The world's most controversial logos

From London 2012 to the Tokyo Olympics, here are 11 of the most misguided

Victoria Richards
Wednesday 02 September 2015 13:50
The launch of the now scrapped logo for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
The launch of the now scrapped logo for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The new Tokyo Olympics logo has been scrapped following allegations of plagiarism, but it is not the first time big brands have found themselves under fire for their controversial, and, at times, baffling emblems.

London 2012

The logo for London 2012, which was designed by Wolff Olins to the tune of £400,000, was lambasted for its quirky and jagged design from the moment of its first unveiling. Ubiquitous, going on to be used for the first time for both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games, it nonetheless fell flat – with 80 per cent of people in a BBC poll giving it the lowest score in terms of popularity.

Indeed, when it was first revealed in 2007, Lord Coe admitted it wouldn't "be to everybody's taste immediately", but insisted that it was "not a logo, it's a brand that will take us forward for the next five years". He also said it represented the 2012 commitment to "reach out and engage with young people". And so it did: proving the haters wrong and Great Britain, with its 65 medals, proud.


The logo for the accommodation finding website faced a backlash on social media when it changed in June last year – there was even a Tumblr site set up to mock it. Critics have said that it bears an eerie similarity to sexual organs... namely, the vagina.

The Airbnb logo has been compared to human body parts

Ben Wright, founder of London-based firm DesignStudio, which had seven members of its team working on the rebrand over the course of a year, told the BBC that they "weren't aware" of the logo's alternative interpretation. "In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really bother us too much what people are saying about it," he said.

Arlington Pediatric Center

This logo, for the noble family-centred US care organisation, had a rather unfortunate fail when its redesign made it onto public signage in 2009 ... only for observers to point out that it could be open to misinterpretation. Oops.

This logo for the Arlington Pediatric Center has been redesigned


After 17 years, online auction website eBay traded in its iconic logo for a slimmer version of itself in 2012, saying that it was a move designed to "represent our connected and diverse eBay community".

But some resisted the refreshment and the removal of the trademark bubbly font – saying that it made the brand less quirky and playful, and toned down its "personality and originality". Some even accused the retail site of "sucking all the fun out of the sector". Harsh.

The new eBay logo was unveiled in 2012

Nevertheless, eBay, which has more than 100 million active users, remained defiant, saying: “Our refreshed logo is rooted in our proud history and reflects a dynamic future."


In 2013 Yahoo! spent a month teasing the online community with possible redesigns, before unveiling its disappointingly similar new logo. The name is cleaner, the letters less jumbled, the overall effect darker - but it resulted in one consistent review: "boring".

"The new Yahoo logo has nothing going for it," Matti Leshem, CEO of Protagonist, told Business Insider. "Brand is meaning, and one's brand is represented by the logo. The opportunity for Yahoo to completely reinvent themselves and show the aspirational consumer the new Yahoo's potential has been sorely missed."

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks during her keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7, 2014.

Some people did see the opportunity, spawn a wealth of amusing Tumblr takes.

Speculation over Yahoo!'s rebranding prompted tongue-in-cheek copies


When US clothing retailer Gap decided to rebrand five years ago, it didn't altogether go to plan. The classic blue-and-white logo, which had been in use for more than 20 years, was redrawn to become distinctly more...vanillla. It also used Helvetica – not a font that screams excitement.

After just a week, the great reinvention was duly scrapped following an "outpouring of online comments". Marka Hansen, the-then president of Gap Brand North America, said the company "did not go about this in the right way" and "missed the opportunity to engage with the online community".

The Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Santa Catarina

It's apparently supposed to be a pagoda, in front of the rising sun. Yep. The Brazil university withdrew its design when it realised it could be slightly misconstrued.

The Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Santa Catarina

Junior Jazz Dance Classes

This viral ad for junior jazz dance classes – we can't be sure where it first appeared, or where it's from – made people guffaw when they realised that by staring at the white space around the blue dancers, something else became visible entirely. Marketing experts do say that an image should be eye-catching, and it's certainly that.

To see what others have seen in this picture, look at the white space...

Catholic Church’s Archdiocesan Youth Commission

This baffling logo was reportedly designed in 1973 for the Catholic Church, and went on to win an award from the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles.

There's more than meets the eye in this Catholic Church’s Archdiocesan Youth Commission logo

Office of Government Commerce

It reportedly cost £14,000 in design fees and was supposed to signal the body's commitment to “improving value for money by driving up standards and capability in procurement”, yet this branch of the Treasury had to scrap its logo in 2008 after someone pointed out what it looked like when rotated 90 degrees.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is an independent Office of the Treasury

A spokesman for OGC told the Telegraph: “It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters OGC – and it is not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend.”


This logo, which is still on proud display on the company's website, has been delighting internet users since it was first discovered and brought to everyone's attention.

This Polish satellite looks particularly pleased with himself


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