Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

by Mark Stephens

M – the head of Secret Intelligence Service in James Bond movies – stands for mission, order and balance. And just like reel M, the “real” M symbolizes a multitude of things.

 From self-reliance to harmony to abundance, the letter M portrays many different ideas. The fact that top brands like McDonald’s and MTV have adopted the letter as a part of their visual identities speaks volumes about the power of this English alphabet.

The world of graphic design is both unique and attractive. However, it is only after extensive research and hard work that one can dream about being a great designer. If God designed the world, then graphic designers designed the digital world.

Graphic designers make the world a little more stylish by assisting brands to develop unique logos, websites, packaging designs and brand identity designs.

But, how does this relate to the letter M? Well, the answer is simple: M is all about balance and harmony and so is graphic designing!

Top brands hire the best agencies and spend large sums of money to improve their visual identities. These agencies put their best foot forward to fulfill their end of the bargain by delivering nothing but the best designs. However, not all brands can think of spending a fortune on designs. In their search for good designs, small businesses and startups end up hiring designers from various creative marketplaces and end up receiving cheap template-based solutions. 

Usage

According to an article published on Whatis.com, “Mass (symbolized m) is a dimensionless quantity representing the amount of matter in a particle or object. The standard unit of mass in the International System (SI) is the kilogram (kg).”

M, in the famous equation E=mc², denotes mass. According to Wikipedia, “The formula defines the energy E of a particle in its rest frame as the product of mass with the speed of light squared (c²).” From nuclear physics to understanding the secrets of the universe, the famous formula developed by the legendary physicist Albert Einstein has revealed a great many secrets.

In computers, M stands for memory—the internal “brains” of the computer. There are two places where data can be  stored or accessed: 1. RAM – Random Access Memory and 2. ROM – Read-Only Memory.

History and symbolism

Importance of letter “M” in the ancient world: Like the letter N, the first record of M can be traced back to the Egyptian civilization. The Egyptians used a wavy vertical line to represent M which symbolized water.

The Semites borrowed the letter from the Egyptians but kept only three waves intact. However, it is the Phoenicians’ variation of the letter that closely resembles the modern-day M.

In Hebrew, “Meme” refers to the time between death and life. The Romans interestingly used the letter to denote the number 1000.

In certain Indo–European languages, the letter represents birth and water.

Spiritual Connection

It is believed that when the ancients created the letters, they assigned mystical meaning to each one. The letter M was regarded as the most significant letter of all since it symbolized water. They believed that water was the most sacred element as it breathed life into everything.

According to various ancient schools of thought, the letter M depicted the masculine and the feminine energies. As per their teachings, the opposites stood in perfect harmony in the “Ma” sound.

The letter M symbolizes the beginning, end and a new beginning: the never-ending cycle of creation. As per certain oriental sects, M represents the balance between the inner being and the outer world.

The letter M portrays various ideas in many different ways, which is why some of the top companies have used it to narrate their brand story.

Let us take a quick tour of what the letter M depicts in logos

  •  Balance: Due to its balanced appearance, the letter M is a delight for designers. Over a period of time, its balanced appearance began to symbolize inner balance and outer harmony. McDonald’s golden arches are a perfect example of balance depicted in a logo.
  • Creation: The alphabet portrays creation because it brings both feminine and masculine energies in harmony. The two opposing energies come together in the letter to create something new. Lifestyle and fashion brands may use the letter to portray beauty and creation: Barcelona-based fashion brand Mango is a prime example.
  • Communication: The letter M was represented in the form of waves in ancient times, which stood for water. In the modern world, it refers to sound waves; hence, the letter M also portrays communication. The solitary “M” in the Motorola emblem portrays efficient communication and connectivity.

Apart from the above, the thirteenth alphabet symbolizes the following:

  • Harmony
  • Water
  • Continuity
  • Masculine and Feminine energies
  • Order
  • Mother
  • Nature
  • Money
  • Divine transformation
  • Stability
  • Pyramids
  • Regeneration
  • Energy
  • Health

Top 5 companies with the letter M in their logos

1. McDonald’s

Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

Founded in 1940, McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue. The restaurant gradually became known for its hamburgers and “Speedee Service System.”

