• Transform magazine
  • March 03, 2024

Top

Angus’ A-Z of logos: FedEx

Angus Monthly Article F

In his latest monthly Transform column on the A-Z of logo design, Pentagram partner and creative director Angus Hyland points us in the direction of FedEx.

Once you’ve spotted the arrow between the letters ‘e’ and ‘x’ in the FedEx logo, you can never un-see it. And while the resulting logo might look effortless, it took many hours (and over 400 sketches) for the elusive shape to appear – proof that when searching for inspiration, persistence really does pay off.

Originally named Federal Express when it was founded in 1951, in the early 1990s the USA logistics firm became FedEx, joining the likes of AMEX, CBS, IBM et al. Designed in 1994 by Lindon Leader of Landor Associates, the FedEx logo is a pleasingly chunky custom-drawn blend of Univers 67 (Bold Condensed) and Futura Bold, cleverly adjusted to accommodate the hidden arrow which the designer hoped would “subtly suggest getting from point A to point B reliably, with speed and precision”.

While the arrow is obviously a key selling point, the FedEx logo also uses colours which are unusual in the serious world of global logistics. In contrast to FedEx’s colourful purple and orange logo which epitomises the idea of efficient, 1990s corporate America at its best, its biggest rival UPS is resplendent in dreary mustard and brown, the 1970s colour combo that some of us might prefer to forget. 

Given that they signify movement and direction, arrows are all too often found in transport logos. The beauty of the FedEx logo is that it suggests this idea without feeling forced or cliched. In fact, it does this so well that the FedEx logo is now embedded into the DNA of the brand (and the psyche of a nation). It will be a very foolish CEO who decides to change it.

With all that said, the logo isn’t perfect – as the letterforms are in such close proximity, the two colours are needed to differentiate between the ‘D’ and the ‘E’, meaning it needs the addition of a keyline to work in monochrome.

You could say that everyone can divide their life into two distinct parts, the time leading up to when they first spotted the arrow in the FedEx logo, and the time after.

Next time, we’ll be delivering to another ‘House’…

alt

Angus' favourite 'E' logo can be found here.