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The Stories Behind Great Iconic Logos

We often don’t really look at great logos — we just see them and know exactly what they mean, like the shape of a letter or a familiar word that our brains can process so quickly it seems as if it goes straight from image to understanding. Some logos are so ubiquitous that we would never think twice about what they mean or how they came to be, so when we came across this great little video about the PBS logo we decided to take a closer look at some iconic brand markers. Click through to read the stories behind a few of our favorite logos, and perhaps you will look at them a bit more closely in the future.

PBS

In this video, Herb Lubalin gives a spirited account of the origin of the PBS logo — basically, they got there on the basis that PBS is for people. Interestingly, the network seemed to want any face on their logo to look to the right to ward off their reputation as a liberal network. Seems like a small nod to conservatism if you ask us, but no matter. Though they had to compromise that ideal on the original logo, you can see from the modern versiona bove they eventually got the little man to look to the right. We bet he’s mad about it.

New York City

The unofficial logo of New York City, designed by Milton Glaser in 1975, didn’t always look like the perfect, undesigned icon we know it as today. Originally, when Glaser was hired by the New York Commerce Commission to create a logo that would enhance tourism, the city was at one of its lowest points: filthy, crime-ridden and not at all suitable for visitors. Glaser submitted a dashed-off idea that was quickly approved. “It was just a little typographical solution with two lozenges and a word in it, two ovals, and the word inside it,” he told Chip Kidd for the Believer, “it was not in any way distinguished. But I always thought the whole thing was going to be a three-month campaign… It was like one of those things you bang out because it didn’t seem to merit any more attention.” A week later, he called the commission to tell them he had a better idea, and the I Heart NY logo we know and love was born.

Apple

The very first Apple logo, designed in 1976 by co-founder Ronald Wayne, was a woodcut of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the apple, attended by the Wordsworth line, “A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.” Apparently, Jobs thought the logo was too arcane, and scrapped it in 1977, replacing it with the rainbow apple designed by Rob Janoff. Supposedly, the bite mark was a reflection of Apple’s then-tagline, “Byte into an Apple,” but Janoff has said that he just wanted to “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.” It was Jobs who chose the color scheme, with the green so appropriately on top, and in 1998, Jobs who decreed that the logo would be rejiggered again, adopting a sleeker image while keeping the by-then iconic silhouette in place.

Ferrari

According to Ferrari, founder Enzo Ferrari took the iconic prancing horse logo from the image painted on the plane of Count Francesco Baracca, an Italian WWI hero. Though Enzo reportedly only spoke about the logo once, on that occasion he explained: “In ‘23, I met Count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father and then his mother, Countess Paolina, who said to me one day, ‘Ferrari, put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It’ll give you good luck.’ The horse was, and still is, black. And I added the canary-yellow background, which is the color of Modena [Enzo’s birthplace].”

Morton Salt

We don’t know about you, but we’ve always wondered why the Morton Salt logo was a little girl with an umbrella and the catchphrase, “When it Rains it Pours.” Turns out that Morton added magnesium carbonate to their salt to keep it from clumping in humidity, and thus would pour freely even in the rain. The girl herself has been updated several times over the years, while still maintaining her cheerful yellow dress and, mostly, her big smile.