"Coats of arms were us-versus-them identifiers in the time of Charlemagne, when armor cost a great deal, and hard charging was the way to solidify agreement-disagreement ping-pong.
In the Lands of the Free, what are heraldic shields used for? Emblems of identification upon prestige vehicles and others.
What does this have to do with ego-minds' creations from nothing but chain-habit?
Have the Amish and the Black-Bumper Mennonites and their Kin already brought down wisdom we could all use regarding these and other reflective surfaces?"
- Transformations 11:14 (John Dan Reib, 1976)
I heard a story from a former student of my dad's about how he'd brought the whole class out to the PCC parkinglot and started talking about the symbols on all the cars, so that his students could know exactly what it was that these symbols were unconsciously evoking in them so many hundreds of times a day. Inspired by this, I decided to give a brief synopsis of some of them..
The BMW fighter-planes of World War One were painted white and blue, the colors of the Bavarian flag. It was said that the pilot of such a plane would see the propeller as alternating segments of white and blue, which inspired the logo.
The Porcshe symbol is a horse from the city of Stuttgart, referring to forward thrust, against a backdrop of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Württemberg as it was during the 20s and early 30s: red and black for their flag, and the 3 antlers to represent its largest ruling dynasty.
Antoine Laumet was forced to leave France for America under "mysterious circumstances" (a crime he had committed). He invented a new identity for himself: "Antoine de La Mothe, Seigneur de Cadillac" and invented a fake family crest. Cadillac is named after his fake name, and their crest is based on his fake crest.
Three ovals that combine to form the letter "T" for Toyota. The overlapping of the two perpendicular ovals represent the mutually beneficial relationship and trust (HA!) that is placed between the customer and the company, while the larger oval that surrounds both of these inner ovals represent the "global expansion of Toyota's technology and unlimited potential for the future."
Based on the coat of arms of the province Scania.
The Buik Family Crest, after David Dunbar Buick, the Scottish-American inventor who invented the overhead valve engine (and later died penniless). Later, it was tripled, referring to the three Buick models then built: LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra.
The Mitsubishi logo was a combination of the Iwasaki family crest, the three stacked diamonds, and the three-leaf crest of the Tosa Clan. The symbol, and the name "Mitsubishi" are the same: a combination of the words "mitsu" meaning "three", and "hishi" meaning "water chestnut", used in Japan to mean a rhombus or a diamond shape.
Gottlieb Daimler once drew a star above a picture of his house and wrote that "this star will one day shine over my own factory to symbolize prosperity" The three-pointed star symbolized his ambition of making vehicles "on land, on water and in the air," surrounded by the laurel wreath of Benz.
The stylized "M" is meant to look like stretched wings, referring to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda:
In 1913, William Durant (according to his widow) ripped off the logo of "Coalettes", a product of Southern Compressed Coal Company:
Beyond that, I suppose the cross is an ancient symbol of fire, and there's little doubt that maybe both the men at Southern Compressed Coal Co. and the men at Chevy were thinkin' of the cross as the symbol of Christianity a little bit. For some unfathomable reason, this logo is called "the bowtie".
Credit is given to Franz Reimspiess for this design, resulting from an office competition to see come up with the logo, or he ripped it off from Nikolai Borg. Either way, it is simply the V of the common folk and the W of the wagon or car. Early versions of the symbol also include the counter-clockwise swirling motion which was, shall we say, "popular" in Germany in the late 30s.
I'll try to summarize: D.A.T. is an acronym for the names of 3 Japanese guys, the English word "son" was added when they decided to make a small car, this was changed to the English word "sun" which was luckier, then the word was written across the Japanese flag, the Rising Sun, related to the Imperial throne, and the sun goddess Amaterasu. Datsun become Nissan in 1934 and, in addition to cars, built trucks, airplanes, and engines for the Japanese military.
Volvo (Latin for "I roll") chose the Mars symbol for its logo specifically because it is the alchemical symbol of Iron.
The four rings symbolize the four companies: Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer. Nothing interesting.
"Subaru" is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster, which in turn inspires the Subaru logo and alludes to the six companies that merged to create their parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries.
It's a stylized "H". That's about all there is to it.
In 1909, Childe Harold Wills, who made business cards, used the font on his own cards for his friend Henry Ford’s logo. The blue oval was added later for the 1927 Model A.
There's no need for fancy subliminals with this one, since Ford's name is enough: he is credited with "Fordism": systematic mass production of consumers or something like that. (be sure to read "Brave New World", if you haven't already.)
This stylized "A" for "Acura" is slightly open at the top, referring to the "H" of Honda, as well as making it look like a caliper, a measuring tool.
Though I can't help wondering if they'd had the Federation Insignia in mind when they designed it...
Pontiac is named after Chief Pontiac (1720–1769) who was an Ottawa leader who became famous for his role in "Pontiac's Rebellion", a Native American struggle against the British occupation of the Great Lakes region. Pontiac fought the British, then made peace with the British on behalf of all the Native Americans (without taking a vote) - then he was assassinated by a fellow Native American from the Peoria tribe.
The original Pontiac logo was to represent Pontiac's portrait, but in 1957 they changed it to an Arrowhead, still referring to him.
So these guys, as you can see below, just can't commit to a logo. I'll focus on the 1968 one, the one above, since someone asked me about it recently. In the Sixties Fiat managed to quadruple its car production compared to the previous decade. To commemorate this, they created the 1968 logo - four cubes slanting at 18 degrees, spelling out the word Fiat in italic 'univers' typeface on a blue background.
