27 Hidden Messages in Company Logos

How many of these have you spotted?

1. The FedEx Arrow

The classic! As Matthew May said in The Laws of Subtraction, "Nearly every design school professor and graphic designer with a blog has at some point focused on the FedEx logo to discuss the use of negative space." I recently pointed out the arrow to my five-year-old daughter and blew her mind. 

2. The Old Milwaukee Brewers Logo

There's a Facebook group called Best Day of My Life: When I Realized the Brewers Logo Was a Ball and Glove AND the Letters M and B. If for you that day is today, this must be very exciting. Soak it up.

3. Toblerone

Look! There's a bear in the mountain! There's also something hidden in the candy's name: Toblerone is a portmanteau of its creator’s name, Theodor Tobler, and “torrone,” an Italian word for a type of nougat.

4. Pittsburgh Zoo

It's a tree! And a lion! And a gorilla! And now it's no longer hidden.

5. Roxy 


The female clothing line owned by Quicksilver takes its parent company’s logo and doubles it to make a heart.

6. Hershey Kisses 


Tilt your head to the left to see this one: The brown space between the "K" and the "I" create a sideways Hershey’s kiss.

7. Yoga Australia


The negative space created by the yogi’s leg and arm makes the shape of Australia.

8. Tour de France

The 'R' is a cyclist.

9. Amazon.com

As David Vik says in The Culture Secret, "That's a subtle reminder to employees and customers alike that Amazon has everything from A to Z."

10. Baskin-Robbins

See that "31," for the "31 flavors"? Yeah. In case it comes up, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins were brothers-in-law.

11. Tostitos

Two Ts sharing salsa! The logo has changed slightly, but that element remains.

12. Big Ten Conference

The Big Ten likes adding extras into logos. Notice the '11' in the previous logo on the bottom, back when 11 schools were involved. When Nebraska joined, the subtle 11 had to go. The conference explained exactly what it was doing: "[The logo's] contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral '10' in the word 'BIG,' which allows fans to see 'BIG' and '10' in a single word."

13. Merck

The pharmaceutical company's logo is made up of a capsule and two pills. In a very scientific poll of the two people next to me, 50% were surprised, while the other 50% said that's the only thing that logo could possibly be.

14. Caribou Coffee

The coffee chain refreshed its logo in 2010, and the caribou's body is now made of coffee beans. But that's not the only change. "While the Caribou in the previous logo was leaping left," the company said, "the caribou now leaps right, signifying the direction the company is heading." You probably picked up on that already.

15. Kölner Zoo 


At first glance, this logo may seem like just an elephant, but you can see a star, rhino, and giraffe in the white space.

16. The Bronx Zoo 


The New York zoo gives a nod to their urban geography: A collection of skyscapers can be seen in the legs of the giraffes. 

17. Magic Coffee 


This logo doubles as a coffee cup and a magicians top hat. Some might suggest this is more of an illusion than magic. 

18. Sony Vaio 


Sony wanted a logo that combined analog and digital technology into one, just as their product does. Designer Timothy Hanley achieved this by blending the two together: The first half of the logo (the "V" and "A") represents the analog wave, while the second half ("I" and "O") represents binary—a computing language written in ones and zeros. 

19. Northwest Airlines 


The airline played with the idea of navigation with this compass-like design. The W has a strategic line in it, creating an N and an arrow pointing northwest.

20. Hope for African Children 


This one is similar to the face/candlestick illusion. The shape of Africa is created in the negative space of a child looking up at a woman. 

21. Spartan Golf Club 


Spartan Gold Club incorporates both elements of their name. The golfer creates the face of a Spartan warrior and his swing becomes the top of the helmet.  

22. Montreal Expos 

At first glance, this logo looks like an "M" in the colors of the French flag. A lowercase "e"  and "b" are tucked into the "M." Officially, the letters stand for Montreal Expos Baseball. A popular theory says that the letters are actually "EJB," the initials of Elizabeth Bronfman, the daughter of a former Expos owner.

23. Arkansas–Pine Bluff Golden Lions 

This lion gets its mane from the letters "UAPB," for University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. 

