There is an arrow in the FedEx logo. (If you’ve never noticed, go take a look and prepare to be blown up.)
In fact, it was an accident. “The idea of an arrow was farthest from our minds,” said Lyndon Leader, who designed the logo in 1994, in an email interview. “But in an internal critique in the middle of researching the logo, I was intrigued by a design that has very close-fitting letters.”
“After a few days, it became clear to me that if the real arrow could be entered in the letter forms, it could easily suggest getting from point A to point B reliably, with speed and precision,” the Leader said.
Still can’t see the arrow? Swipe right to reveal it.
Credits: FedEx. FedEx
The strength of the arrow, according to Leader, is simply that it is a hidden bonus, and the fact that you do not see does not reduce the impact of the logo itself. But how many people actually see it without being told where it is?
“The prevailing view is, I heard, that perhaps less than one in five finds a hidden arrow without help. But I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun it is for others to ask if they can notice something in the logo, “Leader said.
More than an arrow
The same company that designed the FedEx logo created another that made brilliant use of negative space, the NorthWest Airlines logo, used from 1989 to 2003 (the Northwest merged with Delta in 2008). The circle and the arrow create a compass, directed, appropriately, to the northwest. But the arrow, along with “N”, creates “W”, on which part of the left leg is removed.
Sometimes the hidden element blends so well into a logo design that they can only be seen if they are mentioned, such as the bear hidden in the Toblerone logo.
Do you see the bear inside the mountain? Credit: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images North America / Getty Images for NYCWFF
But is this an effective logo design strategy? “On the one hand, yes, because these logos seek to identify a branded product or service in many economical and immediate ways, using humor to refer to a positive response,” McNeill said. But today, he says, there is a trend toward easier and more direct design, as evidenced by the logos of many large corporations such as Facebook and Google.
McNeil’s favorite logo is the design of Gianni Bortolotti for a non-existent Italian company called ED – Elettro Domestici (“electrical appliances” in Italian). Simply using the letters “ED” and the negative space, it elegantly shapes the shape of an electric plug.
“It’s a constraint model with no redundant elements,” McNeil said.
The ED logo doubles as an electric plug. Credit: from logolog.co