What do the brands of Nike, Apple and McDonald’s have in common?

Mar 2, 2017 · 4 min read

They are the obvious, natural representation of their companies. They occurred organically. There was no critical customer analysis, intelligent thinking or market segmentation involved with their creation. Why do they all have such good logos? Because the companies behind them were passionate, hardworking and believed in their idea. More to the point all of the companies were working on a great idea. Simply, they have good logos because they are good companies.

“A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolises, not the other way around.” — Paul Rand

I won’t just leave it at though, I will prove company by company how easily, how naturally, how purely each logo and brand came about.

McDonald’s was named after the McDonald brothers. They opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940. McDonald’s first mascott speedee, named after the speedee service system was the original logo, a character with a burger shaped head.

McDonald’s speedee service system sign

A yellow arch held up the speedee service signs used at all of McDonald’s drive ins and the stores had a yellow arch at either end as part of their design. It was not until 1962, some guy called Jim Schindler put two and two together and put the arches together to make an ‘M’.

Logo created by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student. She was paid $35 for it. Phil Knight: “Well , I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.” The swoosh logo represents, along with a ‘sense of movement’ a wing of the greek goddess of victory, Nike.

The Greek goddess of victory, Nike with her wings

The name Nike was one of many that came randomly to Phil Knight when they were trying of think of a new name for the company. At the time it was called Blue Ribbon. It resonated with him because years earlier he saw a statue of the goddess Nike in Greece kneeling to tie her shoelace. Coincidences are never to be taken lightly.

This was on a trip to see the world before heading to Japan to speak to his soon-to-be shoe manufacturing company.

Steve Jobs thought of the name for his company as he was coming back from an apple farm. And as we know Jobs was a firm believer of the fruitarian diet. Jobs thought the name “fun, spirited and not intimidating”.

An apple.

Because of its similarity with a cherry at small size, the logo was designed with a bite so that it would not be confused. It was made by Rob Janoff in 1977, who still bouts himself as the Apple logo creator, and hasn’t seem to have moved on.

Apple’s original logo, the one with Isaac Newton under an Apple tree, is an obvious example of over-manipulation of a simple idea. The stories around the Apple logo, including that of Alan Turing, Adam and Eve et al. are simply a romantic over-interpretaion of a simple and effective representation of what Apple is as a company, no wonder it’s no longer their logo.

So if you think you can attach a logo and a ‘brand’ to your company and think it’s going to make you a better company or somehow give you a more successful product, or advantage, think again. Start from the inside-out, not the other way around. There is no style without substance.


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