This article was contributed by Robert Everett.
Consider for a moment what well-known brands have for their logos.
It may be an abstract representation of a half-bitten apple, a highly-stylized letter “M,” more probably, it’s an image of an animal.
Emblems and logos serve an explicit purpose, they are vital in establishing a brand image. The design of a logo sometimes goes beyond the concept of simple aesthetics and can be used to describe core values of the brand.
That’s why companies and corporations spare no expenses when creating one. Brand power is a powerful marketing tool, and it can easily draw people in with a relatable image.
Logos and underlying themes
By giving an additional layer to a piece of work (art, literature, etc.), artists can express new meaning and complexities. Symbolism can be applied to nearly everything.
Not every logo can be easily distilled to its core, however. And not every logo has a meaningful story behind it. Keep in mind that there may be perceived symbolism, actual symbolism, and possibly lack of it altogether.
Our perception of animal designs can be biased and swayed, but in either case, animal designs are popular for a reason.
Why animals in logos?
There are, without a doubt, plenty of instantly recognizable brand logos with animals. But is there any particular reason for it?
Humans are a part of the animal kingdom, and animals were always held in high regard by our predecessors. Animals were believed to be deities, with every culture having different beliefs regarding them. From prehistoric cavern paintings to modern interpretations, it wasn’t just about their appearance.
Animal logos aren’t specifically used in animal-centric causes, like preservation and conservation organizations. It is common among titans of industry to represent their corporate stance and ideas by an animal.
This article aims to give a brief synopsis on a select few animal logos which evolved and stood the test of time.
Let’s begin with some instantly recognizable automotive logos.
Ferrari — The Prancing Horse
Try naming a more recognizable maker of sports cars. This legendary Italian manufacturer has been in the business of building cars since 1947 (in an official capacity).
Ferrari never had any reason to redesign their logo.
The logo itself — a prancing black stallion on a yellow background – was suggested by Paulina Barraca, a mother of Francesco Barracca (a World War I fighter plane ace who died in 1918). She proposed it to Enzo Ferrari and told him that he should use it as a good-luck charm on his racing vehicle. The logo remained roughly untouched ever since.
The prancing horse fits the legacy of Ferrari well — all cars being manufactured are thought of being very fast, ferocious and untamable. Just like a wild stallion.
Jaguar — The Wild Cat
A luxury British car manufacturer. Known for its sophisticated class and style, old Jaguar cars are sought after by collectors and car enthusiasts alike.
The pouncing jaguar logo was introduced back in 1945. The choice of animal wasn’t random; it was meant to illustrate fundamental values of the manufacturer — ambition, grace, and power.
There is also the second variation of the logo — a round emblem with the face of a jaguar. They are both commonly used in the current selection of vehicles.
Lamborghini — The Taurus
Another Italian sports car manufacturer. Lamborghini, as a brand, was conceived to be a direct competitor to Ferrari. The founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, was a Taurus by horoscope, held a high regard for bulls and Spanish corrida.
The gold-black logo may have some similarities with Ferraris emblem. Legend has it; Ferruccio Lamborghini had done it to promote the rivalry between the manufacturers.
But for now, let’s switch gears and briefly break away from the automotive theme.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — Leo the Lion
Hollywood was uncompromising about breaking new ground in the early 20th century. Silent movies were slowly getting phased out by “talkies.”
And since 1924, MGM used lions in their production titles; they became the mascot and trademark of the studio. Many lions were used in MGM titles over the years, but the production footage of the current one — Leo — has been in the rotation the longest, since 1957.
The footage of a lion roaring is arguably the most iconic image in production film titles.
Animal Planet — The Elephant
While on the topic of animals and logos, it would be careless not to mention Animal Planet, a Discovery Channel. Is there a better way to learn about animals and be entertained? Probably not.
Animal Planet has a massive international following, with millions of households having access to it.
Now onto the logo itself, it was featured on the channel’s regular programming for 12 years. Since the beginning in 1996 and until 2008. The channel relaunched its branding campaign in 2008 and got rid of its iconic Elephant in the logo. Now the M is often replaced by an animal in its place.
As a symbol, the elephant stood for loyalty, dignity, and strength.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund or World Wide Fund for Nature) — The Panda
WWF is a wilderness protection organization.
The panda bear named Chi Chi has become a symbol of WWF five years after its inception in 1966. Chi Chi was known as the only panda residing in the Western Hemisphere during that time. Pandas have a status of being vulnerable species as well, a perfect fit for a conservational organization that aims to preserve wildlife.
The logo itself is quite simplistic, yet tasteful. By only being a black-and-white image, it was easily memorable. The logo lived through a couple of iterations but has remained mostly the same since 1966.
Linux — The Tux
The story behind this popular operating system kernel is quite amusing. Linus Torvalds, the creator, was afflicted by an allegorical disease called “penguinitis.” This disease made people “stay awake at night and feel great love towards penguins.”
The name of the mascot — Tux, stems from the word “Tuxedo,” an evening suit. A clever way of playfully referring to the appearance of penguins.
This is a perfect example of a logo not having to symbolize anything, just genuine admiration for a particular bird species. Tux has been around since 1996, and he aims to stay.
Nestlé — The Little Nest
Nestle is, arguably, the biggest food and drink company in the world as of now. Founded way back in 1866 by Henri Nestle. The logo that displays a bird tending to its nest and newborn chicks became the basis for the modern one, which was completed in 1875. The initial draft design looked like a crest and barely resembles the modern one. It lived through a couple of iterations, but the original concept is perfectly preserved within the new one.
Lacoste — The Crocodile
A French clothing, perfume and footwear brand, established in 1933. The Croc logo can be found on nearly everything Lacoste manufactures – polos, shoes, leather goods, and sportswear.
The precursor to establishing The Croc as an emblem is a small story of René Lacoste, who was a tennis player at the time. Ten years before the foundation of the firm, he had a bet with the team captain of his tennis team regarding a crocodile suitcase.
If Lacoste had won the game he had that day, he would have been given a brand new bag.
He didn’t win the bet, but the local journalist got wind of their wager and characterized Lacoste’s performance as “fighting like a true crocodile” in a newspaper article. It permanently stuck to Lacoste and became his new alias and embroidery talisman.
Twitter — The Bird
Even though Twitter’s mascot was initially added to the social media site in 2010, its current iteration was complete in 2012. It quickly became a signature identifying mark of the website and social media platforms in general. It’s just a silhouette of a bird that closely resembles a mountain bluebird.
The success of this mascot makes it evident that you don’t need an elaborate design to fulfill a goal.
So there you have it. In summary, old designs can be an easily transitioned into the modern age just by a small artistic touch.
What does the future have in store regarding animal logos? No sure way to tell. But if past and present are any indication, designers and artistically inclined people will continue using them. They are timeless, made for posterity, and will always remain relevant.