Controversy Facts Behind the Most Iconic Brand Logos

There are brand logos which you might like and instantly recognize. Also, there are those iconic logos known around the world even to those who are unaware of what products or services those brands promote. Iconic logos make the headlines of the most graphic design articles and take brand recognition to spectacular results.

Behind every brand logo there is a story and, sometimes, a controversy. There are plenty of conspiracy articles about meanings and symbols which are visible (or not) in iconic logos. However, some facts have been demonstrated or at least officially supported. They might have influenced brand sales or even led to cancels of rebranding campaigns as you will see below. Let’s dig into some international controversy facts behind the most iconic brand logos of all time.

The Nike Design Payment Focused on the Future

Nike promotes movement and an active overall life while offering urban and sport wear, shoes and accessories. Nike’s logo has its own name – the Swoosh – which is even trademarked. IT’s also one of the simplest logos in the world, made from two slightly rounded stripes. According to Logo Realm, there’s a branding lesson behind each logo and Nike’s is one to learn. Any graphic designer should look into these iconic logos’ history and see what approaches they can adjust to their own work.

Carolyn Davidson, who was a Portland State University student in 1971, received the project of making a logo for the fresh Nike athletic shoe manufacturer who would open its first branded store. The graphic designer would work for over 17 hours and receive $35 – the fee she negotiated. Founder Phil Knights said that he didn’t like the logo at the time but would get used to it.

In 1983, Nike was a growing company, so the designer was due to be repaid. Its founding members invited Davidson for a lunch and gave her a surprise party. She then received a golden Swoosh ring with a small diamond and a certificate with 500 shares of stock. At the time, they were worth around $150, while now their value is of $643,035.

Google Was in Discussions for Its Playfulness

Google has been through seven logo updates until it reached its current version in 2015. The brand logo has undergone both hardly noticeable and dramatic changes. Google’s first logo had a strong 90s vibe with colorful letters and 3D shadowing.

One of the most discussed Google logo updates occurred in October 1998. The brand’s logo ended in an exclamation mark which was similar to Yahoo’s logo, it’s direct competitor. The punctuation mark was removed in May 1999.

However, the most recent logo change was part of a huge rebranding campaign which included plenty of new items. One of them was the slanted e from Google’s logo which would reveal that the brand keeps its playfulness and concept of being different. However, the slanted letter was not that different. Heineken was using the slanted e style since years and responded to the brand with some German sarcasm by calling the common element smiling E. Lenovo really found inspiration in the Google logo and rebranded using a similar fond and… the slanted E.

Airbnb Resembles So Many Things

As it became famous, Airbnb decided to focus more on its digital marketing campaign and fully rebrand to be friendlier. However, graphic designer Ben Wright came up with a logo he would later need to defend. The Airbnb logo would clearly send the brand’s message of connecting the right people to turn your vacation into a continuous haven.

However, the logo would resemble so many things that Twitter users reacted almost continuously. The Airbnb 2014 logo (which remained in use until up-to-date) was accused of resembling sexual content, the Automation Anywhere company logo and even the chin of Family Guy character Peter Griffin.

The same Twitter reactions came when Instagram lost its vintage camera logo in favor of a rainbow camera sketch logo. Users were disappointed. However, in the end they continued to use both platforms, despite their controversial logos.

Pepsi Might Carry a Subliminal Message

While its competitor Coca-Cola has a vintage and complex artsy logo, Pepsi has chosen to be simple. Simplicity got the brand into trouble when it revealed its new logo. There were two kinds of reactions to the no-longer symmetric Pepsi logo revealed in 2008.

Some designers accused the brand for using a collection of nonsense about the golden ratio of elements. According to CBS News, the logo would use a Hindu tradition of numerical harmony as a space organizer also found in the Mona Lisa painting and the Pantheon. However, the explanation was proven to be too far away from the resulted logo.

Also, the logo was explained as incorporating a cheeky smile. The new asymmetrical white stripe would change looks when used on different products as its typeface seemed overseen. Designer Lawrence Yang created an artwork which showed the Pepsi logo from a different perspective and traveled around the world. The blue-red-and-white circle became a fat man that still haunts Pepsi.

Starbucks Had to Suffer from Its Fame

The Starbucks siren is so iconic you see it everywhere, even though you might not drink the brand’s coffee. The logo simplified so much that it even lost its text. Many now recognize it instantly and even more post pictures of coffee cups on social media. The Starbucks logo had reached such a high level of fame that it reached the point of no return.

In 2008, the company initiated a campaign showing off its original and vintage logo on cups. However, the first Starbucks logo was too detailed, too colorful and the siren had bare breasts. Coffee buyers were disappointed by the vintage cups and kept looking for the regular ones.

A Christian group even decided to boycott the campaign as the logo was too explicit for the brand’s general buyers. Starbucks did not respond to the group’s reaction. However, it didn’t repeat the campaign or prolong it.

Brand Logo Wrap Up

Developing a brand logo is difficult for both the graphic designer and the manager who approves it. You may have an entire team to check the logo and still notice reactions and similarities you didn’t expect. Logos are hard to comprise. Yet, when they turn out to be truly helpful for your branding campaigns, they reach their purpose.

Controversy could be beneficial or disadvantageous for your brand. Let’s take Gap as an example. It had a different logo for a brief period, decreased sales and returned to its old one. You can never be careful enough to predict all reactions. However, you can hire a graphic designer with a good reputation and take time before providing them with feedback. Then, enjoy the brand’s success!

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