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It’s a Woodunit

Kapil Vaishnani
by Kapil Vaishnani  |  23rd Jan, 2015 in Show

Famous logos use elaborate techniques of subliminal messaging to embed a brand’s hidden messages for its customers.

Have you ever looked at a logo and wondered what its meaning was or what brain wave produced it?

Or, ever saw a logo that you may have seen a million times before, but one day the apple falls, the wisdom dawns and you begin to look at it from an entirely new perspective altogether?

Or, seen a logo, and without being told what it is or what story is it trying to tell, you get it all – in one clean sweep?

Truth be told there are hidden, embedded, coded messages in our logos. These are meant to work, not directly but subliminally. In other word, in the language of logos, 2+2 may not be = 4, it can also be 22, or whatever symbolism the designer has embedded into it that in a short code tells the story of your brand.

In an adman’s world, logo design and branding are the key pillars of corporate identity. You cannot begin to imagine the amount of brainstorming that goes behind creating a simple icon. The idea is to intrigue the target’s subconscious mind with clever subliminal techniques, guess his/her needs and vulnerabilities, and implant an idea of a solution there.

This kind of subliminal manipulation is however not unique to the advertising world. Artists do it in abstract art, poets do it, musicians and singers do it, even spiritual leaders do it through their discourses, and of course logo designers do it. Let’s take a look at some really cool examples of such subliminal messaging . Even if you have seen these logos before, you’ll probably end up learning something new and interesting about the brand by reading the rationale for these designs. However do share your alternate interpretations of these famous logos – and we might learn something from you!


The Adidas logo appears like a mountain to represent the obstacles that we are required to overcome on sports ground and in real life. Originally the logo carried just three stripes. Later, the three stripes were made to represent this mountain metaphor.


Designed by Anthony Biles at Turner Duckworth, the Amazon logo must be one of the world’s top-recognized logos, with the highest recall quotient. The arrow in the amazon logo is meant to drive home the point that Amazon store sells everything from A to Z, striking similarity with the Amazon forest that, many say, supports the world’s biodiversity in its vast expanse. Another, less-serious interpretation – the arrow is a smiling expression from a customer who has had a happy shopping experience with the online store.

Sony Vaio

Sony Vaio
Designed by Timothy Hanley, the Sony Vaio logo is one of the best examples of latent messaging. The left side of the logo represents the idea of analog technology, while the right reminds of numbers “1” and “0”, the two digits used in binary computing. Hence the logo represents anything digital, and goes pat with VAIO, an acronym for Video Audio Intelligent Organizer.


The LG logo represents the merger of two Korean companies, Lucky and Gold Star. The circle represents the globe, future, youth, humanity, and technology, while the smiley face shows a happy customer and the company’s service orientation. Incidentally this also goes with their tagline – “Life’s Good.”

All said and done, symbolism, especially of a rich, layered variety makes a brand intriguing, mystifying and magical. It challenges the target to explore the hidden proposition. Minimalistic and iconic, it tells an interesting story, stirs our imagination and challenges us to play detective. At Litmus Designing, we encourage our logo designers to pack more concept, graphical tricks and punch into our clients’ corporate identities. It should never be plain, but complex and layered in character as human beings are, as logos have to represent a company’s who personality.

Now take a look at your company’s logo. What do you think?
Does it tell an interesting story?

Kapil Vaishnani

Founder - Chairman, Litmus Branding Pvt. Ltd.
Kapil Vaishnani founded Litmus in 2001 to water his passion for creating brands. Kapil’s a creative brain hitched at business. He firmly believes that focused communication is the key and it must carry a purpose that serves both brand and business. Simplicity is Kapil’s power gear that has shaped some of the prominent brands in India and globally. His passion-filled sportsmanship with multi-disciplinary talent is brimming with experience of 20+ years. Talk sense and he is all ears.