McDonald's Golden Arches

The Nike logo price tag, who belongs to the Rolling Stones lips, the first Apple logo, why Johnson & Johnson had an issue with the Red Cross, the Volkswagen design contest and what the McDonald’s arches really mean.

So You Think You Know LogosDoing a little site housecleaning today and in moving some things around found some really interesting logo trivia, some we’ve covered before and some we haven’t. Figured now’s as good a time to publish it – Friday afternoon, St. Patrick’s Day and all – so here’s some things you may (or may not) know about famous logos.


The McDonald’s ‘Golden Arches’ (initially deep-sixed by Mickey Dee founder Dick McDonald in 1952) are supposed to represent breasts. Yep, you read that right. Breasts.

The Prancing Horse.

The Ferrari “Prancing Horse” is inspired by an airplane graphic used on the side of a plane by a pilot who was killed in WWI. Enzo Ferrari, at the time owner of the Scuderia Ferrari racing team, was approached by the mother of Count Francesco Baracca – the fighter pilot – after his death and suggested Ferrari use the image of a horse on his cars for luck. When used for the Ferrari car company, green, white and red (the Italian national colors) and the letters S F for Scuderia Ferrari were added.


The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. Unless it’s a logo..

The Apple logo we all know wasn’t the first, but replaced an original graphic that depicted Sir Isaac Newton sitting below a tree with an apple falling on his head. That was designed by the late Steve Jobs. The famous apple with the bite out of it was designed by Rob Janoff. His fee? Nada. The gig was done pro-bono.

The $35 logo.

The Nike so-called “swoosh” logo was designed by a little-known university student named Carolyn Davidson who charged just $35 for her design based on a billing rate of $2.00 per hour. Davidson did however, get more of a payday from the athletic company in 1983 when Nike gave Davidson a gold Swoosh gold ring and an envelope filled with an undisclosed amount of Nike stock to express their gratitude.,

Alligator suitcases.

The Lacoste alligator is the result of a wager concerning a suitcase made from alligator skin that company founder Rene Lacoste was said to have fancied.

By another name.

Everybody knows that the Chanel Double C logo represents the initials of the founder Coco Chanel. Oddly, that was her nickname. Her real name was Gabrielle.

Whose lips?

Rolling Stones love you live album coverThe Rolling Stone lips logo has come to represent the legendary mouth of Mick Jagger but designer John Pasche is on record that the original inspiration came from an image of the Hindu goddess Kali. Pasche was paid £50 for his work at the time, but received the generous supplement of an extra £200 a couple of years later. The group themselves now own the copyright, but in 2006, Pasche sold the original artwork for £400,000. People often mistakenly attribute the design of the Rolling Stones logo to America pop art legend Andy Warhol. While he didn’t design the logo, Warhol worked with Jagger and The Stones on numerous projects including the cover art for Sticky Fingers and Love You Live (right).

Gah. A design contest!

The Volkswagen logo was the result of a 50 Marks office competition, won by an engineer named Franz Reimspiess (the same man who perfected the engine for the Beetle in the 1930’s.)

Neutral not religious.

The Red Cross symbol is the reverse of the flag of Switzerland and represents neutrality, as opposed to ANY religious affiliation. The idea was developed in 1863, during a meeting in Geneva, the main focus of which was the caring of wounded on the battlefield.
American Red CrossThe following year, the Geneva Conventions were also formulated. The Red Cross symbol was, for quite some time, known as the Geneva Cross. Originally, there were no rigid restrictions on the use or design of the medical logo and it was defined only as a ‘red cross on a white background’. Pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson sued the American Red Cross in 2007, demanding that the charity stop using the symbol of a red cross on a white background on products it sells to the public. Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887 – six years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900.

Melody. Harmony. Rhythm.

According to the Yamaha description of their logo: “The three tuning forks of the Yamaha logo mark represent the cooperative relationship that links the three pillars of our business — technology, production, and sales. yamaha logo fullThey also evoke the robust vitality that has forged a reputation for sound and music the world over, a territory indicated by the enclosing circle. The mark also symbolizes the three essential musical elements: melody, harmony, and rhythm”.

And now you know.