Logos that became legends: Icons from the world of advertising

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Lacoste was willing to go to court to protect its 'alligator' in a copyright battle with a dental practice. Such is the value placed on the most famous logos. By Mark Hughes

The McDonald's 'Golden Arches'

First mooted by the McDonald's co-founder Dick McDonald in 1952, the arches would not go on to become the company's official logo for another 10 years.

When he was asked to submit his design for a new drive-in restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, the architect Stanley Metson presented the McDonald brothers with the plans for a gleaming red-and-white-tiled rectangular building with a roof that started downwards sharply from the front and the rear. Dick, however, felt there was something missing.

Deciding the vision was too flat for a restaurant he hoped would revolutionise the way America and the world ate its food, he made changes including adding two large golden arches to the structure. Metson agreed with all of the changes, but would not incorporate the arches into the design. So Dick went to George Dexter, a sign-maker, and, rather than being part of the structure, the "Golden Arches" were designed as a new symbol for McDonald's.

The company's Speedee chef character, however, remained as the chief logo until 1962, when McDonald's wanted to upgrade its image.

Fred Turner first sketched a new logo, a stylised "V". Then Jim Schindler, McDonald's head of engineering and design, sketched a logo that pictured the slanting roof of the restaurant piercing a line drawing of the golden arches in the form of an "M". The "Golden Arches" were born. In 1968, the roof line image was dropped and the McDonald's name added to derive the current logo.

The logo expert Andy Payne, creative director of Interbrand, said: "The interesting thing about this logo is that it was born of architecture. The arches were a design to be used in a building and that has created the unique nature of the "M". It does rely on colour, in that you might not recognise it as McDonald's if it was not yellow and red."

The Ferrari horse

The prancing horse was first used by Enzo Ferrari, founder of the Scuderia Ferrari motor racing team and later of the Ferrari car company, in 1923 after he was approached by the mother of Count Francesco Baracca, a fighter pilot in the First World War. Baracca, who died in the conflict, was noted for having a horse painted on the side of his plane. After his death, the airman's mother suggested to Ferrari that using an image of the animal on his car would bring him luck.

The original horse on Baracca's plane was red on a white cloud background but Ferrari chose to have it black (as it had been painted as a sign of grief on the aircraft in Barraca's squadron following his death) on a background of yellow the colour of his home city of Modena. He also added the colours green, white and red the Italian national colours and the letters S F for Scuderia Ferrari.

The Ferrari horse was markedly different from the Baracca horse, the most noticeable alteration being the upward-pointing tail that in the original Baracca version pointed downward. All Ferrari road cars have the rectangular badge on their bonnets.

Andy Payne said: "This logo represents what Ferrari is about: drive and energy. It is different from some of the simpler designs, in that the horse itself is quite complicated and intricate, but when you see the black silhouette against the yellow background, usually on a red car, it is striking and instantly recognisable."

The Apple apple

First designed by the current Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, the IT giant's original logo was completely different from the one we know today. It depicted Sir Isaac Newton sitting below a tree with an apple falling on his head a tribute to his discovery of gravity.

That logo was replaced in 1976 by a rainbow-coloured silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it, an idea dreamt up by the graphic designer Rob Janoff, which was to remain the same until 1999 when Apple began using a monochrome logo.

The urban myth says that the bitten apple is a reference to Alan Turing, the pioneer of the Enigma code and "father of the computer", who committed suicide in 1954 by taking a bite from a cyanide-laced apple. Janoff insists that the apple simply represents knowledge. In 2006, the logo was at the centre of a court dispute between the computer company and the Beatles' Apple Corps label, which uses an apple as its logo.

Andy Payne says: "Again it's an example of a really successful, yet simple, logo."

The Nike 'Swoosh'

The Swoosh is one of the world's most instantly recognisable logos and is seen adorning countless trainers and items of sportswear. Yet the emblem, which became the basis for the multibillion-dollar Nike brand, was designed by a little-known university student named Carolyn Davidson who charged Nike just $35 for her design.

Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University, was approached in 1971 by a University of Oregon track runner, Phil Knight, and his coach, Bill Bowerman, who needed a logo for a new line of running shoes they were to introduce. The pair, who had set up the Blue Ribbon Sports company, asked Davidson to suggest some designs for the new line, which they had decided to name Nike after the Greek goddess of victory.

Davidson agreed and charged the pair a fee of $2 per hour for her work, eventually submitting a bill for $35. She was subsequently recompensed through stock options as the company grew. After she handed it over, Mr Knight was slow to see its potential, reportedly saying: "I don't love it, but it will grow on me."

Andy Payne says: "This is one of my favourite logos. It's one of the only logos without words accompanying it. Over time it has gained equity and confidence to set itself free from the word Nike and that is a very brave step for a brand to take. Again it is a logo that can be seen in any colour and you still recognise it as Nike."

The Lacoste alligator

Inspired by the nickname of the brand's creator, the French tennis player Rene Lacoste dubbed "the alligator" by the American press corps the famous reptilian logo was at the centre of a court battle this week after the fashion giant took legal action against two Cheltenham dentists who used an alligator design as the emblem of their practice. The Gloucestershire practice won after the judge said consumers were unlikely to confuse it and the clothing company.

It was just another chapter in the eventful history of the striking logo, which came into being through a bet Lacoste made with the captain of his country's Davis Cup team before a match in the 1927 competition. The wager concerned a suitcase made from alligator skin that Lacoste was said to have his eye on.

The nickname stuck and Lacoste asked a friend to draw a crocodile which he could have embroidered on his blazer. Six years later, in 1933, the sports star, along with Andr Gillier, set up a company to manufacture tennis shirts with the crocodile logo.

Andy Payne says: "This logo has stood the test of time because it is very simple. It works well because, although it is usually green, it could be done in any colour and you would still know it as Lacoste because the use of such a distinctive animal sticks in your memory."

The Chanel 'Double C'

Designed by Coco Chanel, the interlocking Cs first appeared on the lid of Chanel No 5 perfume bottles in 1921. They have remained a quintessential part of the brand ever since, as classic and elegant as the company they were chosen to represent.

The logo represents the initials of the founder, who almost always went by her nickname rather than her real name, Gabrielle. She liked the design for its simplicity and purity and the fact that it was easily recognisable.

The logo has since adorned all Chanel products. First used in haute couture in 1959 when it appeared on the buttons of a Chanel suit, it has also appeared inside the brand's classic bag, designed in 1955, and was added to the item's clasp following Coco's death in 1971.

Andy Payne says: "This logo is just so beautifully simple. Two letters, overlapping back to back, it's a basic monogram done with symmetry and brilliant elegance. It often still uses the word Chanel underneath but it probably doesn't need to."

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