It stands to reason – one might think – that the richer the company, the sleeker their logo should be. After all, a corporation worth billions of dollars has a lot more dough to spend on branding than your local corner store.
Here at 99designs, we’re all devoted to raising the bar for small business’ design needs, so naturally we’re curious to know what truly top-shelf logo design looks like. But when we looked up the top ten highest valued companies of 2013, we found quite a range: many iconic greats, but a few rather embarrassingly crummy brand marks as well. Guess money can’t buy everything.
Without further introduction, here are the ten richest companies (as calculated by market capitalization – value of shares multiplied by number of shares sold, rounded to the nearest billion) in reverse order. Can you guess who holds the #1 spot?
10. Chevron – $230 billion
In 1984, Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil merged to create this energy giant. For its new name, the company appropriated a design term from Standard Oil’s logo: the chevron, as those V-shaped forms are called. Chevrons date back to military badges and, before that, heraldry.
Other logos from Chevron’s corporate history. A series of acquisitions and mergers over the past century brought the current giant into existence.
9. Nestlé – $233 billion
This Swiss company’s logo harkens back to its wholesome beginnings as a simple milk company with an immensely profitable specialty product: milk chocolate. Now, having acquired many other companies and expanded its product line to include everything from pet food to coffee, Nestlé is the largest food and beverage company in the world.
The evolution of the Nestlé logo, from 1905 through the present.
8. IBM – $237 billion
This company began by making time recorders, computing scales and tabulating machines (all archaic technologies by today’s standards) before branding itself with the overarching “International Business Machines.” Its current logo was designed in 1972 by graphic design legend Paul Rand.
The three IBM logos that preceded Rand’s current version.
7. Microsoft – $239 billion
Microsoft is typically associated with its operating system, Windows. Indeed, the company’s logo even references this product, though its product line now includes everything from search engines (Bing) to video games (Xbox).
Microsoft had some pretty, uh, funky logos prior to its black mark, which it used from 1987 through 2012.
6. General Electric – $239 billion
General Electric’s logo may seem to resemble a washing machine or perhaps the base of a lightbulb, but it is in fact purely ornamental – not representational of any of conglomerate’s products. Dating back to the early Twentieth century, its curly script and dynamic prongs are a product of the Art Nouveau style. The design has held up remarkably well over the years, requiring only a slight facelift by Wolff Olins in 2004.
The evolution of GE’s logo since 1892.
5. Wal-Mart – $246 billion
Sam Walton began his supermarket/retail chain in 1962, with a model of selling items at lower-than-usual prices but in higher volume. Now Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, employing some two million employees and sporting this cheerfully boring logo.
Walmart’s current logo may be disappointing, but it’s a step up from the company’s original mark: a cheesy Western font.
4. PetroChina – $254 billion
PetroChina, China’s largest oil producer, is actually an arm of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, but it is still traded publicly in Hong Kong and New York.
PetroChina’s only affiliated “logo”: the Chinese flag. They certainly bear some similarities.
3. Berkshire Hathaway – $256 billion
While you might not be directly familiar with this conglomerate holding company, you probably recognize some of the subsidiary companies that it oversees and manages, among them: GEICO, Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom. Apparently conglomerate holding companies don’t need snazzy logos; Berkshire Hathaway’s, with its stodgy font and bizarre kerning, is a bit of an eyesore.
Dairy Queen, Geico and Fruit of the Loom all have decent logos, whereas their parent company’s leaves much to be desired
2. Exxon Mobil – $403 billion
Exxon Mobil is the product of a 1999 merger of Exxon and Mobil, both East Coast oil producers and direct descendants of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.
Before Exxon Mobil there were Exxon and Mobil. Before Exxon there was Esso.
1. Apple Inc. – $415 billion
Surprised? Probably not. With a line of intensely beloved products including Mac computers, the iPod, iPad and iPhone, Apple Inc. ranks as the highest-valued company of 2013.
Apple has held onto its iconic mark since 1977, updating only its surface sheen. Before that, it used a pen and ink illustration of Sir Isaac Newton leaning against an apple tree, along with an inscribed quote by William Wordsworth: “Newton … a mind forever voyaging through the strange seas of thought … alone.”