The hidden meanings behind famous logos

From the moment you wake up in the morning to check your phone to the moment you fall asleep cradling your phone like your old Teddy Ruxpin, you are bombarded with thousands of logos every day. You could say that the only way to avoid this oversaturation of corporate branding would be to live on a deserted island, but even Tom Hanks had a branded volleyball friend in Cast Away. You probably looked at these logos with little to no thought, but just like a 17th-century work of art, most logos have deeper, and, dare we say, hidden meanings behind them.

Domino's

The story of Domino's is a tale right of a mainstream politician's book of campaign speeches. Tom Monaghan, who grew up in an orphanage, secured $900 to buy a tiny pizza place called DomiNick's in Michigan in 1960. Five years later, he bought two more locations. The previous owner refused Monaghan the right to use his name for the new restaurants, so a delivery driver suggested the name Domino's and the rest is pizza history. The three dots on the domino on the pizza chain's logo represent the three original Domino's locations.

According to Logaster, Monaghan was going to add another dot to the domino in the logo after every new location opened up. If they went with their original plan, Domino's would have the most messiest logo in branding history, with close to 12,000 dots to represent locations worldwide. Although the logo has gone through stylistic changes in the last five decades, the three dots remain the same.

Subaru

The the cluster of stars in the Subaru logo aren't just there to look sparkly: they're actually a group of stars in the Taurus constellation called Pleiades. In Japanese, this constellation is called Subaru, which means "unite."

The largest star in the logo represents Fuji Heavy Industries, and the five smaller stars are for the five companies that merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries. The blue background on the logo is there because the stars in this constellation are a deep shade of blue. Pleiades also goes by the name Seven Sisters, which is also the name of a group of women's colleges in America — a cool twist of fate considering this Priceonomics report detailing how the Subaru brand surged in popularity among lesbian consumers in America.

RCA

RCA's famous logo of an adorable dog named Nipper with his head in a phonograph can be traced back to the late 1890s. RCA's first corporate logo was taken from a painting titled "His Master's Voice" by Francis Barraud. The U.K. brand The Gramophone Company bought the rights to the painting in 1899 and eventually even changed their company's name to HMV in honor of the painting. Someone from the Victor Talking Machine Company, which later became RCA, saw the HMV logo abroad and bought the rights to use it stateside.

If you've ever complained about the oversaturation of advertising in the United States, you can definitely blame it partly on this dog, which had his mug plastered from New York to Los Angeles before Spuds MacKenzie was even a twinkle in his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's eye.

Amazon

If there's one website that you take for granted, it's Amazon, and maybe your favorite adult site, if you're into that. Amazon is the only place where you can purchase 50 pounds of dog food, a pair of wireless headphones, and a pillow with a picture of topless Nicolas Cage on it all at the same time and have it delivered to your house in two days or less. Amazon literally sells everything and their logo subtly reflects that.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Amazon unveiled the logo that they continue to use today. It may look like a smile, as in, "I'm happy I don't have to leave my house ever again to buy whatever I need!," but the curved line under the Amazon logo is actually an arrow that starts at the "a" and points to "z," meaning they sell everything from A-to-Z.

Tostitos

A party isn't a party without tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole. So it's no surprise that Tostitos wanted to embrace their identity as a snack frequently served at parties and get-togethers. The Frito-Lay brand, which has been on grocery store shelves since 1979, revamped their logo in 2003 (and again in 2013) to secretly show that, like going on a date, eating Tostitos is better when another person is involved.

If you look closely at the "T", "I", and second "T" in the word "Tostitos," it shows two people (the "Ts") sharing a single chip and dipping it in a bowl (the "I") of red salsa. According to a 2013 press release, the new logo and packaging is meant to illustrate "the look and feel of a 'party in the bag.'" Tostitos really wears their party animal tendencies like a badge of honor, but they're still the responsible one of the group. Recently, the brand launched a bag so technologically advanced that it detects if you've been consuming alcohol and will call an Uber if you had too much to drink. Good lookin' out, Tostitos.

