Emblem logos are one of the most popular styles of brand mark, intended to capture the hearts of customers and tell a story about a brand. Famous emblem logos, from the Starbucks mermaid to the Superman “S”, inspire and captivate the people who see them.
When brands use an emblem logo, they’re often trying to create a distinguished, prestigious, or storied image for their organization. Unlike a standard wordmark or descriptive logo, emblems have a hidden narrative, and the ability to unify consumers in a shared community.
As one of the most popular kinds of logo, emblem designs have helped to identify a host of companies over the years from a range of different industries.
Today, we’re going to be taking a tour of some of the top logos with emblems at their core, to explore some of the unique features making famous emblem logos so special.
Defining famous emblem logos: What are emblem logos?
Before we diver into our exploration of popular emblems through the years, let’s start with a quick overview of what an “emblem” actually is.
Emblems are similar to “Badges of honor” for a company.
They’re often designed in the shape of a shield or coat of arms to represent history or may have a circular shape to represent an old-fashioned seal. These logos are most commonly used to create a prestigious personality for a brand.
They can also juxtapose modernity and youthfulness with traditional values or create a connection to the history of your brand.
Most emblem logos use a combination of words and imagery, but it is possible for some emblems to evolve into more of a picture mark, like the Starbucks logo.
Emblems are brimming with depth and meaning. More than just pictures and words jumbled together to fit in a specific shape or seal, these designs are intended to create emotions in the people who see them.
Used correctly, an emblem can evolve to become more than just a brand mark.
Many of the popular emblems we’re going to look at below are seen by their fans as marks of belonging, or connectedness to a certain community.
Emblem logo examples: Vintage emblem designs
Some of the best brand emblems are those which give a sense of history, heritage, and sophistication to the brand they represent. Meant to align with the old fashioned seals and family crests of decades ago, vintage emblem logos infuse a company’s image with time.
When we see these brand emblems, we assume the company behind them has years of experience, and subsequent expertise in their field.
Let’s take a look at some examples of traditional popular emblems…
1. GE (General Electric)
The General Electric emblem logo is an excellent example of a classic “vintage” design. The company, with more than 129 years of history at the time of writing, definitely has the story to back-up its traditional-looking logo.
The image is one of class, sophistication, and historical depth, similar to the wax seal placed on an old-fashioned letter.
2. Stella Artois
Another of the world’s better-known brand emblems comes from one of the top beer companies in the world. Stella Artois was first brewed in Belgium in 1926, and it brings this history into its logo with a scroll-style emblem design.
The flourishes around the brand name, along with the use of red and gold coloring, give Stella Artois an almost royal image.
Car logos are easiest places to search for famous brand emblems, particularly in the luxury or sports car segment. The Porsche shield tells a story of the history of the company and where the car manufacturer originated.
The old-fashioned shield design juxtaposed with the modern font of the Porsche wordmark creates a timeless sophistication for the brand.
4. Harvard University
When it comes to finding logos with emblems, the academic world is a good place to start any search. Academic institutions like Harvard often use crests and seals to highlight their history and heritage. One excellent example is Harvard University’s eye-catching red shield.
The emblem logo of Harvard College immediately informs us we’re dealing with a prestigious institution. The term “Veritas” (truth in Latin) just adds to the traditional appeal.
5. The University of Chicago
Another excellent example of an academic institution using an emblem in its logo, the University of Chicago still has quite an old-fashioned shield in its official brand image.
The design features the image of a phoenix rising from the flames, as well as the standard open book used to represent learning in the educational landscape.
Though gradually growing slightly more modern in recent times, the National Hockey League’s logo still has a vintage flair to it. The shield shape of the logo is perfect for highlighting the prestigious nature of the league.
The use of metallic shading in the silver outlines for this logo helps the image to appear slightly more up-to-date. However, it’s impossible to ignore the traditional aspects of the image.
Another example of an automotive company with an excellent famous brand emblem, Bentley’s image has evolved a handful of times over the years, but it maintains its traditional air today.
The Bentley image with its wide wings placed over a seal-style background, create a design similar to a wax seal, or an official industry mark.
Find out more about the Bentley logo here.
