Have you ever wondered what went into the design processes for famous logos? Many started with a rough sketch of an idea – sometimes a very rough sketch – which was gradually refined to meet the client’s needs. Every design process is different, and the great designers behind these logos each had their own strategies for finding a timeless design solution.
Just check out these 11 examples – you might be surprised by how these iconic brand marks began.
Citibank logo: Paula Scher (via Pentagram)
Paula Scher drew her first process sketch of the Citibank logo on a napkin during one of her first meetings with the company, incorporating the old umbrella icon into a timeless word mark.
Pinterest logo: Michael Deal & Carlos Pagan
In 2011, Pinterest updated its logo with the hopes of creating a more sophisticated look. They chose Bello Script for the typeface and modified it, using ligatures to create a beautifully crafted logotype.
Nike logo: Carolyn Davidson (via Print Magazine)
The original Nike logo was created in 1971 by Portland State University graphic design student Carolyn Davidson – for $35. None of the founders were enthusiastic about the 6 initial designs she created and simply picked the one “which was the least awful.” Whether the logo is iconic because it’s a great design or because of the company’s success is up for debate, but it hasn’t changed much since it was created.
Before Raymond Loewy gave it a makeover in 1971, the Shell logo design was always changing and becoming outdated. Since then, Loewy’s design has barely changed. His logo process sketch demonstrates that the grid is a powerful tool for creating all types of design – even logos!
5. I Love New York
I Love New York: Milton Glaser (via MOMA)
In 1976 Milton Glaser drew the iconic “I Love New York” campaign logo on an envelope in the back of a cab with a red crayon – and requested no payment for his creation.
6. Exxon Mobile
Exxon logo: Raymond Loewy (via Library of Congress)
In Raymond Loewy’s 1966 Exxon Mobile logo process sketch, he visually emphasized the concept of the double “x’s” and created 18 variations of it. He chose one, marking it it with an “OK.”
Starbucks logo: Terry Heckler
A 15th century woodcut of a Norse two-tailed mermaid was the original inspiration for Starbucks’ logo. Above, early sketches and ink drawings of the updated logo by designer Terry Heckler show how it evolved into the more modern-looking mermaid we know today.
Mailchimp logo: Jon Hicks
In 2008, Mailchimp updated its logo with the help of Jon Hicks, designer of the Firefox logo. After refining a few rough process sketches, he imported the final sketch into Adobe Illustrator, transforming the drawing into an adorable, recognizable monkey.
Atlassian logo: Jeff Kriege
The Atlassian logo wasn’t always one of the better examples of humanoid logos. The old logo was updated in 2011 by Jeff Kriege, who after much research drew hundreds of process sketches, refining the best ones and narrowing them down to the final choice.
It was a huge improvement over the original logo, while staying true to the original concept. Read more about the process here.
10. Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox logo: Stephen Desroches & Jon Hicks
The original mascot for the Mozilla Firefox logo was a phoenix, back when the browser was called Mozilla Firebird. Due to a copyright dispute, the name was changed to Firefox. The firey fox itself was inspired by a Bible story in which Samson tied flaming ropes to foxes and released them into the Philistines’ cornfields. The globe represents the global internet that the browser services. Stephen Desroches created the original sketch, and the final design was rendered by Jon Hicks.
Logo: Atari (via Logo Blink)
The Atari logo was designed by George Opperman in 1972, after the huge success of the game Pong. In his own words, ”the two side pieces of the Atari symbol represents two opposing video game players, with the center line of the ‘Pong’ court in the middle.” His original sketch on graph paper is yet another example of the power of the grid when it comes to creating timeless designs.
Clearly, many of the most famous logo designs have humble beginnings as simple process sketches. However, the sketches themselves are only one step in the professional logo design process – a research-based, strategic process that varies from designer to designer. Each of these designers’ processes is different, but it’s fascinating to have a peek into how they created such iconic designs.