Toyota

While driving behind a Prius that's going 10 miles per hour under the speed limit on a single-lane highway, did you ever think what the heck is the Toyota logo supposed to be? What is it, a saintly almond wearing a halo? Toyota is the world's largest auto manufacturer and has one of the most recognizable logos, but the meaning behind the loops are a mystery to most people.

Toyota unveiled its current logo in 1990, and it's probably safe to say that they're not going to retire it for quite awhile. According to Toyota, the three ellipses symbolize "the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products" and the background is for the brand's "technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead." So definitely not a holy nut.

Baskin-Robbins

When Baskin-Robbins recruited the advertising juggernaut Ogilvy & Mather in 1953, the ad firm wanted to highlight that the company had an astonishing number of ice cream flavors. Considering that whenever you go to Baskin-Robbins they're always out of the flavors that you want, it might be hard to believe that they have more than 31 flavors today, but after six decades, the "31" is still hidden in their logo.

If you look at the "B" and the "R" on the company's revamped 2006 logo, the curve of the "B" is a 3 and the first line in the "R" is a 1 to represent the 31 flavors nickname that has been with the company for over six decades.

NBC

Why exactly does NBC represent themselves with a peacock? It can't be because they're proud of their usually atrocious sitcom lineup, right? No, it goes back further than that. NBC's famous peacock logo was designed by John J. Graham in 1956. His design was "…an abstraction of an eleven-feathered peacock to indicate richness in color." In fact, after the logo would be displayed, an announcer would say, "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC." In Living Color, meanwhile, was brought to us by FOX, proof that everything is a lie.

Basically, NBC was capitalizing on the trend of color TVs, which were slowly entering American homes. The Peacock was silently saying, "Hey, ABC and CBS have nothing on us, check out our crazy colors from the future!" NBC's peacock has had a few stylistic changes since the the 1950s and, even though we now have Ultra-HD 3D TVs in more colors than we can fathom, the logo still represents color on the network.

BMW

You're probably familiar with seeing the BMW logo from your rearview mirror, while you wonder what it might be like to afford one. What does it represent, though, besides an expensive car with even pricier engine repairs?

In 1917, BMW was a brand without a logo. Bayerische Motoren Werke's owner, Franz Josef Popp, needed to change that ,after the brand split from a company called Rapp Motor. Most folks, even auto aficionados, think BMW's logo represents an aircraft propeller or an airscrew, but Kai Jacobsen, BMW's historian, debunked that myth. The logo is basically an homage to Rapp's old logo but, instead of a black horse in the middle, BMW used blue-and-white, the national colors of Bavaria.

It wasn't until 1927 that the logo appeared on an actual BMW product, and everyone clearly loved it. Aside from a few slight changes, the heart of the logo has been almost the exact same for 100 years.

DC Comics

DC Comics might have a hard time producing a great blockbuster flick about anything other than a very wonderful woman, but they did an awesome job with their latest branding revamp, launched in 2016. Some DC diehards went all "Comic Book Guy," tearing it up as the Worst. Logo. Ever, but you have to admit it's a nice, clean design.

Plus, it's more than clean. In an Instagram post, DC's co-publisher, Jim Lee, explained the meaning behind the design. Logically, it has to do with DC's most important heroes. Lee said, "The nooks and angles are meant to evoke the Superman 'S', the Wonder Woman 'WW' emblem and the Bat logo." That's pretty impressive how they made it work, since those logos, stylistically, don't look a thing alike.

Nike

If someone asked you to picture a brand logo that has to do with sports, the famous Nike Swoosh would almost certainly come to mind. It's adorned on everything from basic dad sneakers you can get at Kohl's, to the dopest new release of retro Air Jordans you can only find on eBay for insane resell prices. According to an interview with Nike's founder, Phil Knight, on CBS, the most famous shoe logo in the world was something he paid Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson only $35 to sketch in 1971, during the early days of the brand. According to the designer, the "big fat check mark" (as Knight dubbed it) represented the speed of sound. 

