17 Apr FedEx Logo [Pearls from the Past-03]
With a global reputation for quality and expediency, the FedEx brand has carried out a strong presence for decades. The unaffected efficacy of its logo has won scores of awards and is the product of effort and innovation from creative minds thinking outside the box.
The company was founded in 1971 as Federal Express. The first logo was a wordmark using a custom sans-serif font with rounded edges, rotated 10 degrees inside a divided rectangle, with the word “FEDERAL” in white on blue and the word “EXPRESS” in red on white.
By 1991 Federal Express has become a household name, but at five syllables it’s a bit of a mouthful, so for brevity’s sake, it is colloquially shortened to “FedEx” by almost everyone using the service. Sensing that it has become the defacto identifier of their brand, CEO Fred Smith agreed to abbreviate the logo accordingly. The rectangle and 10-degree rotation were removed, and the same font was used to spell out “FED” in blue and “EX” in red.
Three years later, the company reached out to Landor Associates for a proper rebranding. Hundreds of versions were submitted, but senior designer Lindon Leader created the winning design. As a fan of stark, simple designs, he was inspired by the Northwest Orient Airlines logo, which created a subtle compass pointing northwest through the clever use of negative space carved from the “W”:
With this inspiration in mind, Lindon tried multiple fonts while experimenting with the logo and narrowed them down to two choices: Univers67 and FuturaBold. There was an interesting bit of negative space created between the “E” and the “x”, it looked like an arrow, but the symmetry was off. So, he did the only logical thing and combined the fonts borrowing the “x” from Univers67 and combining it with Futura’s “E”. This is how one of the most successful and subliminal brands of all time was created.
Except for the CEO and a small handful of executives, most people did not even notice the arrow. The same would prove right for millions of customers using the service. Only by highlighting the space does the hidden icon become revealed to most people.
The rebranding was so successful that it has remained unchanged ever since. The only revision have been made with colour to help distinguish between the vast varieties of services offered by the company. The “Fed” part of the logo remains consistent with the same purplish royal blue with Ground services assigned to green, Freight to deep red, Office to blue and Trade Networks to Yellow.
Today, FedEx remains in a class by itself when it comes to delivery services. Much like Google, the brand has become a common verb with a level of familiarity that it would seem out of place to say “Send this via FedEx” as opposed to “FedEx this” in a standard, vernacular style. A great deal of this success can be attributed to the quality of their services, which is reflected in the care and detail that went into creating a brand with a literal and figurative global reach.