Logo Sketches Of Famous Brands

Arek Dvornechcuck
Branding Expert

I'm a strategist and designer based in New York who help brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch

Have you ever wondered what are the rough logo sketches behind famous brands? You might be surprised by how these iconic logos began.

Sketching is where the science – which is everything we've learnt during the brand strategy - meets the art.In this phase, thoughts and feelings take form.

Sketching is intuitive exploration of conceptual design solutions.

Some designers use a napkin to sketch, some use a sketchbook and the others start right away with the computer.

During the design process I sketch my logo ideas by hand – using pencils, pens, china markers or paint brushes and often correction fluid, rulers and compasses.

Sketching logos on paper or tracing paper is the way that works best for me, as well as many successful designers.

Ultimately it’s all about the idea, right?

Best Logo Sketches:

  1. I Love NY
  2. Chase Bank
  3. Citi Bank
  4. Exxon
  5. Virgin
  6. Mobil
  7. WWF
  8. Nike

1. I Love NY

The I love NY logo was designed in 1977 by a famous American designer Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser came up with the I Love NY logo by doodling in a taxi cab.

The heart is placed there to represent the word "love".

I love NY logo sketch
I love NY—logo sketch.

Why New York needed logo?

In the early 1970′ New York was near bankruptcy, things were not looking good and the city needed money, and a great way to make money it was through tourism advertising.

An advertising company came up with the slogan “I love New York” which they would later build an entire advertising campaign on.

Next, Milton Glaser was hired and he came up with a logo that would be used in the campaign, he explains in an interview.

2. Chase Bank

The Chase logo was designed in 1961 by an iconic American designer Tom Geismar.

Tom Geismar, had set out to create a bold, abstract octagonal shape.

The Chase bank logo embodies feelings of motion and activity.

Chase bank logo sketch
Chase Bank—logo sketch.

Why Chase needed logo?

The logo was created, because the Chase National Bank and the Bank of the Manhattan Company merged to form the Chase Manhattan Bank.

At the time, few American corporations used abstract symbols for their identification.

Seen as radical in that context, the Chase symbol has survived a number of subsequent mergers and has become one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks.

“Initially, not everyone at the bank loved the new logo, but within months, higher-ups who had once been skeptical were wearing it on ties and cufflinks. “

Said, Tom Gesimar, in his interview.

3. Citi Bank

The Citi Bank logo was designed by Paula Scher from Pentagram and it cost $1,5m

The sketch of the Citi Bank logo was made by Paula Scher in 5 min on a napkin.

The umbrella in the Citibank logo is there to secure customers from financial upheavals.

Citi Bank logo sketch
City Bank—logo sketch.

In 1998, Citigroup merged with the consumer division known as Citibank and a new logo was needed.

Before Paula Scher and the Pentagram team could get to logo design they met with Citibank leadership to discuss their challenges and what they were hoping to get out of the engagement.

As she listened Paula started to idly doodle on a napkin. After 5 minutes she said “Here’s your logo” – and that was it.

Citibank had the crux of what was to become their new branding. All in less than 5 minutes yet still for $1.5m.

Now $1.5m for a logo might sound like a lot of money, but the reality is that for a company as large as Citi the value of the logo justifies the cost.

Learn more about the $1.5m napkin logo.

4. Exxon

The Exxon logo as well as the name was designed by Raymond Loewy.

Loewy came up with seventy-six rough pencil sketches, placing emphasis on the double ‘x.’

The two x’s subliminally recalled the ‘s’s’ in Esso and thus helped ease the transition from the old name to the new.”

Exxon logo sketch
Exxon—logo sketch.

The sheet shows the trials and rejections as Loewy created a new logo for Standard Oil Company.

From the eighteen design ideas on the page, Loewy highlighted his final choice with an ‘okay’.

The date says 1966, but the name wasn’t officially changed to Exxon until 1972.

Catch the full logo history on the ExxonMobile website.

Loewy also designed the 1971 Shell logo, still in use today.

5. Virgin

Legend has it that Richard Branson invited a young designer to his houseboat to talk about logo design options and at some point during the discussion:

The designer scribbled the now iconic signature on a paper napkin during the discovery phase.

Richard Branson loved it for it’s ‘in your face’ simplicity, attitude and energy. With minor revisions over the years, the logo is still intact today.

Virgin logo sketch
Virgin—logo sketch.

This punk inspired, handwritten logo is still used today, and represents the exciting, ever-disrupting world of Virgin and adorns everything from planes and trains to health clubs and banks.

I’m always referencing the ‘napkin doodle’ to my new clients, as a way to explain how some of the creative brainstorming process can come about.

Something as rough as a few words scribbled on a napkin can lead to mighty mighty things.

Learn more about the Virgin logo.