Knight, however, really wasn't feeling the new iconography — he told CBS he was all "Okay, that's the best we can do, let's go" at the time. In short, one of the most iconic logos of all-time survived only because the corporate dude was too busy and rushed to complain. Hell, it wasn't until 1995 that Nike actually registered the trademark for the Swoosh, and it became the corporate identity for the brand. Even though — let's face it — it kind of already was.

Versace

When we think "Versace," we're picturing Notorious B.I.G. from his "Hypnotize" video, looking fly as hell in his white Versace shirt and shades, but what exactly is the logo on the sides of his sunglasses? Gianni Versace was heavily influenced by ancient Greek culture, and a Greek key pattern appears around the Versace logo, but who's that chick in the middle? That would be the Greek monster, Medusa.

If you didn't sleep through history class, you probably remember the story of Medusa. She was a once-beautiful woman who was punished by becoming ugly. She gained a hairdo made of snakes and, if you looked at her, you would turn into stone. The Versace logo is of Medusa, but the pre-cursed, gorgeous Medusa, with her beautiful hair showing and flowing. Like how one look at Snake Medusa would make you stone, one glance at a Versace piece will stop you in your tracks. After all, who wouldn't look twice at someone wearing a bold-patterned shirt, or Cam Newton in those now-famous gold-and-black Versace pants?

Mercedes-Benz

When talking about symbols of luxury, the simple three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz carries a lot of street cred. Or if we're trying to be fancy, it carries a lot of cachet. You know you just read that like the guy in the old Grey Poupon ads.

The folks at the auto blog The News Wheel explain that the Mercedes-Benz logo didn't start off as a logo at all, but rather a star drawn on a postcard sent by Gottlieb Daimler to his wife in the 1870s to represent the location of his house and how light will "shine over his factory and bring prosperity." Daimler's sons Paul and Adolf began to use a three-pointed star logo for their auto manufacturing brand DMG in the early 1900s. When DMG merged with Benz & Cie in 1926, they included the famous star with a laurel wreath. The wreath has since been abandoned, but the three points in the star represent complete domination of land, sea, and air. It makes total sense now why there are more Mercedes-Benz Decepticons than Autobots.

Northwest Airlines

No, it's not the new airline for Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's daughter. Northwest Airlines flew the skies from 1926 until 2010 when their merger with Delta was finalized. Although as a company they've gone the way of TWA, Pan Am, and a certain airline owned by a certain president, Northwest Airlines is still known for their logo that they used from 1989 until 2003.

The classic Northwest Airlines logo has a single N and a triangle that's also a W created by the wonderful use of negative space. The triangle represents a compass and is pointing to, you guessed it, northwest.

Pixar

The acclaimed animation studio has been an innovative pioneer since its founding in 1986 when Apple impresario Steve Jobs purchased the Computer Division from George Lucas and rebranded it as Pixar. Current chief creative officer John Lasseter was with the studio from its earliest days with Lucas, and is responsible for many of its biggest creative achievements. But Lasseter is also responsible, in part, for helping create the studio's memorable logo.

Prior to the start of every Pixar film except Toy Story, a lamp is seen bouncing on the letter "I" until it deflates the letter. This image is a nod to the studio's groundbreaking, Academy Award-nominated first short film, Luxo Jr. from 1986. The two-minute comedic film features two desk lamps playing with an inflatable ball. Lasseter, who directed the film, designed the lamps based on the Norwegian-designed Luxo L-1 lamp he kept on his own desk. Luxo Jr. was a significant breakthrough for both the young studio and the industry itself, establishing Pixar as a leader in computer-generated animation, so when the company needed a mascot, the Luxo lamp was a natural choice. The logo premiered after the end credits for Toy Story, the studio's 1995 landmark film that skyrocketed the company to infinity and beyond.

United States Cyber Command

The United States Cyber Command has the important job of protecting the country's military networks from cyber attacks, and they also have a logo with a meaning so deeply hidden it needed to be hacked by a professional technology security expert and not a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.

