Recently both Creative Review magazine and the logo and identity blog Brand New compiled their list of the top 20 logo designs, with some fairly predictable results (and some less so!).

Both lists featured classic, highly regarded logos that have stood the test of time, alongside a couple more recent solutions. Featuring heavily were the likes of the British Rail double arrow symbol, the Deutsche Bank mark and of course, every designer’s soft spot, FedEx. Somewhat surprisingly Creative Review picked the Woolmark as their top logo ever – although as a long lasting and successful symbol one wouldn’t begrudge it’s choice.

You could almost hear a thousand designers reading through the article nodding, then tutting, exclaiming: “How did THAT get in there?!” and “But what about…?”. And I was no different.

So I decided to use this Alphablog slot as an opportunity to air my own opinion on the subject. I doubt you’ll agree with all my choices, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – don’t forget to leave a comment at the end!

No. 10. Toyota

Toyota Logo

Designed by: Unknown.

I’ve always liked the Toyota logo. Somehow I could see all the letters in the name TOYOTA represented within the three elipse shapes although it turns out only the T is intended. The overlapping shapes officially represent a variety of things depending on who you ask, but that aside I find it an underrated logo in the automotive market.

No. 9. MyFonts

MyFonts logo

Designed by: Underware

A relatively recent and much needed rebrand, Underware assisted Bitstream’s MyFonts to refresh their image with a clever and customised logo. Where their previous logo had ironically featured very poor typography, the custom drawn lettering cleverly avoids the trap of highlighting one of their library of fonts above any others, instead recognising the benefits of uniqueness and variety.

The fact that the ‘My’ section resembles a hand, symbolising the personal, human element of selecting fonts, is a clever and very welcome bonus!

No. 8. Tiger Beer

Tiger beer logo

Designed by: Design Bridge with illustration by EpicIcons

Sometimes the quality of craftsmanship in a logo is what gives it its spark. There’s no clever hidden meaning within the Tiger logo, but the perfectly crafted three-colour illustration and engaging custom typography are a winning combination in my book.

No. 7. Unilever

Unilever logo

Designed by: Wolff Olins

Another piece of excellent craftsmanship, the 25 icons that make up the initial U are quirkily and energetically drawn, each one symbolising a number of qualities, markets or properties that make up the Unilever brand.

Often imitated, any logo created now that is made up of multiple elements is sure to be likened to this.

No. 6. Guild of Food Writers

Guild of Food Writers logo

Designed by 300million

Strangely not featured on the responsible agency’s portfolio, this little gem has been winning plaudits across the internet since its conception in 2005.

The name is a gift for a logo designer, and a charming use of negative space results in the perfect solution.

No. 5. V&A

V&A logo

Designed by Alan Fletcher

In reality the V&A logo doesn’t actually say V&A. It says V&. But the positioning of the ampersand (particularly the bar/serif on the upward stroke) by the right stroke of the A gives a wonderful optical illusion which leaves the rest of the A superfluous and prevents an awkward space from appearing between the characters.

No. 4. Formula 1

Formula 1 (F1) logo

Designed by: Carter Wong Tomlin

This has been a favourite of mine for a long time now – the clever use of negative space to form the 1 between the F and the speed lines has always intrigued me and been a bit of a treat!

No. 3. FedEx

Fedex logo
Designed by: Lindon Leader for Landor.

I’ve made no secret of my feelings for this logo! The first time the arrow between the E and X was pointed out to me was a revelation and an inspiration.

It might not seem much, and other logos on this list utilise negative space just as well, if not better. But in this instance, understated subtlety is the key.

No. 2. Coca-Cola

Coca Cola script logo

Designed by: Frank Mason Robinson

The iconic red script of the popular soft drink is one of the world’s most famous logos. Originally designed in 1885 by Robinson, one of the original partners in the company, it’s been revised and tweaked over the decades but has always retained its powerful sense of tradition and establishment.

No. 1. Nike

Nike swoosh logo

Designed by Carolyn Davidson

The ‘Swoosh’ is amongst the simplest logos you’ll ever see – certainly no sneaky use of negative space here!

Initially based on the wing of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, whose name later provided the inspiration for the company’s name change, the streamline, abstract shape symbolises energy and, now, all things sporting. Ok, so it’s a swoosh – one of the most overused graphic elements ever – but it’s a unique one, a well proportioned one and the only one that owns the term ‘swoosh’!

Surely one of the most recognisable and successful single strokes in the world!

Related links: Creative Review April 2011: The Logos Issue | Creative Review: The Experts Panel | Creative Review: The Readers' Votes | Brand New: Best. Logos. Ever. Read the extensive comments!

I also love this article by Gareth at Down With Design, which asks a really pertinent question: Does a logo design have to be 'clever'. As you can see from my choices above, a lot of them ARE clever and that adds to the appeal. However, plenty (Tiger, Nike, Toyota etc.) aren't what you'd call clever but other factors (craftsmanship, exposure etc.) help them stand out.

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