6. Mobil

In the mid-1960', architect Eliot Noyes designed a modern service station concept, and Chermayeff & Geismar developed a new logo and identity for Mobil Oil Corporation.

The Mobil logo was sketched by Tom Geismar in 1964 with a goal to make a clean and modern identity.

The Mobil Company undertook a comprehensive design program, initially focusing on developing a radically cleaner, more modern and attractive service stations.

Mobil logo sketch
Mobil—logo sketch.

The red ‘o’ is there to reinforce a design concept to use circular canopies, pumps, and display elements for a distinctive and attractive look.

It also served to help people pronounce the name correctly (Mo-bil, not Mo-bile).

And lastly to add a single memorable and distinctive element to this very simple lettering style.

The logo was designed by Tom Geismar.

7. WWF

When WWF’s founders became aware of the need for a strong, recognizable symbol, they came to conclusion that the big, furry animal would make an excellent logo.

British artist Gerald Watterson played a key role in the original panda logo by producing the initial sketches.

The inspiration came from Chi-Chi: a giant panda that had arrived at the London Zoo in the year 1961

WWF logo sketch
WWF—logo sketch.

The firm responsible for the current logo work was the San Francisco office of Landor.

“We looked at a dozen ways to add details to the eyes before realizing the obvious — the solid black shapes were the most engaging and open to interpretation.” said Jerry Kuyper, the design director.

The WWF panda logo has since come to stand as a symbol for the conservation movement as a whole and hasn’t been change since 1986.

Also check my other article where I explain on best nonprofit logos.

8. Nike

Phil Knight (the founder of Nike) knew that Davidson was in search of extra funds, so he asked Davidson to help him out with an image that could go on the side of the shoe.

Carolyn Davidson came up with the Nike Swoosh, a check mark shape that is fluid and indicates movement and speed.

The Nike logo was designed by a design student Carolyn Davidson in 1971 for total of $35

Nike logo sketch
Nike—logo sketch.

The image also resembles a wing and hinted at the brand name, Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory.

Knight was initially saying that he didn’t love the logo, but it will “grow in him” and it has since become one of the most famous athletic shoe and gear brands of all time.

Davidson maintains that she doesn’t know how long she worked on the Nike Swoosh, but that she only charged Knight for 17.5 hours of work—which ended up in a $35 paycheck.

Learn more about the $35 Nike logo.

How To Sketch Logos

This is a matter of personal choice but I believe that sketching by hand gives a designer an immediacy of artistic expression.

Sketching by using pencil on paper gives you an immediacy of artistic expression.

It's a perfect intuitive extension of creative impulses. So that's why I and many famous logo designers begin every project by sketching by hand.

Sketching logos: pencil on paper
Sketching logos.

In this phase of logo creation, I’m looking for the most direct connection between an idea and the creation of a form.

In the early conceptual phase, the computer’s preprogrammed functions often just get in the way.

Time For Reflection

Sketching logos might be time-consuming and for this reason taking breaks is as important as the research and the design brief.

By taking a break and resting, your ideas mature and develop in the back of your head.

It is so easy to get stuck and get tired of a project and this is why logo designers take breaks.

Sketching: Time for reflection.
Reflection after sketching.

When you go back to your project, you have renewed enthusiasm, insight and opportunity.

You’ve probably heard about the fact that usually the best ideas comes in the least expected moments.

While your conscious mind is consumed by by other tasks (e.g. driving a car or even taking a shower) you unconsciousness comes up with some extraordinary ideas – eureka!

Selecting Logo Concepts

I judge my initial ideas against three basic criteria for a successful logo design:

  • Appropriate – fits well for the client and their business
  • Distinctive – stands out, but easy to recognize and memorize
  • Flexible – works in different sizes and in various contexts

A logo for a nonprofit, for instance, needs to look different from a logo for a bank.

And designs should be memorable, able to be drawn after having been seen just a few times.

Finalizing Designs

The rough designs are then scanned and translated into digital artwork.

This process includes a great deal of tweaking by hand.

Next I print the designs, trace them, rework them by hand, scan them again, and so on.

As result the logo concepts improve and become stronger very quickly.

I eventually select the promising directions to be carried further.

Sketching: selecting logo concepts.

Remember that while logo must be very simple, designing one is definitely not.

It’s all about the idea, but even if you have the greatest idea, you must know how to execute it well.

Behind every great logo design concept there’s a ton of sketching, brainstorming and revisions to get to that great concept.

If you were only to remember one thing from this article, I want to remember that the best way to sketch your logo ideas is to start with pen on paper – and you should never, ever go straight on computer.

After you have a clear idea of what you want do execute digitally, then and only then you can open up illustrator and start exploring this particular logo sketch digitally.

Also check my logo design process where I describe other phases (besides sketching) in more detail.

Were you surprise by seeing those rough sketches of famous logos?

How do you sketch you logo ideas?

Share this article on social media and leave a comment below.

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