In 2010, Computer World magazine reported that threat researcher and antivirus vendor Sean-Paul Correll was the first to figure out the hidden message in the logo. Correll figured out that the characters in the gold ring of the logo are an MD5 hash. To those of us who aren't tech experts, an MD5 is a "128-bit cryptographic hash most often used to verify file integrity." Correll was able to decode the tiny characters, which ended up being the organization's mission statement.

Roxy

Frequently worn by beach babes, surfer chicks, and 1990s dELiA*s catalog models, Roxy was initially developed as a women's swimsuit line from the popular surf, skate, and snow brand Quiksilver in 1990, but it wasn't until three years later, when Roxy started to get a cult following from trendy laid back California girls, that their recognizable logo was born.

If you look very closely at the Roxy heart-shaped crest, it is actually formed by two Quiksilver logos tilted. The Quiksilver logo represents the brand's surf (the wave) and snow (the mountain) sports focus. Despite starting life as a swimsuit line, Roxy has been producing clothing and accessories for both the beach and the slopes for over 25 years, and their logo is tribute to the brand's big bro.

Lacoste

Lacoste has cemented itself as the shirt worn with the collar up by every preppy dude who was kind of a jerk in an '80s movie, but before the infamous crocodile was a status symbol, it was simply a cute representation of a tennis player's nickname. In the 1920s, René Lacoste was a tennis super star who ditched his bulky attire for a cotton, short-sleeved shirt primarily worn by British polo players. His nickname in America was The Alligator, but because even back in the 1920s nobody knew the differences between alligators and crocodiles, when he returned to his native France, they called him The Crocodile.

Embracing this badass new nickname, he started to wear blazers, shirts, and sweaters with his own personal logo, on and off the tennis court. When Lacoste retired in 1931, he began to mass market his shirts, but it wasn't until the 1950s, when the brand landed in the United States and developed a following with tennis players, golfers, and teenagers whose parents could probably get them out of a DUI, that it became a fashion icon.

Le Tour de France

It's probably the only time besides the Summer Olympics when you watch bicycle racing on TV, but the real unsung hero of the yearly French bicycle rally is the Tour de France logo. According to the Creative Bloq, the current Le Tour de France logo was created in 2002 by Joel Guenoun and has been used since the 2003 event that marked the race's 100th anniversary.

The yellow represents the maillot jaune (That means "yellow jersey" for those of you who forgot eighth grade French), the jersey given to the leader after every leg of the race, but it also forms the front wheel of a bicycle. The rear wheel is represented by the O in the word "tour," and the R is a bicyclist.

Unilever

Unilever is one of those consumer goods companies that practically run the world. They have over 1,000 brands that they own. Go ahead, grab a can of Axe body spray you probably have next to you and flip it around. Yup, that's the Unilever logo, but what's all of those little logos inside of the big U? According to Unilever, there are 25 mini logos inside of their logo, and "each icon has a rich meaning … and represents some aspect of our effort to make sustainable living commonplace."

Some of the logos make sense, like a strand of hair to represent the shampoo brands they own and an ice cream cone because they own brands like Good Humor, but others are a bit of a stretch, like a simple swirl that represents the company's "passion for great flavors and taste" or a bee that supposed to mean "the community spirit of our people and our commitment to find innovative ways of working to reduce our environmental footprint."

Tesla

If you want an electric car that doesn't look like something Mr. Bean would drive, you have to go with a sleek-and-sexy Tesla. Since 2003, Elon Musk has changed how we've viewed electric vehicles, but what's up with that T logo?

Of course, the company's name is a tribute to famed electrical engineer, physicist, and mad scientist Nikola Tesla, so it makes sense a lot of folks assume the T represents a Tesla Coil. However, Elon Musk put that rumor to rest in January 2017, after Twitter user UKPJD asked Musk what the deal is about the T logo. Musk replied, "Similar to SpaceX, the T is like a cross-section of an electric motor, just as the X is like a rocket trajectory." With production about to begin on the budget-friendly Model 3, the Tesla logo is about to become more and more recognizable, likely to the chagrin of current Tesla snobs.