The UPS logo may look a little more modern than some of the popular emblems covered in this “traditional” segment of our article. However, the famous emblem logo still features a lot of the classic elements which make the emblem so appealing.
The shield shape conveys a sense of strength and reliability, intended to give customers piece of mind. While the gold and brown coloring also have a vintage charm to them.
Find out more about the UPS logo here.
Like Harvard, Princeton is another well-known emblem logo within the educational environment. The Ivy League university was first founded in 1746, making it one of the oldest higher education facilities in the United States.
The current brand mark for the university combines traditional elements, like a shield shape and an open book with a Latin phrase, with bold colors like orange and black.
10. Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo’s brand emblem still has a lot of the original history of the company baked into it. The design features the classic serpent which has stayed with the brand since its initial inception, although the contours and lines of the design have been cleaned for the modern audience.
Today, the Alfa Romeo logo still tells a story about where the business came from.
Find our more about the Alfa Romeo logo here.
Brands with emblems: The modern logo emblem
While most of the famous emblem logos we’ll mention today have vintage or “traditional” elements to them, many companies have attempted to modernize their image over the years.
Most brands with emblems will update their logo design from time to time, either with fresh colors or refined shapes, to help attract a wider range of customers.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular emblems with a modern flair…
Ferrari still has many elements of a traditional “emblem” in its design. There’s the prancing horse associated with the company’s history, and the compelling colors, representing the region the company came from.
However, the shape and style of the Ferrari logo has been altered. The company tends to use a rectangle, rather than the standard shield today.
Find out more about the Ferrari logo here.
12. Warner Bros
When asked to mention popular emblems, there are few people in the branding who would immediately picture the “Warner Bros” shield. This excellent example of a brand emblem has evolved with the cinema company since the start of 1923.
Today, the design is a far more modern image, with bold lettering and bright colors, intended to attract a younger audience.
13. Harley Davidson
The Harley Davidson logo, and the company’s unique approach to branding, makes it one of the most successful and memorable automobile brands in the world.
Harley Davidson uses its iconic brand mark as a badge of honor for everyone who considers themselves part of the company’s community.
Different stores across the world can even create variations of the official brand shield for their local stores, making the design even more meaningful.
Find out more about the Harley Davidson logo here.
14. Chicago Cubs
Sports teams frequently use emblems in their brand designs because they’re excellent for merchandising purposes. Take a look at the emblem for the Chicago Cubs for instance; it’s bold, eye-catching, memorable, and easy to use on a range of products.
The Chicago Cubs logo might look modern today, but it still draws the mind back to the iconic seal common in emblem logos.
Speaking of sporting groups using their own brand emblem, the NFL is another excellent example. One of the most famous emblem logos around, the NFL shield represents patriotism, heritage, and prestige in the American football industry.
The shield design is a classic choice for a group trying to convey strength and history. The use of the bright colors help to make this traditional shield more suitable for the modern world.
Combining the image of the founder with an easy-to-read wordmark, the KFC logo is a fantastic insight into how eye-catching modern brand emblems can be. The design is clean-cut, sophisticated, and minimalist, with a touch of history still lingering in the face of Colonel Sanders.
Though the recent KFC logo isn’t adored by everyone, it makes the right impression for the fast food company.
Look back through the history of a number of popular car brands, and you’ll find brand logos which have evolved from traditional emblems. The BMW logo is an excellent example of this.
Though the design is minimalist and modern today, it’s still an effective brand emblem. Within the logo, we see a flag referencing the history of the brand, as well as the name of the company itself.
Learn more about the BMW logo here.
Official government entities and groups still need logos. NASA is an excellent example of how a logo emblem can give depth and meaning to the image of an official “Administration”.
Though extremely modern in its design, the NASA logo features all the components of a classic emblem, including the circular seal shape, the name of the company, and the deeper meaning in the planetary imagery.
A fantastic insight into how popular emblems for companies can evolve over time, the Lamborghini logo is one of the most eye-catching in the automotive industry.
Here we see the classic shield style often associated with the emblem brand mark, as well as the name of the Lamborghini Company, written in modern font.
The golden bull draws attention to the values of the brand, including strength, resilience, and stability.
Find out more about the Lamborghini logo here.
20. Panda Express
Companies from all industries can take advantage of emblem style logos to help capture the attention of their audience.
