The Fedex Logo and its Designer

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Fedex Logo (Click to enlarge the thumbnail.)

Do you see anything hidden in the Fedex Logo?

Some do. Some don’t.

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Clearer now? (Click to reveal)

Lindon Leader of Leader Creative created the logo for what was then called “Federal Express”, and now explains the rationale behind the logo, and why it survived much as he had forseen back in 1994

When did you design the logo?

1994, as Senior Design Director at Landor Associates, San Francisco.

Has the logo won many awards?

To my knowledge, over forty worldwide and they continue. In its May 15, 2003 35th Anniversary “American Icon” issue, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it as one of the 8 best logos of the past thirty-five years. Along side Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, IBM, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Playboy.

Is this the most “famous” logo you have designed?

In terms of sheer ubiquity, absolutely. Though the logos for Ryder trucks, CIGNA, the NCAA and Latin America’s largest bank, Banco Bradesco (Sao Paulo, Brazil) are familiar in their own right.

Do you get free FedEx deliveries for life now?

I wish. But I did get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to command an MD-11 flight simulator at the Memphis hub. Unfortunately, I crashed the plane into the sand dunes at LAX on approach from Hong Kong. Nobody hurt, though.

At what point in the design process did you realize you could create an arrow with those letters?

First of all, by the time we’d gotten to this point we’d already created and reviewed over 200 designs; some close-in to the “old” Federal Express logo and others progressively more daring (though all the while retaining the enormous cache of the famous orange and purple (despite the fact that many respondents in focus groups thought the Federal Express colors were “red and blue” ). The current design was one of six semifinalists that were being refined for a presentation to very senior management.

If you put a lower-case “x” to the right of a capital “E” (Ex) you can begin to see a hint of an arrow, though it is clumsy and extremely abstract. I thought that, if I could develop this concept of an “arrow” it could be promoted as a symbol for speed and precision, both FedEx communicative attributes. And, by the way, different kinds of arrows were utilized with some of the other semi-final candidates, though none of those were “hidden.”

Once I decided to refine the concept of the embedded arrow, I found that, to make the arrow more legitimate and identifiable, one needed to actually reconstruct the letterforms in order to make the arrow happen. This leads to your next question:

Did you have to manipulate the font in anyway to create a perfect arrow?

Yes, indeed. I was studying Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold, both wonderful faces. But each had its potential limitations downstream in application to thousands of FedEx media, from waybills and embroidered courier caps to FedEx.com and massive signage for aircraft, buildings and vehicles. Moreover, neither was particularly suited to forcing an arrow into its assigned parking place without torturing the beautifully crafted letterforms of the respective faces. To avoid getting too technical here, suffice it to say I took the best characteristics of both and combined them into unique and proprietary letterforms that included both ligatures (connected letters) and a higher “x-height,” or increased size of the lower-case letters relative to the capital letters. I worked these features around until the arrow seemed quite natural in shape and location.

Why choose to keep the arrow so subtle? It seems to show remarkable restraint. Weren’t you or the people at FedEx ever tempted to make it more obvious with an outline or a different color?

A good question and one that I am frequently asked. An arrow, in and of itself, is one of the most mundane graphic devices in visual communications. Truly, there is nothing unique or particularly strategic (marketing-wise) in using an arrow as a brand identifier. Early on, before the brand rollout in mid-1994, FedEx’s public relations agency was preparing to emphasize the arrow as a secondary graphic to underscore the “speed/precision” positioning. They proposed to leverage this in their FedEx communications. Landor put its foot down and said, “No way.”

The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a “hidden bonus.” It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don’t. Importantly, not “getting the punch line” by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication. The power of the logo and the FedEx marketing supporting the logo is strong enough to convey clearly FedEx brand positioning. On the other hand, if you do see the arrow, or someone points it out to you, you won’t forget it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun they have asking others “if they can spot ‘something’ in the logo.” To have filled in the arrow, or to somehow make it more “visible” would have been like Henny Youngman saying “Please take my wife” instead of “Take my wife. Please.” Punch lines that need to be explained are neither funny nor memorable.