Fun Fact: As per two reports, McDonald’s has over 1.7 million employees worldwide, which makes the fast-food giant the second-largest private employer in the world, just behind Walmart.

Apart from its famous hamburgers on the menu to cheeseburgers, wraps and milkshakes, McDonald’s is truly America’s favorite restaurant.

The iconic golden-arches logo came into existence in 1961, albeit with a few visible differences.  The logo is executed in yellow and red color schemes. Red, in the logo, is symbolic of life and health, and yellow portrays energy, joy and happiness. According to psychologist Louis Cheskin, the golden arches or the letter M symbolizes “mummy’s mammaries.”

2. Metallica

Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

Come crawling faster

Obey your master

Your life burns faster

Obey your master

Master, master of puppets

These lines are from one of the greatest metal songs ever, “Master of Puppets.” Formed in 1981 by James Hetfield, vocalist/guitarist, and Lars Ulrich, drummer, Metallica is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the thrash metal genre.

Metallica has sold over 125 million albums and has the distinction of winning the prestigious Grammy Awards nine times.

The monochrome logotype has always been with the band since its inception. Though the band made minor changes, it’s the 1983 version of the logo which the band is known for. After experimenting with its logo a few times, it settled for the 83’ version in 2008, albeit with a few subtle changes.

3. MG Motors

Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

Founded in 2006, MG Motor UK Limited is owned by the Shanghai-based motor company SAIC Motor. MG vehicles are manufactured in China; however, they are mostly designed in the historic Longbridge plant in the UK and Shanghai in China.

Fun fact: After its formal entry into the world of motorsport in 2012, MG went on to win several championships. In 2014, MG won the Manufacturer’s Championship, bringing an end to Honda’s four-year winning streak.

The name of the brand is derived from the company founder’s first business—Morris Garage.  While it is true that MG got a new owner in 2006, it was founded in 1924. The visual identity of the automobile giant changed six times, but the centerpiece of the emblem always remained the same. The iconic octagonal badge with the letters “M” and “G” in the middle has been a part of the brand’s visual identity for the most part.

4. MTV

Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

Launched in 1981, MTV (Music television) revolutionized the global music landscape in a short span. Some of the greatest music bands and solo artists emerged out of the music revolution. From Bryan Adams to Def Leppard to Bon Jovi, MTV can be credited for taking their music to international audiences.

Apart from the above, MTV also changed the way music was consumed. The music channel made music videos that kept audiences hooked to their television sets.

The three-dimensional “M” has always been the centerpiece of the MTV logo. The logotype was first introduced in 1981 and was in use up until 2011. In 2009, the MTV logo was modified, which was in line with their “flexible identity” marketing. The logo was again redesigned in 2021; however, the new look was based on the iconic 1981 version.

5. Motorola

Letter “M” Logos: Order & Balance

Motorola, a name synonymous with high-quality mobile phones, high-definition televisions and digital video recorders, was founded in 1928 by brothers Paul V. and Joseph E. Galvin. After losing almost $4.3 billion from 2007 to 2009, the company split into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions.

In 2012, Google announced that it would acquire Motorola Mobility—the company’s handset division. Lenovo, a Chinese technology company, acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014.

Motorola changed its visual identity four times in its history. The four logos were different from each other but always featured the trademark monochromatic color palette. The first three were different styles of a wordmark, but the last logo, developed in 1955, was the crest that Motorola was known for—the sharp solitary letter “M” in the middle of an ellipse portraying technology and communication.

Conclusion

The letter M, when used with various color schemes and shapes, can assist a brand to establish its identity. From Marriott to Mandalay Bay, top brands from across the world have decorated their logos with the letter M.

The visual identity of a brand allows the audiences to understand what a company is about. The logo, the website and various other branding efforts must be aligned with the brand’s mission, vision and values.

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