The Stories Behind America’s Corporate Logos

Print Email

Source: Photo by David McNew / Getty Images

16. NBC

One of the most recognizable logos in television history is a callback to the shift from black and white to color television broadcasting. The first peacock logo appeared in 1956 as a way to promote the network’s colorcast programming. The colorful bird was retired in 1975 as part of a short-lived rebranding effort. It was brought back in 1980, and in 1986, the logo was redesigned and simplified; the number of feathers was dropped from 11 to 6, each representing one of NBC’s six divisions at the time: the network itself, news, sports, entertainment, TV stations, and operations and technical services.

Source: Photo by Scott Barbour / Getty Images

17. Shell

The British-Dutch oil and gas company’s logo is a throwback to the company’s roots as a small London-based antiques and curios broker that rode a Victorian-era trend of using seashells as decorations on consumer items like trinket boxes. The demand for seashells helped grow the company’s kerosene-based import-export business, and the first scallop shell logo, depicted as lying flat and colorless, was introduced in 1900. It has gone through nine revisions since. By 1930, the logo depicted the upright yellow shell, and in 1948 the word “Shell” appeared as part of the logo. In 1992, the word was removed.

Source: itchySan / Getty Images

18. Starbucks

In 1971, Starbucks was a small Seattle coffee shop whose founders settled on a logo reflecting the seafaring tradition of early coffee merchants. “The Siren” logo was originally a brown image of a topless double-tailed mermaid based on a 16th century Norse woodcut. But as the company expanded, the image proved to be too racy. By 1987, the logo began to resemble the more family friendly version of what you see today. Since 2011, all text has been removed from the logo, and the Siren was modified to add almost imperceptible asymmetries to making the Siren appear more human.

Source: Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

19. Toblerone

The popular chocolate bar has its origins in late 19th century Bern, Germany, produced by the Tobler family of chocolatiers. According to legend, the chocolate bar’s distinct easy-to-break triangle shapes were inspired by the shape of Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain peak that adorns the candy’s packaging. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but what isn’t are the characteristics of the logo that pay homage to Bern. One is the bear hidden in the mountain peak, a reference to the city’s coat of arms.

Source: neubie / Flickr

20. Wells Fargo

Today, Wells Fargo is a bank, but way back in the mid 1800s, Wells Fargo was a leading provider of bulk mail transportation across the Great Plains and Rockies, serving the growing population of Americans out in the West. The bank still uses the coach logo as homage to its past.