Sunday, February 7, 2010

Find the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo


I'd like to ship an invisible arrow to Tuscon.

This is one of the great optical illusions: find the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo.

Whenever I used to give this problem to my graphic design students, at least a few thought that I was seeing things, or that I shouldn't read so much into an accidental pairing of letters that, for some reason, kinda looks like an arrow.

But a graphic design accident rarely, if ever, happens. Logos are huge business - just ask Pepsi, which paid $1 million to Arnell for coming up with its updated logo. Arnell famously justified it in this 27-page document called "Breathtaking Design Strategy:"

Pepsi Breathtaking Design Strategy

The document impressively - or is that laughingly? - chronicles over 5,000 years of design to establish Pepsi's blueprint for the brand. By the time they get to "gravitational pull," you might begin to doubt your own sanity.

But, there's no doubt that something like an arrow wouldn't show up in a logo by mistake.

Which is why I was happy to come across thesneeze.com's 2004 interview with the designer of the FedEx logo himself, Lindon Leader of Leader Creative.

In the interview, he talks about realizing that the letters could create an arrow, manipulating the font to encourage the arrow, and why it's so subtle in the finished design:
"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."
So, consider this to be mission accomplished.

Give up? It's right here:

3 comments:

  1. I find it hilarious that you should mention "Breathtaking". Back in December, it was the big winner of the 2009 Bully Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advertising and Marketing Bullshit -- aka the Turd d'Or, on the Ad Contrarian's blog (http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2009/12/2009-bully-award-winner.html). It beat out nine other shittastic finalists for the award. (You can see them here: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2008/11/bully-awards.html)

    Unlike that crappy new Pepsi logo, the FedEx logo with its sneaky little arrow is awesome. Yay FedEx!

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  2. I remember when I first saw the arrow. I was driving with my graphic designer friend when we passed a Fedex truck.

    "Can you see the arrow?"
    Me: "Huh? What arrow?"
    "Between the E and X."
    Me: "There's no OH MY GOD THERE'S AN ARROW!"

    And once you see it, it's all you can look at.

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  3. What I need now is some professional look on my trials so far. I designed several variations as a new logo. They are all to be seen here including my odyssey from version A to version F.

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