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Wendy's

11 Hidden Messages in Company Logos

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Wendy's

When Wendy's redesigned its logo in 2013, the company insisted the word "MOM" in the collar was unintentional. But plenty of other logos contain messages that were very much intended. Here are some examples, some more obvious than others.

1. The FedEx Arrow

The classic! As Matthew May said in The Laws of Subtraction, "Nearly every design school professor and graphic designer with a blog has at some point focused on the FedEx logo to discuss the use of negative space." I recently pointed out the arrow to my five-year-old daughter and blew her mind. 

2. The Old Milwaukee Brewers Logo

There's a Facebook group called Best Day of My Life: When I Realized the Brewers Logo Was a Ball and Glove AND the Letters M and B. If for you that day is today, this must be very exciting. Soak it up.

3. Toblerone

Look! There's a bear in the mountain! There's also something hidden in the candy's name: Toblerone is a portmanteau of its creator’s name, Theodor Tobler, and “torrone,” an Italian word for a type of nougat.

4. Pittsburgh Zoo

It's a tree! And a lion! And a gorilla! And now it's no longer hidden.

5. Tour de France

The 'R' is a cyclist.

6. Amazon.com

As David Vik says in The Culture Secret, "That's a subtle reminder to employees and customers alike that Amazon has everything from A to Z."

7. Baskin-Robbins

See that "31," for the "31 flavors"? Yeah. In case it comes up, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins were brothers-in-law.

8. Tostitos

Two Ts sharing salsa! The logo has changed slightly, but that element remains.

9. Big Ten Conference

The Big Ten likes adding extras into logos. Notice the '11' in the previous logo on the bottom, back when 11 schools were involved. When Nebraska joined, the subtle 11 had to go. The conference explained exactly what it was doing: "[The logo's] contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral '10' in the word 'BIG,' which allows fans to see 'BIG' and '10' in a single word."

10. Merck

The pharmaceutical company's logo is made up of a capsule and two pills. In a very scientific poll of the two people next to me, 50% were surprised, while the other 50% said that's the only thing that logo could possibly be.

11. Caribou Coffee

The coffee chain refreshed its logo in 2010, and the caribou's body is now made of coffee beans. But that's not the only change. "While the Caribou in the previous logo was leaping left," the company said, "the caribou now leaps right, signifying the direction the company is heading." You probably picked up on that already.

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There are plenty more logos with (slightly) hidden elements. Which others do you think are well-done (or awful)?

All photos via Getty Images

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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