You probably already know this but..

So You Think You Know Logos ..there’s a bloody great arrow hidden in the FedEx logo and there’s a dancing bear hidden in the Toblerone logo. Continuing with other news you’ve probably heard, there’s a smiling face G in the Goodwill logo and a series of networked Js in the Joomla logo.

Captain obvious?

I’m almost loathe to publish this, because I assume most of you already know these nifty little logo design nuggets. I’ve never written about them before (except for featuring a couple of them in our Oddities logo quiz), figuring the following is pretty common knowledge. Trouble is, whenever anyone else writes a new feature about these hidden logos, a lot of people end up commenting along the lines of:

“OMG! Why have I never noticed that before? That’s so awesome!”

So maybe the fact that the FedEx logo has an arrow tucked away, straddling the E & X in ‘EX’ may not be known by some. At the risk of playing Captain Obvious, let’s take a look.

Is the arrow planned, or happenstance?

Graphic designers still discuss the FedEx negative space arrow. Was it an example of breathtakingly simple graphic design brilliance, or just another case of lucky visual happenstance?
According to Lindon Leader who designed the mark in 1994 as Senior Design Director at Landor Associates (now head of Leader Creative), the arrow was part of the plan from day one.

“I was studying Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold, both wonderful faces. But each had its potential limitations downstream in application to thousands of FedEx media, from waybills and embroidered courier caps to and massive signage for aircraft, buildings and vehicles. Moreover, neither was particularly suited to forcing an arrow into its assigned parking place without torturing the beautifully crafted letterforms of the respective faces.”

That should settle it. And so should this:
Funny thing about this logo is that once you’ve ‘seen’ the ‘hidden arrow’ you won’t be able to unsee it. Try it out the next time you see a Federal Express truck ripping down your street. Hidden negative space images owe their concept to the famous Rubin Vase optical illusion and actually employ a fairly sophisticated principle called Pattern Matching or Pareidolia. Too much psycho-babble for this post, but when boiled down to basics pattern matching means this: Some people can see it. Some people can’t. Most people can’t unsee the hidden image once they’ve seen it. For what it’s worth, the FedEx logo is considered one of the best corporate marks of all time by pretty well everybody, and was ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the 8 best logos along with Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, IBM, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Playboy.

The Toblerone Bear

I’ve always liked this bit of visual gimmickry (the chocolate represented by the logo ain’t too shabby either). While the FedEx logo ‘arrow’ isn’t technically ‘hidden’ (it’s just many people don’t notice at first blush), the designer of the Toblerone logo went to great lengths to tuck a dancing bear into various graphic elements contained in the icon portion of the design. Still don’t buy it? Okay, let’s look at the logo.

Toblerone logo

Not seeing it yet? Let’s zoom in and outline the hidden element:

Toblerone bear closeup

There he is. According to corporate legend Theodor Tobler, the creator and namesake of Toblerone, found his inspiration for both the shape of his chocolate and the company logo from the triangular shape of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. bern-coat-of-armsIn a less corporate friendly version of the story, and according to Theodor’s sons, the triangular shape originates from a pyramid shape that dancers at the Paris Folies Bergeres created as the finale of a show that Theodor attended, and was apparently quite impressed by. And who wouldn’t be?

Toblerone was originally created by Theodor and his wife in 1908. The product’s name is a portmanteau combining Tobler’s name with the Italian word torrone (a type of nougat.) The logo for the company and bar features a bear, ‘hidden’ in the snows of the Matterhorn mountain, and is taken from the official symbol of Bern (left), the Swiss town in which the confectionery is manufactured. In case you were wondering what a portmanteau is, that’s when you blend two or more words into a new word, with a completely new meaning. It’s a pretty nifty way, when naming a new company, to come up with an original moniker.

The Smiling G of the Goodwill logo

This is another example of tired old news if you know it, or pretty nifty if you don’t. I’ve always liked the Goodwill logo for the unorthodox way it’s balanced, with the smiling G face tucked into the left corner. It’s probably the only way to create a symbol that’s both a face and a letterform, but it works nicely (crowbarring visual metaphors like this sometime ends up with pretty mangled imagery). If you’ll notice, the ‘face’ is actually the letter ‘g’ from the custom font set created for the logo, and is also found in first letter of Goodwill. The logo was designed by Joseph Selame, co-founder of Brand Equity, in 1968.

The Joomla ‘J’s

With it’s a really nifty little icon, I’ve always dug the Joomla logo. If the number of times this logo has been knocked off is any indication, I’m not alone in that opinion. The colors are bang on, it’s one of the few times a ‘gel’ treatment actually works and it’s one of the better examples of a logo truly representing what it’s supposed to. All-in-all, a very clever bit of design work. At the risk of revealing myself as particularly dense, I never realized that the mark was made up of networked letter J’s until just recently. Yeah I know. Captain Obvious. I always knew the icon was made up of networked people, with their round little heads, but I’d never seen the J’s until I was putting together the artwork for our overused logo cliche a few months ago. If you’re one of the few people who share my logo naivete, let’s take a look. Yep. Four J’s. Sorry, but that’s the reveal. Four J’s.
Joomla logo
Unless I’m mistaken, the logo was created around 2005 by the Joomla developer community (though I’ve been unable to find out the back story other than this old forum thread discussing the name. A nod to Lawrence Meckan for that). If anyone has more info, drop me a line, or drop a note in the comments section.

After reading this post you’ll probably think one of two things. Either you’ll be glad you dropped by the blog today for these amazing bits of logo trivia. Or you’re thinking that this is the same old recycled crap you’ve read on umpteen other design blogs.

And we owe you about ten minutes of your life.


This post was originally published over on our legacy blog and in the comment section (which we’re having a hellva time moving over,) Alan Urquhart, the original Joomla designer chimed in about designing the mark. Here’s what he said in full:

“Looks like it took me a while to come across your blog post, but thank you for the kind words Steve. It was quite the surprise when my logo concept was voted in as the official logo let alone being selected into the top 5 by the Joomla development team. Working professionally as a graphic and web designer for about 5 years at that time, I was developing websites on Mambo. When I learned the development team planned to fork the project under the new name Joomla! and ran the logo competition, I decided to submit a few ideas. The official logo came about after playing around and submitting several other ideas. After submitting a few other ideas, the four Js together as people intertwined finally hit me. Adding the circles to the bottom of the Js served two purposes, creating heads to make networked people and acting as the dot on the exclamation point as Parker suggested above.

As Lawrence mentioned above, I do remember the whole controversy with the colors of the logo being too close to Microsoft. You can never please everyone and after the logo was voted in, the critics came out with as much firepower as they could dig up. My explanation was simple, the colors were used to specify diversity yet I made them follow the color wheel so they compliment each other. Blue compliments the yellow-orange and red compliments the green. These colors are directly across from each other on the color wheel. It was just basic color theory.

So that’s a little back story. It’s amazing to see how much Joomla! has grown and that something I designed is a part of that. I appreciate your great writeup about the Joomla! logo as well as the other logos. Thanks again!”