Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

by PJ Hoogendijk

Compass, an extremely useful instrument, has guided explorers, seekers and travelers for centuries. Since ancient times, the instrument has intrigued philosophers, kings and countries separated by oceans. In the modern world, you cannot ignore its importance. From airplanes to ships, the instrument is used for successfully navigating around the world.

Apart from navigation, the modern world uses compasses for construction work, underground navigation, mining, secret military usage and measuring vertical and horizontal lines in maps. With time, the instrument has only become more important.

Some of the biggest brands use the compass symbol in their logos to depict purpose, motivation, goal and victory.

Compass History

Believed to have originated in China more than 2000 years ago during the Han dynasty, the compass was initially known as the “South pointing fish.”

A magnetized needle is placed in a way that it aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field to always point magnetic north and magnetic south. Apart from the Chinese, Greeks were also known to have understood magnetism.

An educational article published on National Geographic states, “Very early compasses were made of a magnetized needle attached to a piece of wood or cork that floated freely in a dish of water. As the needle would settle, the marked end would point toward magnetic north.”

With scientists understanding the mechanism of compass, they started making more intricate and technically superior designs that could do a lot more to help explorers and travelers.

Compass Symbolism

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

The word compass is derived from the Latin words com meaning ‘together’ and passus meaning ‘step.’ Combined, the words mean ‘to step together.’ The magnetic instrument couldn’t have a better name than the compass. The name itself symbolizes navigating the world fearlessly.

The compass also symbolizes finding your way back or never getting lost in a journey. The compass encourages the lost to be patient because, at the end of the day, he will surely find his way back.

Apart from representing a smooth sail to destination, the compass also symbolizes balance, hope, inspiration, motivation and freedom. 

Along with the above, the compass is known to represent good luck and success.

Here is an interesting video on “How the compass unlocked the world.”

Compass in Literature & Films

From The Golden Compass to the Pirates of the Caribbean, the compass has been instrumental in popular culture. In The Golden Compass, Lyra Belacqua, an orphan who lives in an alternate universe, joins seafarers traveling North to find missing children.

The compass of Captain Jack Sparrow never pointed sNorth, then where did it point? As per a scene from the film Pirates of the Caribbean:

 “True enough, this compass does not point North.”

“…Where does it point?”

“It points to the thing you want most in this world.”

—Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann

Compass truly has played an important part in a number of novels and films through the decades.

Compass in Spirituality

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

In his book, Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life, Satish Kumar talks about the importance of living in harmony with his surroundings. Kumar explains how material existence could foster spiritual progress. From business to cooking to relationships, all aspects of our lives could become a meaningful spiritual journey.

The compass symbolizes balance and finding the way; similarly, the soul, according to various spiritual practices, is the inner compass that guides us to our true nature. A person’s spiritual progress depends upon how well attuned he is with his inner self or guide. The more balanced he is within, the more aware he is of his surroundings.

Compass in Logos

Due to its capability of providing direction, the compass symbol has been adopted by some of the most iconic brands to portray powerful massages. From Northwest Airlines to Safari Web Browser to Compass Real Estate, all have used a compass in their logos to convey different messages.

When used in a logo, the compass symbol could mean the following:

  • Balance and harmony: The compass is known to always balance itself towards the North direction. In logos, this could portray the importance of being balanced in life.
  • Smooth Journey: Compasses are known to assist sailors or travelers find their way smoothly. When put in a logo they could symbolize safety, security and guidance.
  • Inspiration: The compass symbolizes hope amid crisis. Companies that intend to portray hope through their visual identities, use the compass symbol.

Apart from the above, the compass symbol also symbolizes the following:

  • Motivation
  • Power
  • Remove obstacles
  • Good time s
  • Inner harmony
  • Purpose
  • Ambition

Companies That Use Compass Logos

1. Compass Group

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

Compass Group, a British contract foodservice company, is the largest in the world in terms of delivering meals in various locations. From serving meals in offices to schools to correctional facilities, Compass Group has become a household name in the UK.

The company traces its origins in a company founded in 1941 by Jack Bateman called the Factory Canteens Limited. After a couple of buy-outs, the company was rebranded as the Compass Group in 1987.

The company uses a black and yellow color palette to symbolize Joy, happiness and professionalism. The yellow circle represents the dial of a compass, while the black abstract forms the needle.

2. Compass Real Estate

Compass Real Estate Logo: What Makes It Different

Headquartered in New York City, Compass, Inc. was founded by two experienced campaigners Ori Allon and Robert Reffkin. The company boasts of introducing technology in the real estate sector. While one may debate if Compass has been successful in disrupting the real estate business with its cutting-edge technology, there is no doubt about the company being one of the wealthiest in the sector.

The monochrome logo is futuristic, minimalist and relevant. The letter “O” appears as a compass dial and the diagonal line, the needle.  The compass symbol has been beautifully integrated with the wordmark and appears perfect for a company that deals with real estate.

Interesting Read: Compass Real Estate Logo – What makes if different?

3. Safari Web Browser

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

Developed by Apple, Safari is a web browser that helps users to connect with the world. Initially, only Apple-based products, such as Mac, iPhone and iPod, supported the browser; however, a windows version was available from 2007 up until 2012.

Before Safari was chosen as the official name of the browser, it was referred to as Alexander, Freedom and iBrowse. Today, it is the second most popular browser after Google Chrome.

Safari is represented by a compass logo. The current logo has come after five redesigns; however, all the previous designs had a compass symbol as their centerpiece. The compass symbol appears perfect for the browser since it is used for that one thing people have been doing for ages—navigate.

4. Northwest Airlines

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

Before getting integrated with Delta Airlines in 2010, Northwest Airlines remained one of the largest carriers in the US. Founded in 1926, the airline became a major player after World War Ⅱin the trans-Pacific market.

Prior to the merger, the sixth-largest airline in the world carried more US passengers across the Pacific than any other airline.

Following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2005, the airline merged with Delta Airlines to form the world’s largest airline.  

The Northwest Airlines wordmark with a compass symbol beside it symbolizes navigation, direction and ambition. The circle represents the compass dial and the triangle symbolizes the needle. The triangle and the letter “N” together form “N” and “W,” suggesting Northwest Airlines.

5. Endurance International Group

Compass Logo: Where is Your Brand Headed?

Founded in 1997 with its headquarters in Massachusetts, Endurance International Group specializes in web hosting. The IT services company acquired several other smaller companies to gain its size today.

Blake Cunneen, vice president, corporate development, stated, “Investing in mergers and acquisitions is a very accretive use of free cash flow and going forward we’ll continue to do so. We don’t have any deals we’re announcing…”

Like most IT services companies, Endurance has chosen shades of blue for its visual identity. The black and blue wordmark suggests professionalism and security. The compass symbol portrays balance, inspiration and purpose.

Conclusion

Symbols not only create a sense of mystery and create varied experiences, but it also allows you to express the most subtle emotions effectively. Symbols act as sounds, emotions, music, images, ideas and anything you want them to be.

The compass symbol has been used in a variety of ways to express different emotions and ideas through the ages.

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