The Panda Express logo, for instance, follows the standard seal-style design, with a circular logo featuring a brand mascot in the middle, and the name of the company written in an emotive, exotic font.
The design gives a sense of credibility to the company, making it more likely customers will want to trust their food.
Famous brand emblems: Other popular emblems
Brands with emblems appear all over the world today. You probably have a famous emblem logo in mind right now, and a clear idea of how the image makes you feel. Popular emblems can covey a huge range of thoughts and feelings, changing the way we perceive a brand.
Here are some more famous brand emblems to help inspire your own logo design…
21. Johns Hopkins University
As mentioned above, scholarly institutions are among the groups who most commonly use the emblem style logo. This is often because an emblem, in the form of a shield or a seal can help to draw attention to the history of the facility.
The Johns Hopkins University logo is an excellent example of this. Though 145 years old, the school has updated its shield-style logo to suit the times.
Not all emblem logos have to feature the name of the company or idea they represent. Sometimes, it’s enough for a logo to be associate with a specific concept or feeling. The Superman logo is one of the best-known emblems in pop culture, associated with strength, power, and protection.
This emblem is one of the many which seemed to take on a life of its own over the years.
Another excellent example of a university logo using the emblem style, the Cornell University symbol is a sophisticated and prestigious mark, featuring a shield, and the official founding date of the facility.
This is clearly a logo intended to convey a sense of history and pride for the institution it represents, and it accomplishes this goal.
One of the more modern versions of a car logo emblem on this list, the Mini Cooper mark has transformed over the years to maintain the attention of its target audience.
The design is intended to represent not just the shape of the front of a car, but a set of wings, creating ideas of speed and freedom common among automotive brands.
While older versions of the Starbucks logo might seem like a more traditional choice for emblem logo examples, the most recent design still makes a resounding impact.
This brand emblem has been stripped back to its core elements in recent years, to create a more modern, minimalistic image.
However, the history and meaning of the logo emblem still shines through today.
The Volkswagen logo is one of the most frequently mentioned emblems in any list showcasing famous examples. This image today is one of the more modern options on our list, but it still holds elements of the brand’s history within it.
Similar versions of the VW logo have appeared for the last several decades as the company has looked for ways to refine its image.
Another excellent example of a famous brand emblem from the automotive industry, Ford’s logo has a lot more meaning than most people recognize.
The classic seal-style emblem may not have the added imagery and shapes we see in a lot of emblems, but it does feature the name of the company, written in a style to match the handwriting of the founder.
Find out more about the Ford logo here.
The Honda motorcycle emblem sets the bikes made by the company aside from its selection of cars. This emblem features the wing of the Greek Goddess Nike, the same Goddess who inspired the name of the famous athletic company.
It’s more likely you’ll see the emblem version of this branding on the actual motorcycles created by Honda, while a picture mark is more common in branding documents.
29. The Department of Justice
Official departments in the government landscape frequently use emblem style logos as a way of conveying authority. This is definitely the case for the seal used by the Department of Justice.
This emblem is incredibly executive in style, though it might be a little too complex for use in most business branding strategies.
30. Three Lions (England national team)
Finally, perhaps the most famous emblem logo in the sporting world of the UK, the three-lions logo is based on the official shield for England. This image, though modernized over the years, continues to be a significant source of pride and meaning for the football fans who see it.
The three lions design has also inspired a number of other sporting logos in the country over the years.
The impact of famous emblem logos
There are countless different kinds of logos companies can choose from when building their brand image today. Choosing the right style for your brand mark can be an important decision when it comes to determining what kind of message your company is going to send.
Brand leaders who choose emblem designs to represent their business are usually looking for an opportunity to convey authority, history, or prestige. However, an emblem can also be an excellent way to pay homage to the story of your business, or where it originally came from.
An emblem, with its ability to include both words and images, can convey a great deal of meaning in a very short space of time. Over the years, countless companies have embraced classical and modern versions of emblems to make their own story more compelling.
If you’re thinking of using an emblem as your brand mark, make sure you work with a professional. Emblems can be tricky to get right, and it’s easy to make these marks too complex if you’re not careful.
The right professional logo designer will help to preserve and protect your image.
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