Iconic Logos: The Anatomy of Timeless Success

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to recognize a few iconic logos and instantly associate them with a brand, even if you see them for an instant, from a speeding car. These logos are remarkable for the fact that over the years and coming and going trends, while other companies had to restylize their logos, they remained the same. And no matter what era we are talking about, the ’70s or the ’90s, they maintained their power to attract and impress people.

So, what makes a timeless logo?

1. Simplicity

One of the most loved and iconic logos is the one created by Milton Glaser for the city of New York. It is a vividly simple and expressive constructions of 3 letters and the heart symbol.


In contrasting colors and a slightly rounded font, I love NY logo is probably the most copied logo ever. It elicits both emotion and attention by its simple and direct message. It is minimalist design at its best. While other minimalist logos target a rational memorizing of the message, the New York city logo manages to create vivid emotions.

2. Symbolism

The Shell logo was created in 1971 and is still in use. That’s a remarkable longevity for a logo that represents a yellow shell bordered by a red line. But that is exactly the secret behind its timeless success. The subliminal connection through symbolism is undeniable. It even makes you picture the word Shell, written with a capital.


It is a captive logo – we simply cannot imagine the company represented by any other image. While this may restrict the company’s innovative spirit, it also means that Shell is reaping the benefits of a well designed and promoted logo and it can focus on other ways to promote its corporate culture.

3. Sending the Right Message

CISCO is an information technology oriented company. They are a solid and earnest company and they wanted to transmit these two messages when they rebranded. The current CISCO logo is a simple, technical and no-nonsense logo, in line with the corporate identity of the business.


The understated teal and deep red colors are not meant to catch the eye in a flashy way, but create a moderate contrast. The wavelength symbol is a powerful subliminal message, while the perfectly rounded letters convey the meaning of smooth solidity.

4. Contrast

Mobil oil company did not go for fancy symbolism. Its logo is the company name with a twist: while the first and last three letters are a vibrant blue, the “o” is in bright red. The contrast is disconcerting at the first view. It goes against all the logo design rules.


People will remember it because of this unique oddity: the word written in two colors. No rule there to perceive – why the “o” and not the “b”? No one will ever know, but while people will keep asking themselves, the company logo will continue to be iconic.

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Ionut B
Digital Art Director with an innovative creative thinking able to translate ideas and concepts into useful and memorable interactive marketing campaigns.

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