Is there anything else interesting about the creation of the logo that you can remember?

Well, in “selling” an identity into a company it always comes down to the CEO. Fred Smith is a marketing genius and understands the vital role of design in brand building. A smart, intuitive man. After a year of worldwide focus groups and brand strategy revitalization, Mr. Smith accepted the strategy to change the communicative name of the company from Federal Express to FedEx for a whole host of reasons I won’t get into here.

In authorizing us to commence the next phase of developing a graphic identity for this “new” name, he sent us off with these charges: 1), “If you come back and tell me our colors need to be pink and green just give me very good reason to do it and 2), “If I’m standing on a street corner, I need to see a FedEx truck from five blocks away.” Meaning that the brand expression needed to be large, impactful and differentiating, which was accomplished with this specific design system, one of five presented to Mr. Smith and his executive team on April 23, 1994 in Memphis. And, in the process, we made the orange more orange and the purple less blue.

What separated this candidate from the others? Among other reasons,
Mr. Smith was the only executive in a room of 12 that spotted the arrow right away.

Are you like a rock star in the world of logo design now?

Well, we Fortune 1000 identity guys and gals are behind the scenes most of the time. We do get our individual recognition from design competitions, but generally speaking, the design public only hears of the branding firm that created the design; in this case, Landor Associates. And the public at large doesn’t know who designs something or even cares to know. So, these days you won’t find me ducking crowds screaming for my autograph. No.

Have you ever been asked to autograph a FedEx truck?

I’ve never been able to find a Magic Marker big enough for the job. But I have signed FedEx letter envelopes and boxes. And, of course, my autograph is on my monthly check to FedEx.

What’s it like to see something you came up with, all over the place?

Fabulous. And very gratifying. It takes me back to my very first employer out of Art Center in Pasadena, the renown Los Angeles designer Saul Bass. Toward the end of his career in 1980 or so, an interviewer asked him if still got out a thrill out of it all after some 40 years and a million awards in the corporate identity and film industries. Saul said he had been in a car one day recently with his 5 year-old daughter who exclaimed, “Look Daddy! There goes one of your [AT&T] trucks!” And Saul said to the interviewer, “You know, seeing that truck coming down the road still makes me proud after all these years.”

( From The Sneeze )
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17 Comments

  1. Marvin H Miller
    Posted 24 December, 2007 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I hope this not a dream or a hoax Thank You

  2. michael
    Posted 24 December, 2007 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    @Mr Miller. Neither a dream nor a hoax. Just the internet! Thank you!

  3. JESUS DUARTE ACUÑA
    Posted 20 February, 2008 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    I PREFER YOU MAIL MY PACAGE BY
    UPS PLEASE THANK YOU VERY MUCH
    IS BECAUSE I DONT KNOW IF FEDEX HAS OFFICE HERE IN HERMOSILLO,
    SONORA, MEXICO.

  4. GIDEON JULIES
    Posted 28 February, 2008 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    hope this is not a hoax and if not you can sent my package by fedex express. thanx

  5. michael
    Posted 28 February, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I get the distinct feeling that someone is trying to wind me up here.

  6. shidi
    Posted 29 February, 2008 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    if this is real send it to me bye using fedex..

  7. ROCHELLE
    Posted 20 March, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    if this is real you can send my winnings via fed ex thank you!

  8. siva pillay
    Posted 10 August, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I think someone is trying to wind me up.If this is real you can send me the parcel and we could discuss payments to you thereafter.my postal address is P O Box 76001,Marbleray,4035 Durban ,South Africa.

  9. michael
    Posted 12 August, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    @siva pillay: It was sent to you last week. If your package does not arrive in the next three days, please use this Tracking Code: 080810-11-39-AP.

