Education

Acronym Logo Meanings that Will Surprise You

July 9, 2021

Recognize any of these logos? Of course you do—they’re some of the most well-known brands in the world. Many of them are household names but what do they all have in common though?

They’re all logos for companies whose name is an acronym, and they’re all logos with the acronym as the logo monogram wordmark.

Now for another question: do you know what these acronyms stand for? KFC, BR, and VW are easy, but what about Fiat, CNN, ABC, IBM, H&M, or 3M? They’re all logos we see almost daily, but isn’t it interesting that most people don’t even know what many of them mean or stand for, and we only know a company by the acronym? Check out our top 35 logos in the list below and see if any of these surprise you. Let me know!

1. KFC – Kentucky Fried Chicken

2. UPS – United Parcel Service

3. PBS – Public Broadcasting Service

4. AFLAC – American Family Life Assurance Company

5. NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

6. VAIO – Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer

7. HBO – Home Box Office

8. HP – Hewlett-Packard

9. EA – Electronic Arts

10. BECU – Boeing Employee Credit Union

11. ESPN – Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

12. NBC – National Broadcasting Company

13. ABC – American Broadcasting Company

14. CBS – Columbia Broadcasting System

15. CNN – Cable News Network

16. BMW – Bayerische Motoren Werke AG

17. MAC – Make-up Art Cosmetics

18. GEICO – Government Employees Insurance Company

19. 3M – Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company

20. EPCOT – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

21. AT&T – American Telephone and Telegraph Company

22. CVS – Consumer Value Stores

23. LG – Lucky-Goldstar

24. ING – International Netherlands Group

25. DSW – Designer Shoe Warehouse

26. FIAT – Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino

27. M&Ms – Mars and Murrie’s

28. EOS – Evolution of Smooth

29. REI – Recreational Equipment, Inc

30. UBS – Union Bank of Switzerland

31. IBM – International Business Machines

32. e.l.f. – eyes, lips, face

33. PAM – Product of Arthur Meyerhoff

34. WWF – World Wildlife Fund

35. YAHOO! – Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle

Why did these goliath-sized companies go with an acronym for their name and logo to be remembered by? Why not just go by the full name? Sometimes companies with longer names, such as GE, or General Electric start out using their full name but later shorten it to the acronym after a period of time to either rebrand and refresh their business or to make it easier to remember and say. Furthermore, as businesses change, grow and develop, their full names may lose some meaning or no longer represent all of what the company does, so an acronym works better like GEICO or Aflac.

Fun fact: when GE enters a new market, it uses its logo only in its signature baby blue. Once awareness and recognition of the logo has been reached by about 50% in that market, GE starts using the monogram in any color.

Putting aside those more strategic and technical cases for updating a name to an acronym, there’s also the emotional side to consider, like what an acronym means to the people who see it. Companies like the ones on the list above have all reached a point where they are recognized easiest for their acronyms, so the full name or meaning behind it barely matters to the general public. We all know BMW as BMW, and seeing that emblem or hearing the letters evokes a certain response and feeling that “Bayerische Motoren Werke” (roughly translated to Bavarian Engine Works) just doesn’t quite do for us.

Some companies want to be known by their full name, but for the logo to have the acronym or elements of the letters in their name. Having a recognizable and well-designed logo for your acronym is a huge piece of how some of these big brands become and remain recognizable by their acronym alone.

As a graphic designer, I find it a fun challenge when I’m in the logo design process of a brand with an acronym style name and/or logo. Sketching out how the letters can fit together beautifully while also including other elements the client wants that connect to what they do is quite the process as you can see:

Acronym-based brand names can and obviously do work with the right combination of history, branding, and visibility. Are you a current or business owner considering an acronym-style name for your company or company rebrand? Hire me for help with all of your brand identity and logo design needs!

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