The Bluetooth symbol may not be a company logo, but it may be the only globally recognizable trademarked logo for a technology standard. Found on virtually every modern wireless device, the logo is a combination of two ancient Danish runes of the letters “H” and “B,” the initials of Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, a 10th century Danish King who united Denmark and Norway. The nickname is believed to refer to descriptions of the king’s dead tooth. Intel engineer Jim Kardach, who was reading a book about the Vikings while working on the wireless technology standard with several other companies, including Ericsson and Nokia, suggested the name.
If you are one of those people who thinks BMW’s iconic circular represents the spinning blades of an airplane propeller set against a blue sky background, you are forgiven. For years, the company fostered that misconception. The world’s largest luxury car maker (Bayerische Motoren Werke, or Bavarian Motor Works) had built aircraft engines early in its history, and in 1929, and the company’s ad campaign superimposed the logo over an airplane. As recently as 2010, a company spokesman admitted the logo, which was created in 1917, actually alludes to the colors of Bavaria, the state in Germany where BMW was founded.
The simplest explanation for the origin of one of the most recognizable logos in fashion is that the two interlocking “C” letters of the Chanel brand depicts the initials of its founder, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, an orphan who got her start selling hats in Paris in 1910. But since there is no known official origin story, others have speculated the logo refers to a symbol used by French Queen Claude in the 16th century, or the patterns in the stained glass windows of the monastery where Chanel spent her childhood, or even to Chanel’s business partner and lover, Arthur “Boy” Capel.
Sometimes it’s not easy to find the complete origin story of a company logo. General Motors knows who created its enduring Chevrolet bowtie logo and when — company co-founder William C. Durant in 1913 — but the inspiration for the design is lost to history. The prevailing theory is that Durant was inspired by a wallpaper pattern in a French hotel, but other theories include that Durant was inspired by a similar pattern he saw while on vacation in Virginia in 1912, or that Durant created a stylized version of the Swiss flag as a nod to Louis Chevrolet’s Swiss birthplace.
10. Cisco Systems
One of the world’s largest designers and makers of networking equipment derives its name from the city where it was established, San Francisco, in 1984. For its first 12 years, Cisco Systems utilized a fairly accurate representation of the Golden Gate Bridge, including the structure’s vertical support cables. Since then, the logo has changed three times, initially keeping the bridge’s general shape but stylizing the vertical cables to look more like electronic signal bars. Since 2006, however, Cisco’s logo has been more of an abstract representation of the bridge, so much so that it barely resembles the bridge at all.