  10. Arturo D. zambrano
    Posted 19 August, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    i hope all these are true an not a hoax, I prefer fedex is the courier

  11. satish
    Posted 15 October, 2008 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    hi

  12. Dicky Ch. Kolanus
    Posted 21 December, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Better if send to me the things via FedEx Express, hopping it is true not big liying.
    Thanking You very much

  13. barbara
    Posted 9 March, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    i hope this is not a scam

  14. analita yap
    Posted 2 June, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    i cant believe this,,,if this is true then send the parcel to me i this address,,,,#11 San Agustin St.Novaliches Quezon City,,,philippines,,we can discuss the payments as long as i recieve it,,,

    thanks

  15. michael
    Posted 3 June, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Dear Ms Yap,

    The consignment was delivered to you today at 10:33, and signed for.
    If you have any further queries about this shipment, please get in touch with your nearest FEDEX bureau:
    G/F SM City North Edsa, North Ave. Pag-as, aQuezon City 1140. or alternatively: G/F Estuar Bldg. 880 Quezon Avenue Quezon City.
    We appreciate your forbearance in this matter.

  16. Darpan D. Mehta
    Posted 17 July, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I’M darpan. my courier in your office.My PARCEL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER : {XX0972KLD}

  17. TAHIR SULEIMAN
    Posted 30 September, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I LIKE TO HAVE SOME INFORMATION ON YOUR UK OFFICE AND HOW PARCELS ARE DELIVERED AND IF THE UK OFFICE HAS ANY CONNECTION WITH ONE POWERBALLLOTERY/UK NOKIA PROMOJACKPOT.I WANT TO KNOW SOME NOT TRY TO SWIMDLE ME FOR MONEY.

11 Trackbacks

  1. By Mole&chocolate » Fedex logo on 3 May, 2007 at 3:04 am

    [...] link: articles and texticles  [...]

  2. [...] FedEx Logo – An interesting read I "Stumbled" across this (hint hint Firefox users) and thought it was pretty interesting. Kind of teaches a bit of a lesson too. This design firm created 200 different logos and concepts before whittling it down to the right direction and then still had several revisions of the top concepts. Design (for commercial use at least) is almost never a 1 cut process, most good designs can be improved if you take a step back from it and re-work things. Anyway, here’s the article. Enjoy: The FedEx Logo and its designer [...]

  3. articlesandtexticles.co.uk[...] From http://fosta.typepad.com/sleepinginmyhead/2007/09/tobler-oh-yeah.html and http://www.articlesandtexticles.co.uk/2006/09/02/the-fedex-logo-and-its-designer/ [...]

  4. [...] of the most popular posts (so far) on this blog is a piece I wroted and quoted about the Fedex Logo and its designer, Lindon [...]

  5. By Look closely » Beyond Madison Avenue on 30 April, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    [...] 30, 2008 Do you see it? More with the creator of the logo, Lindon Leader, of Leader Creative hereTechnorati Tags: FedEx, logos, Lindon Leader, Leader [...]

  6. [...] Thanks to my lifelong friend, Google, I was able to locate an interview with one of the head designers of the logo. I’m not going to copy and paste the whole article, however if you want to read the whole thing, by all means click here. [...]

  7. By Brand, Brand Or Brand? « MarketingMatchup’s Blog on 19 November, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    [...] the CEO, Mr. Fred Smith, saw the infamous hidden arrow when the logo was presented. You can read this article for the whole [...]

  8. [...] Faris pointed it out – the space between the E and the X actually forms a perfect arrow. It was no coincidence, obviously. Lindon Leader, the creator of the logo in 1994 had a brief from CEO Fred Smith to [...]

  9. [...] can read an interview with him here. Share and [...]

  10. By Akwebstudio Blog » FedEx Logo Studies on 31 March, 2010 at 1:55 am

    articlesandtexticles.co.uk[...] http://www.articlesandtexticles.co.uk/2006/09/02/the-fedex-logo-and-its-designer/ [...]

  11. By Write The Company » Blog Archive » FedEx LOGO FETISH on 23 September, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    [...] link Customer Relations provided leads to a piece called, “The FedEx Logo and its Designer.” In an interview with its creator, Lindon Leader, this fascinating read explains the [...]

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