Logo Design: What We Can Learn From America’s 15 Largest Companies

The logos of the top 15 US corporations make fascinating viewing from a design perspective. They can be both inspiring and good examples of what not to create for a client. A logo helps establish an identity, so it’s important to get it right. Let’s take a closer look at them and see what we can learn:


1. Wal-Mart Stores

Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer with over $421 billion in revenue in 2011. Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, the corporation’s logo has gone through a number of changes, including a Wild West look from 1964 – 1981. The latest logo, created in 2008, replaces the sans serif logo used from 1992 – 2008. Lippincott, the agency responsible for the rebranding, chose a bright blue, custom drawn logo with a sun icon. The new look is much friendlier compared to its previous branding and makes the corporation seem more approachable. Opinion is divided over the sun icon, with some bloggers suggesting it’s more suited to a technology company than a retailer.


2. Exxon Mobil

Unlike Wal-Mart, the oil giant has not gone through a number of logo redesigns over the years. The corporation, formed through the merger of Exxon and Mobil, has opted to combine the two brands together in a red typeface. Mobil still exists as a brand and retains its simple Arial-like typeface with a red o. The corporate logo lacks excitement, despite the red color, and isn’t very inviting. The two x’s in the Exxon are visually striking but don’t draw you in. I think this approach is deliberate, though, the aim perhaps being to emphasize that Exxon Mobil is a reliable, time-trusted company. The lack of icons also suggests that it doesn’t need gimmicks to get customers, just its solid history and corporate performance.

3. Chevron

Unlike Exxon Mobil’s logo, Chevron’s is much more inviting. The two partially folded ribbons are in bright colors, which catch the viewer’s eye and make it instantly recognizable. It doesn’t feel very corporate and appears to be a little more human. The lettering looks very warm and approachable. There are no harsh corners and the warm blue emphasizes how comfortable it is. This is how rebranding should be done. The corporation could have chosen something a little more industrial but chose to create a logo that appeals to everyone.

4. ConocoPhillips

ConocoPhillips’ logo is strong and affirmative. It shouts corporate and that’s where it wants to be. The lesson designers can learn from this is know your client’s market. ConocoPhillips is a major oil and gas producer with several brands that consumers are familiar with (Phillips 66, Conoco etc) and its corporate logo tells them it’s a trusted multinational company that also appeals to industrial customers. I’m not completely sold on the kite icon but that’s a minor point.

5. Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae’s logo instantly lets you know what business it’s in. The home icon at the front is attractive and clearly defines the brand. This is a good example of how to design an effective logo. The colors aren’t distracting and the lettering used is conservative, serving its purpose well.

6. General Electric

GE’s logo is one of the most eye-catching on this list. The hand-drawn letters immediately catch the eye, leading you onto the byline ‘imagination at work.’ It has changed little since 1892 and the current logo, designed by Wolff Olins, only saw the addition of blue color. Its timeless quality is testament to its success and is something designers can look to for inspiration. Could a hand drawn logo work for your client?

7. Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway is simple and unapologetically corporate. The company is a holding company for a number of insurance, transport and consumer companies, and doesn’t need anything complicated. It isn’t Nike or Apple.

8. General Motors

GM’s logo is pretty simple: two capital letters sit on top of a line. The automaker is a collection of brands that are perhaps more identifiable than the manufacturer itself. The corporate logo tells consumers that it is solid, reliable and trustworthy. The large lettering and solid colors stick in your mind. They are easy to remember, too. Could you design something similar for your client? Think about their business and how they could stand out from their competitors.

9. Bank of America Corp.

Bank of America unashamedly plays on patriotism with its logo. The American flag is designed in the shape of a field, symbolizing honesty and hard work, that BoA can be trusted with your savings. Whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion. Should designers do something like this? That’s up to you and your client. You don’t want to alienate clients, so you might want to tone it down.

10. Ford

Ford’s famous blue oval logo hasn’t changed since 2003, the date of the last redesign. It works, too, so why change it? The flowing letters echo back to C. Harold Will’s (the designer of the first Ford logo) original design and the brand is so strong it instantly invokes a sense of trust with consumers everywhere. There are no icons anywhere and it sticks in your mind. Fantastic design.

11. Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard’s logo has changed very little since its founding. It is instantly recognizable and creates a sense of trust and security. Shapes are used to great effect to highlight the logo, an effect you could do when creating a logo for a client. The logo is in a square-like structure with rounded corners; the letters ‘hp’ encased in a circle in the center. The bold blue color emphasizes the brand, making them leap out. This is a good example of simple but effective design.

12. AT&T

AT & T’s logo is bright, bold and original. The marble gives the impression that the company is different to other telecom operators and feels very ‘uncorporate.’ It is a good example of how to use an icon. AT & T’s enhances the brand and makes it stand out.

13. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

Simple but effective is how I’d describe this. J.P Morgan & Chase’s logo works well from a corporate viewpoint, giving the impression of a venerable and trustworthy bank. It doesn’t have an icon like Chase’s, or any bold colors, but it works. The solid font and neutral color is understated and works from a design perspective.

14. McKesson

McKesson’s bold design makes it standout. The bright blue lettering with soft edges gives the image of approachability while the orange line under the raised c catches your eye, leading you to the byline ‘Empowering Healthcare.’ We know what kind of business the company is in and want to learn more.

15. Citigroup

Citigroup’s logo has changed over the years and this new logo makes it appear to be a little friendlier. The umbrella has been replaced by a simple red arch over the ‘iti’ part of the logo, symbolizing the wide range of services offered. It is eye-catching and a little more consumer friendly than before. The soft lettering feels less harsh and works well from a design perspective.