18 London Underground – 19 Montblanc – 20 FedEx

Rounding off our top 20 logos are London Underground’s world famous roundel, Montblanc’s pen-top/snow-capped peak and the FedEx logo that makes subtle use of an arrow…

18 London Underground (1919)
Edward Johnston
The London Underground roundel, design­ed by Edward Johnston in 1919, has transcended its function as transport signage, and in many ways become a symbol for London itself. Its simple design, of a red circle inter- cut with a blue bar, has inspired many imitators around the world: versions have been spotted in desti­nations as far away as India, while a plethora of ‘under­ground’ bars have adopted the design as signage. The roundel shape first appeared on station platforms in 1908. These early versions consisted of a solid red enamel disc and horizontal blue bar and served to highlight the station name amongst the surrounding ads. Johnston’s version was commissioned by LU’s publicity manager Frank Pick, who realised that a standardised version of the logo would strengthen the brand in the public’s mind. It certainly did, and the roundel is now used for all aspects of London’s transport system. The symbol has experienced several subtle changes over the years, but in essence has stayed true to Johnston’s iconic, and much loved, design.

19 Mont Blanc (1913)

Montblanc makes it into our list not just because of the cleverness of the device that recalls a snowy mountain peak, but also because of its links to the product itself. Originally, the Hamburg-based Simplo Filler Pen Co gave its products a plain white top but, supposedly during a card game in 1909, a relative of one of the partners drew an inspired analogy between the pen, which had become the pinnacle of writing instruments, and the Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. The name Montblanc was registered as a trademark and used for all writing instru­ments produced by the company. In 1913, the familiar White Star (or ‘bird splat’ as some disrespect­ful collectors refer to it) was adopted as its trademark.

20 FedEx (1994)
Lindon Leader/Landor Associates

Designed by Landor Associates in 1994, the logo for international courier company FedEx might appear simple, boring even, to the casual observer. But once you have spotted the forward-facing arrow created by the negative space between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’, it is impossible not to think ‘that’s clever’. The logo’s designer, Lindon Leader, had to create unique letterforms to make the logo and apparently a blend of Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold provided the starting point. “Neither [typeface] was particularly suited to forcing an arrow into its assigned parking place without torturing the beautifully crafted letterforms of the respective faces,” Leader told TheSneeze.com blog in 2004. “I took the best characteristics of both and combined them into unique and proprietary letterforms that included both ligatures and a higher x-height.”

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