There is an arrow in the FedEx logo. (If you’ve never noticed, take a look and get ready to blow out.)
It was, in fact, an accident. “The idea of the arrow came to us the furthest,” said Lyndon, the leader, who designed the logo in a 1994 email interview. “But in an internal critique amidst researching the logo, I was intrigued by a design that had very tightly spaced letters.”
“After a few days, I realized that if a true arrow could be introduced into letter shapes, it could subtly suggest a reliable movement from point A to point B,” the Leader said.
Still can’t see the arrow? Scroll right to detect it.
Credit: FedEx. FedEx
The power of the arrow, Leader believes, is simply that a hidden bonus, not seeing it, does not diminish the impact of the logo itself. But how many people actually see it without telling them where it is?
“The prevailing notion is – I’ve heard – that perhaps less than one in five people find a hidden arrow without help. But I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun they ask others if they can? Spot something in the logo,” Leader said.
More than an arrow
The same company that designed the FedEx logo created another one that brilliantly uses negative space, the NorthWest Airlines logo that was used from 1989 to 2003 (the Northwest merged with Delta in 2008). The circle and arrow create a compass that points narrowly to the northwest. But the arrow, along with the “N” mark, also creates a “W” by which part of the left leg is removed.
Sometimes the hidden element fits so well into the logo design that they can only be seen if they are prominent, like a bear hidden in a Toblerone logo.
See a bear in the mountains? Credit: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images North America / Getty Images for NYCWFF
But is this an effective logo design strategy? “On the one hand, yes, because these logos seek to identify a branded product or service in a very economical and immediate way using humor to appeal to a positive response,” McNeil said. But today, he said, there is a trend towards a simpler and more direct design, which is evident from the logos of many large corporations like Facebook and Google.
McNeil’s favorite logo is a design by Gianni Bortolotti for a missing Italian company called ED – Elettro Domestici (“electrical appliances”). By simply using the letter “ED” and negative space, it elegantly shapes the shape of the electrical plug.
“It’s a constraint model without any redundant elements,” McNeil said.
The ED logo doubles as an electrical plug. Credit: from logolog.co