Does anyone ever notice the arrow in the FedEx logo? Um, sure, maybe. Corporations spend millions on symbols that convey the essence of their brands — and what they get may or may not hit the mark. We got the inside dish on the thinking behind four intriguing logos.
|Hong Kong||Landor Associates||Hong Kong officials hoped to show energy and entrepreneurialism. Landor seized on an ancient symbol: the dragon. "The mythology has to do with strength and power," says Landor's David Carlos. "And the color red has positive associations in China." Within the dragon, the letters H and K, with corresponding Chinese characters, symbolize fusion of East and West.||The fiery dragon has become Asia's equivalent of Merrill Lynch's hypercapitalistic bull. Watch as Mao spins in his grave.|
|Virtual Net (Europe)||McMillian Design||Virtual Net, an online financial-services firm in London, wanted a logo that set it apart from stuffy competitors. "They're a hip, young group of people," says William McMillian. He was intrigued by the firm's name. "When something's virtual, it's not really real," he says, "I thought it meant something mysterious, something hidden. The disappearing part of the V meant transparency as well."||We loved the disappearing V — until we learned it had to do with investments. That prompted flashbacks to our disappearing CMGI stock.|
|Athletes' Performance||McAndrew Kaps||When Ryan Kaps manipulated type for the logo of the elite training facility, a funny thing happened to the apostrophe: It began to look like the owner. "Mark Verstegen [CEO of Athletes' Performance] laughed, because the flattop is his trademark," says Kaps. "Since his appearance is well known in that industry, I continued to develop the apostrophe to resemble his profile."||Talk about inside baseball. Those who don't know Verstegen (like, everyone) assume the apostrophe just had a bad hair day.|
|Tenaris||Landor Associates||Tenaris wanted a brand that knitted together its far-flung steel operations in seven countries. Landor's Robin Thompson and Robert Matza came up with a flaglike rectangle, featuring colors that each country could claim as its own. The bars in the design depict steel tubes stacked in a supply yard.||¡Olé! The festive Latin colors are terrific, but those tubes remind us more of a bar code at rest.|
A version of this article appeared in the October 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.