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Learning Logo Design from America’s Biggest Companies

Many small business owners aspire to become something bigger. Who can blame them?

Since we write a lot about both business startups and logo design, we thought we’d take a look at the logos of the 7 largest—and at least in that sense, most successful—companies in the USA.

We took our Top 7 from the most recent Fortune 500 rankings. Here are the companies and their logos:

#1 Walmart

Wal-mart Logo

#2 Exxon Mobil

Exxon Logo#3 Chevron

Chevron Logo

#4 ConocoPhillips

ConocoPhillips Logo

#5 Fannie Mae

FannieMae Logo

#6 General Electric

GE Logo

#7 Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffet Logo

Now that you’ve seen the logos, what can we learn from them?

Color. Notice that none of the logos above has more than two colors. In fact, three of them use only one color. In fact, if we had kept going down the list of the Top 100 companies, you would find the same thing. Large companies tend to design logos with just one or two colors. You really don’t need more than that when you design yours. (Sidenote: notice there’s a lot of blue here. Blue is the most popular color used in corporate logos.)

Fonts. With the single exception of GE’s unique script icon, all of these logos use very simple fonts that are easy to read. And while there may be some unique treatment to the type—Walmart’s logo uses a version Myriad Pro with rounded corners, while ConocoPhillips uses Helvetica. The emphasis is on readability and recognizability.

Simplicity. Two of the logos don’t use an icon at all. The others have icons so simple, you might think that they are clipart. Fannie Mae’s house. Walmart’s star. ConocoPhillips’ “Mark”. There are no complex illustrations, no attempt to have the logo tell the entire company story. Just simple, easily recognizable marks.

Just the Name, Just the Name. The logos of the six largest companies don’t include any legal words like corp, inc, or llc. Why not? Aren’t they supposed to include it on all legal documents just like you? Yes, but they recognize that their logos are marketing elements, not legal documents. So they leave them out. The sole exception is Berkshire Hathaway, which is a holding company that doesn’t market any products. So the primary use of their logo is on legal documents (likely the reason Inc is part of their official logo).

Consistency. If you were to search the design archives of these companies, you would find these logos have been used the same way, with the same colors, for years. Of course there have been small changes along the way. Chevron’s logo uses a ribbon pattern in the icon to give it more depth today, in years past it was just simple red and blue. But for the most part, you’ll see the same colors, the same fonts, the icon in the same place. Always. If you learn anything from this list, this is it.

These aren’t hard and fast rules, of course. You can find examples of big company logos that do things differently. But if you’re just starting out, ready to design a logo, they’re pretty good rules to keep in mind.

Amber Ooley
Amber Ooley
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