so generate an immediate and powerful emotion.
For that matter, he argued, the viewer has to “get the idea,” as soon as they catch sight of the piece of design.
Another shiny star in the sky of design is Paula Sher. It has been speculated that in 2012, while Paula Scher was working with Microsoft to design a logo for its Windows 8 system, she asked “Your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?”
It’s said that’s how the corporation changed the famous flag that had been using as its logo for several decades. Paula Sher is also most famous for being the artist who created the Citibank logo.
Scher revolutionized graphic design. Influenced by Seymour Chwast (who will become her husband), her works in the 1990s lay the foundations for a new symbology based on typography. In turn, Scher’s style will profoundly inspire the graphic design art and industry.
A painter, Scher is also known for blending pop culture and fine art, which made both art and grapic design accessible to the large public.
Paula Scher worked for prestigious institutions industry giants and clients, including Microsoft, Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, Shake Shack, the Museum of Modern Art, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Robin Hood Foundation and many more.
Massimo Vignelli is a famous Italian graphic designer, one of the most outstanding of the twentieth century.
He was deeply inspired by Modernist art privileging the expressive simplicity of basic geometric forms. Vignelli’s style is based much on simplification of complex ideas.
Vignelli was in effect known as a challenger of complexity - a great minimalist - as can be seen in his famous “minimalist diagram” simplification of the New York City subway map.
His heated debates with another master designer, John Tauranac, over the value of the new map designed by Vignelli have been described as a 'historic moment in design history.'
Vignelli is also famous for making one of the most recognisable logos ever, the American Airlines' 'AA' logo, in 1967.
We know logos very well: they are part of our daily décor. However, many of us have no ideas about who designed these iconic logos.
Here are 10 of the most famous and most recognizable logos ever made together with their designers and the date they were put into circulation.
The person behind the mythic McDonald’s Company logo design is Jim Schindler, a McDonald’s Head of Engineering and Design. He created this iconic business logo in 1962.
The Coca-Cola brand logo was created by a marketer and advertiser of the Coca Cola Company called Frank M Robinson back in 1886.
The American graphic designer Rob Janoff is the artist who designed, in 1977 of the famous current bitten apple pictogram version of the Apple corporate logo.
The Nike logo, also known as the Nike Swoosh, was designed by Carolyn Davidson in 1971. Davidson was then a graphic design student at Portland State University.
The Olympics logo was designed by Pierre de Coubertin in 1913.
Larry Page created a computerized version of the Google letters in 1998. Ruth Kedar is the graphic designer who designed the “now famous” Google logo displayed since 1999.
The first version of the NBC network logo as we know it now was created by John J. Graham and Herb Lubalin in 1956. The current version of “the bird” has been designed by Steff Geissbuhler in 1986.
Andrew McCollum is probably the designer of the first facebook logo in 2004.
The iconic logo of the three-pointed star was created by Gottlieb Daimler in 1909.
Terry Heckler is the designer who created the logo for Starbucks in 1971.
Article published by Danny Le Juste
Danny is an academic and web-content writer for Izeelogo. He holds a Ph.D. in Anglophone literature which he completed at the University of Sheffield (UK). He’s interested in all modes of representation of reality, including literature, theatre, painting, sculpture, photography, media and graphic design.