24. Minnesota Wild 

The Minnesota landscape makes up this logo’s bear shape. A setting sun fills its ear and a running river doubles as the bear’s mouth. Most interestingly, the eye is meant to be the North Star, a potential nod at Minnesota’s previous team, the Minnesota North Stars.

25. Minnesota Twins 


The "win" in Twins is optimistically underlined.

26. Quebec Nordiques 

The now-defunct Canadian hockey team sported a red "N" next to a hockey stick. Together, the images created an igloo. There is a slim chance nostalgic Nordique fans might see their team re-emerge: Canada might add three more franchises in the next 20 years, and Quebec City meets the minimum requirements. 

27. Hartford Whalers 

Before the franchise moved to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes, the Whalers had a clever logo. The negative space between the "W" and the whale tail create an "H," for Hartford.

Bathroom Reading: This 18th Century Toilet Was Disguised as a Book

Image courtesy of Daniel Crouch Rare Books - crouchrarebooks.com
Image courtesy of Daniel Crouch Rare Books - crouchrarebooks.com

When producers of the family sitcom Leave It to Beaver wanted to air an episode in 1957 in which the Beav and brother Wally hide their pet alligator from their parents in the toilet tank, CBS was wary. Despite the fact that all humans, fictional or not, needed a commode was irrelevant to the network: It was considered in poor taste to show one.

This bashfulness over toilets has persisted for centuries, as evidenced by a recent offering from Daniel Crouch Rare Books. The “book,” which was produced circa 1750 in France, appears to be a weighty tome meant to impress guests with the owner’s literary tastes. In reality, it’s a toilet.

The combination toilet and book 'Histoire des Pays Bas' is pictured
Image courtesy of Daniel Crouch Rare Books - crouchrarebooks.com

With the cover closed, you wouldn’t know it. Unclasp it and it folds out to a wooden stool, with a gaping hole meant to accommodate a chamber pot underneath. As Atlas Obscura noted, the publisher had a winking sense of humor about it, too. The title, Histoire des Pays Bas, translates to History of the Netherlands. Netherlands. Nether regions.

Perhaps the French weren’t advanced humorists, but they did know how to preserve some semblance of modesty. It’s possible such objects were used to obscure chamber pots while people were traveling.

If you happen to be a collector of fine lavatory antiques, the toilet book can be yours for just under $10,000. As for the Beaver: Network censors prohibited the show from depicting the toilet, but they were allowed to show the tank.

The Reason Why Button-Down Shirts Have Loops On the Back

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

The apparel industry has presented a number of intriguing mysteries over the years. We’ve previously covered why clothes shrink in the wash, deciphered the laundry care tags on clothes, and figured out why shorts cost as much as pants. But one enduring puzzle persists: What’s with that weird loop on the back of button-down shirts?

The loop, which is found on many dress shirts for both men and women, is a small piece of fabric that typically occupies the space between the shoulder blades, where the yoke (upper back) of the shirt meets the pleat. While it can be an excellent way to annoy someone by tugging on it, history tells us it originally had a much more pragmatic function. The loops first became popular among naval sailors, who didn’t typically have much closet or storage space available for their uniforms. To make putting away and drying their shirts easier, the loops were included so they could be hung from a hook.

The loops didn’t remain exclusive to the Navy, however. In the 1960s, clothing manufacturer GANT added what became known as a locker loop to their dress shirts so their customers—frequently Ivy League college students—could hang the shirts in their lockers without them getting wrinkled. (The loop was originally placed on the back of the collar.) Later, students repurposed the loops to communicate their relationship status. If a man’s loop was missing, it meant he was dating someone. Women adopted an apparel-related signal, too: wearing their boyfriend’s scarf to indicate they were taken.

Particularly enthusiastic partners would rip the loop off spontaneously, which became a bit of a trend in the ‘60s. At the time, women who had crushes wearing Moss brand shirts complained that their loops were so strong and secure that they couldn’t be torn off.

For people who wanted to have a loop without ruining a shirt, one mail-order company offered to send just the loops to people in the mail.

You can still find the loops on shirts today, though they don't appear to have any social significance. Should you find one that's torn, it's probably due to wear, not someone's relationship status.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER