Logos Inspired By Photographs

by Mark Bailey

Logos are one of the most important features of a company. When you design a shop one of the first things you would do when you hire a retail interior designer is show them your logo and talk them through your brand identity. Inspiration for logos tends to come from all over the place. Sometimes the stories behind logos are as simple as having an idea and going through with it. The inspiration for logos tends to come from all over the place. If you want to create a logo yourself, it can be done easily and cheaply, or even for free online. However, some logos go through a whole journey to become what they are today.


This is a story that gets a bit confusing. Technically, the inspiration behind the logo for HMV was a photograph, but it was a photograph of a painting. There once was a dog called ‘Nipper’ who belonged to Mark Barraud. When Mark died Nipper moved in with Mark’s brother Francis Barraud, who was a painter. Francis discovered some peculiar behaviour in Nipper when he used a phonograph to play recordings of Mark’s voice. Nipper would approach the contraption and stare at it curiously, seemingly wondering where his master’s voice was coming from. Three years after Nipper’s death, Francis committed the image of Nipper to canvas, and thus the painting ‘dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph’ was brought into existence. Of course, that’s not the title we recognise but it wouldn’t be until Francis tried to exhibit the painting that he decided to rename it. He didn’t have much luck getting rid of it to begin with and after many failed attempts to sell and exhibit it he was given advice to repaint the horn of the phonograph from black to gold to make the painting more appealing. In search of a reference to fix his painting, he paid a visit to a newly formed gramophone company with a photograph of his painting with the intent to ask them if he could borrow a brass horn to paint from. The owner of this particularly company, Barry Owen, saw the photograph and asked to purchase the painting as well as commission Francis to feature their latest model of gramophone in the painting. A year later the new painting made its debut in the company’s latest advert. Seven years after that, the company would be officially renamed ‘His Master’s Voice’ and developed into ‘HMV’.

Michael Jordan’s Jumpman

The Jumpman logo has had a bit of drama attached to it in recent years. The story starts with a photo that was taken of Michael Jordan for LIFE Magazine that shows him leaping with his legs apart to dunk the ball into the net. The designers of the logo then recreated the pose, photographing Michael Jordan jumping, and the used the photograph to trace Michael’s silhouette and create the logo. Interestingly enough, in the photograph Michael Jordan isn’t dunking but actually performing a ballet move called a ‘grand jete’.

The interesting development that relates to this origin story is that the initial photograph in LIFE was given no credit when the logo came out. No one knew that this photograph existed and the original photographer was not at all happy. Last year Jacobus Rentmeester, the original photographer, accused Nike of violating the copyright on his photograph. Apparently, Nike paid him $150 to temporarily use to transparencies of the photo but the copyright still belonged to him. When the first Jumpman billboard finally came out Rentmeester was horrified to see that an almost exact duplicate of his photograph was being used and he had not been notified. When he threatened litigation they paid him for a limited licence lasting two years, but when it expired Nike continued to use the image and Rentmeester received no monetary credit.

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