The design of a company’s logo is extremely important. From the famed golden arches of McDonald’s to the iconic swoosh of Nike, a well-established and memorable logo not only helps instill trust and a sense of familiarity among consumers, it can also become an embodiment of quality.

Not surprisingly, many companies take their logo design extremely seriously and, in turn, are more than willing to shell out big bucks to get it done right. Steve Jobs, for instance, didn’t think twice about paying legendary designer Paul Rand $100,000 to create the famed NeXT logo. More recently, Pepsi spent a whopping $1 million for its 2008 logo redesign.

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But amongst the innumerable corporate logos out there, there are a few great ones with subtle yet interesting hidden meanings. Below are a list of 12 of the most interesting and well-known corporate logos with hidden meanings.

VAIO

Sony may have sold off its Vaio PC and laptop business, but the Vaio brand remains alive and well thanks to some high-end laptops available for sale via Microsoft’s online store. With one of the more distinctive brand logos out there, there’s a lot more to the Vaio design than initially meets the aye.

As you can see in the photo above, the letters ‘V’ and ‘A’ are designed to represent an analog signal while the ‘I’ and the ‘O’ are designed to look like the numbers one and zero, thereby representing digital binary code. Put them together and Vaio represents the marriage of all things analog and digital.

FedEx

As one of the most recognized logos on the planet, the FedEx logo houses a subtle and hidden meaning. If you take a look at the white space between the ‘E’ and the ‘X’, you’ll notice that it’s an arrow. Hardly a coincidence, logo designer Lindon Leader had to create an entirely new typeface to ensure that the arrow – meant to indicate precision, speed and accuracy – would fit just right. As far as negative space is concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more clever implementation. Not surprisingly, Leader’s FedEx logo has won innumerable awards and was even ranked as one of the best 8 logos of the last 35 years by Rolling Stone.

In a 2004 interview about his design process, Leader explained how he worked diligently to combine to separate fonts, Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold.

“To avoid getting too technical here, suffice it to say I took the best characteristics of both and combined them into unique and proprietary letterforms that included both ligatures (connected letters) and a higher “x-height,” or increased size of the lower-case letters relative to the capital letters. I worked these features around until the arrow seemed quite natural in shape and location.

Adidas

Adidas is an interesting company because it’s had not one, but two distinctive logos. The most recent incarnation, which started rolling out in the 90s, features three bars of varying heights slanted towards the left. The design is meant to symbolize a mountain or an obstacle to be overcome. The subtext here is that Adidas athletic products will help users push past challenges and realize their full athletic potential.

Amazon

The Amazon name has an interesting backstory. Legend has it that CEO Jeff Bezos fell in love with the name for two reasons. One, because it started with the letter ‘A’, it would appear at the top of any online alphabetical listing. And two, with the Amazon river known to be exotic, extremely diverse, and the largest in the world, Bezos at the time envisioned his burgeoning online retail site as having the same qualities.

As far as the logo is concerned, you’ll note that the yellow arrow travels from the letter ‘a’ to ‘z’, thus signifying that the company sells everything you could ever dream of, from A-Z. And judging from some of the crazy and weird items we’ve seen listed up on Amazon, the symbolism is wholly appropriate.

Beats

The beats logo may not be as prevalent these days now that Beats Music has been swallowed up by Apple Music, but you can still spot the clever logo on Apple’s lineup of Beats by Dre headphones.

At first glance, the logo appears to be nothing more than the letter ‘b’ inside of a white circle. But if you adjust your perspective, you’ll notice that the ‘b’ also doubles as a pair of red headphones on the side of a person’s face.

NBC

With its multi-colored design, the NBC logo is arguably one of the most universally recognizable logos on the planet. A closer look, however, reveals that there’s more to it than meets the eye. If you take a gander at the white space in the middle, you’ll note that the logo itself is of a peacock, with the white space representing its body and head. The colorful feathers meanwhile originally represented NBC’s six divisions. And lastly, note that the peacock’s face is facing towards the right, thus signifying a company looking forward to the future.

To gain an appreciation for how the logo evolved, here’s what one of their first logos looked like.

Cisco

Cisco may not be a glamorous company, but their networking technology plays a crucial part in the backbone of the Internet. You’ve likely seen the Cisco logo many times in the past, but are perhaps unfamiliar with its meaning. Well, wonder no more.

As a company founded in San Francisco, the vertical lines in Cisco’s logo take on two meanings. One, they represent an abstract representation of  San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. As a quick aside, the name Cisco itself is an abbreviation of San Francisco. And two, the vertical lines also symbolize a digital signal.

Dell

Back in the 90s, you could hardly go anywhere without seeing computers adorned with the Dell logo. Indeed, Dell’s mastery of build-to-order computers helped make it the world’s largest PC manufacturer at one point. These days, Dell is no longer a publicly traded company, but it’s still alive and well and churning out PCs.

As for the once ubiquitous Dell logo, you might have noticed that the ‘E’ is somewhat turned on its side. Legend has it that this was done on account of founder Michael Dell’s goal to turn the computer industry on its side. And though purely speculative, some have also suggested that the design of the letter ‘E’ was intended to represent a floppy disk.

AT&T

You’ve undoubtedly seen the AT&T logo many times, but there’s more to the spherical blue and white logo than you might think. The logo here conveys blue wires wrapping around a globe, thereby signaling that Ma Bell is a telecommunications company whose operations literally span the entirety of the globe.

Wikipedia

Even if you check out Wikipedia for hours on end, there’s a good chance you haven’t given its logo much of a second look. Interestingly, though, there’s a lot of interesting stuff the logo conveys. Comprised of puzzle pieces which make up a globe, the puzzle pieces feature letters from different languages, thus representing that the online encyclopedia encapsulates knowledge from all corners of the globe. As Wikipedia itself notes, “each piece bears a glyph (a letter or other character), or glyphs, symbolizing the multilingualism of Wikipedia.”

What’s more, because the globe itself is conspicuously incomplete, it signifies “the incomplete nature of the project, the articles and languages yet to be added.”

Toblerone

A swiss chocolate company based out of Switzerland, the Toblerone logo, if you look closely, houses a hidden image of a bear in what is supposed to be Matterhorn mountain. Why a bear and why Matterhorn? Well, Matterhorn is viewed as an iconic part of the Swiss Alps. As for the bear, Toblerone is produced in Bern, Switzerland, a city known as the “city of bears.”

Le Tour De France

The Tour de France, an exhausting and challenging bicycle race held every year, has a rather appropriate logo. As evident above, the letter ‘O’ is supposed to be the rear tire or a bike while the letter ‘R’ is meant to be a bicycle rider.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.