We are bombarded with logos on a daily basis. While hundreds of logos are instantly recognizable to most people, the best are more than just well-designed pieces of art or stylized text. The best logos advance the communication of a company’s value proposition – its hopes, aspirations, and intentions, both functionally and emotionally. In an instant, a logo can tell the viewer volumes about the company it represents. A good logo is an incredibly powerful (and economical) branding opportunity.

Here are some companies whose logos embody the values the company wishes to convey:

Look between the “E” and the “X” and the white space creates an arrow. That arrow represents speed and accuracy – the essence of the value proposition and brand promise. The FedEx logo, which has won over 40 design awards, is clean and simple, and delivers an important message about its service.

Half a large happy face in a sea of calming blue repeats in the lowercase “g” of goodwill below. This combination of smiling faces conveys the message of good will that this charity envisions for its community.

NASA’s logo is timeless, yet “space-age”. The sphere represents a planet, and the stars in the meatball (as it is fondly called by the agency), space. The red chevron is a stylized wing depicting aeronautics, and the white oval symbolizes a spacecraft orbiting the wing. The logo successfully embodies all NASA does and all the organization hopes to do.

The designers for Toyota put a lot of thought into this car manufacturer’s logo. According to Toyota: “The three Toyota ellipses symbolize the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products. The background space represents Toyota’s technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead.”

If you look carefully, you will also note that the logo actually spells out “Toyota”!

We saved the best for last because what an amazing story the Amazon logo tells! What looks to be the smile of a smiley face under the company name is an arrow that points from the “a” to the “z” symbolizing a happy customer who can – and will – shop for anything at Amazon. And, why the word “Amazon”? When the company first started all they sold were books, yet even from the beginning, founder Jeff Bezos knew that he wanted his company to be the largest “river” in the world that could carry everything happily to your door.

A well thought out logo is more than just some well-designed letters and a color. Creating a good logo is developing a graphic element that can tell a complete story – in this case, the company’s core vision or “raison d’etre”. A great logo will live up to the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” in its ability to tell the story of the brand. And with today’s emphasis on storytelling and data visualization, it’s interesting to see just how much proof exists that a simple graphic can pack a powerful message.