The 10 best logos of all time

01. FedEx

Best logos: The FedEx logo in grey and purple

This logo introduced a name change as well as a new look

Replacing the original Federal Express logo, which was designed in 1974, the new logo introduced a name change and a cleaner, simpler look and feel. Purple was retained as a brand colour with orange added, and the FedEx logo thrives on its use of white space. It was applied to 600 aircraft, and 30,000 ground vehicles.

With that sneaky little arrow nestling between the E and the X, the FedEx logo perfectly embodies what the company does – moving letters, boxes and freight from A to B. It has won over 40 design awards, and even though it was unveiled in 1994 it's still a favourite. 

We spoke to Lindon Leader (opens in new tab), who was senior design director at Landor Associates (opens in new tab) when it was designed... 

Best logos: Lindon Leader sat a a desk looking through some books

Lindon Leader was senior design director at Landor Associates when the FedEx logo was designed

It's over 20 years since the FedEx logo was designed. What do you remember best about the project?

"I've always said it takes a great client to make a great project. Frederick Smith, the CEO, allowed us to do our job, and simply said to me, 'Lindon, if you feel that our trucks need to be pink and green, just give me a good reason.' In other words, he was trusting us."

"If you feel that our trucks need to be pink and green, just give me a good reason"

Frederick Smith, FedEx CEO

What were the key things the client wanted the identity to communicate?

"The primary attributes of the FedEx brand are precision, service, speed, reliability. They're the kind of attributes that you just don't develop overnight – no pun intended, given their original tagline." 

Best logos: Old Federal Express logo in purple and red

The old Federal Express logo

How did you approach it?

"We conducted a nine-month global research study that revealed that customers were generally unaware of Federal Express' global scope and full service capabilities." 

"Customers had come to say 'FedEx a package' even when they were using other shippers. So the process of express shipping had become generic. We advised them that the company needed to leverage its most valuable asset, and that is the FedEx brand." 

"On an international scale, 'federal' had some negative connotations in certain parts of the world – Federalists in Latin America; Federal Republic of Germany. That was among the reasons why moving to the name FedEx was going to be so much more communicative for them."

Best logos: Three different early FedEx logo designs

Three of the five final designs presented to the FedEx board

What were the other potential logos like?

"Each of the five candidates did pretty much what the current identity is doing. They maximised the impact of the identity, whilst also maximising the colour white. It's on their envelopes, it's on their vehicles, it's on their aircraft because white is traditionally associated with Federal Express."

Tell us about the use of white, and your process of subtraction?

"I cannot tell you how many times I fight with a client who says, 'I'm paying an enormous amount of money to pay for an ad in a magazine and you're telling me you want 60 per cent of it to be empty space?' On the one hand I can understand where they're coming from. But basically the average client does not have a sophisticated enough appreciation of white space to understand that it can be a strategic marketing tool." 

Best logos: Various packaging displaying the FedEx logo

Shipping packaging created after the redesign

For you, what is it that makes a logo last, and when do you think a company should change its logo?

"From a historical perspective, back in the '50s, '60s and '70s, a company would come to a design agency and look to, more often than not, refresh an identity that had been around for quite a while. In those days what a client hoped to accomplish was to get 20 years out of a logo before it needed to be refreshed or changed."

"If you take Silicon Valley start-ups out of the equation, these days companies are looking to refresh down to as little as five, maybe 10 years, if you're lucky."

Related articles:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Rob is editorial, graphic design and publishing lead at Transport for London. He previously worked at Future Publishing over the course of several years, where he launched digital art magazine, ImagineFX; and edited graphic design magazine Computer Arts, as well as the Computer Arts Projects series, and was also editor of technology magazine, T3.