The story goes that one day the company’s design chief was passing under the factory when the lights were all off and he noticed the sky through the FIAT letters on the top of the building, so he added lines to indicate the spaces that he saw in the name over the building.
It is, perhaps, worth mentioning that the word "fiat" Hungarian means "young", and in Latin it means "let there be", like when a Roman overlord would command his Greek slave "let there be steak on my table" or something like that. (Also "Fiat Lux" is the bit of Genesis that Willow in Buffy was always quoting: "Let There Be Light" - perhaps some irony in their logo having been conceived while the lights were out, but there's probably not much there, so I won't even mention it.)
1899 The "Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino" company is founded in Turin, at the top left of the poster, the artist includes a small parchment containing the company name. This becomes their first logo.
1901 FIAT decides to apply a proper logo on its cars: a small enameled brass plate in the centre of which the name FIAT appears, with the characteristic A, which has remained practically unchanged up to the present day.
1904 The logo becomes oval in shape, taking on an original liberty style that continues to be produced until the 1920s.
1925 The logo becomes circular, with the FIAT name in red on a white background. The stylized laurel wreath around the outside is intended to celebrate FIAT’s victorious participation in the first competitive motor races.
1931 The automotive project begins to dominate even in terms of communication, and the logo, from being circular and richly detailed, suddenly becomes a rectangle taken up almost entirely by the FIAT name.
1932 The rectangular shape takes the form of a shield, a symbol rather more fitting for the radiator grilles on the new models. With a series of slight variations, this logo is used on FIAT cars up until 1968.
1968 The logo featuring four blue rhombuses is adopted, a logo that was to become the main identifying element for the entire FIAT group.
1999 The brand’s 100th anniversary sees a return to the style of the logo from the 1920s. The version chosen has a blue background, a chrome-plated logo, with the characteristic A, and a more stylized laurel wreath.
2006 The new FIAT logo is launched, seen for the first time on the Bravo, and set to be used on all future FIAT vehicles
in 1987 Saturn began using a stylized version of the ringed planet, Saturn, with a bright red field with "a neutral gray Saturn script", so they say.
The Chrysler "winged" logo was first used in 1996, it is the original 1925 logo surrounded by a pair of silver wings. Some say that this had something to do with their merging with Daimler in 1998.
With its inception in 1925, Chrysler's logo was a round medallion with a ribbon bearing the name Chrysler in uppercase block letters. The thunderbolts above and below the name are actually "Z"s, a tribute to the prototype built before Chrysler took over Maxwell, which took the name "Zeder" from chief engineer Fred Zeder.
(There was another logo from 1957 to 1962, but it's not worth mentioning.)
In September 1962, the company adopted a logo named "Pentastar" made of five triangles arranged so their bases formed the sides of a pentagon. The gaps in between the triangles formed a star in the middle of the pentagon. This was supposed to help them in the international market (where of course, not speaking English, they would have no idea what "Chrysler" means).
It's a stylized "L" - but: "according to Toyota, it was rendered using a precise mathematical formula."
There's really not much going on here except that it's a stylized "S", and it kind of follows along the same lines as that creepy 1984-esque Toyota symbol.
The word itself means a descendant, a son or daughter, of a notable family (Toyota, in this case), or, in grafting, a detached shoot or twig containing buds from a woody plant which is grafted onto the stock.
It's supposed to look like the open road. You know... infinity... open road. There, you got it.
The black horse was emblazoned on the fighter plane of Francesco Baracca, the ace of World War I, who was shot down at Montello. Francesco's mother, the Countess Paolina Baracca, said to Enzo Ferrari one day, "why don't you put my son's rampant horse on your car? It will bring you luck." Ferrari did so, and added the gold field, the color of Modena. The "S.F." sometimes written on the logo stands for "Scuderia Ferrari" which basically means "Ferrari Racing Stables".
Ferruccio Lamborghini, a Taurus, went to a bull-breeding ranch, and was inspired to use the Taurus bull as his logo (instead of a horse). The logo is gold on black (instead of black on gold).
(So shove it, Ferrari.)
In the 1930s, Lincoln used a coat of arms with a red cross in the center and a knights helmet at the top as the official emblem. In the mid 1950s the coat of arms evolved into the framed four pointed "Lincoln Star" that is currently in use.
Mercedes had actually trademarked the four-pointed star, to prevent anyone from trying to mimic their iconic three-pointed star emblem, and sued Ford when this logo came out. Ford attorneys fended off the legal challenge, and the logo survived.
During the mid 1980s Mercury began using a highly stylized letter M, nicknamed "the Waterfall". The reason behind this new logo has never been fully explained. It appears to be a road leading forward and to the right, or it is a stylized foot with a small horizontal wing at the top, an allusion to Mercury, Roman messenger of the gods.
Borrowing from Toyota's creepy idea, the ellipse outline of the Hyundai logo indicates the company's global expansion. The stylized, slanted "H" is symbolic of two people, the manufacturer and the customer, "shaking hands" (though it looks more like one of them is giving the other a hand job).
Maserati's logo is the trident of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. The logo was copied from a Renaissance statue in Bologna, Italy, the home of the five Maserati brothers who founded the company in 1914. Maserati's nickname, appropriately, is "Il Tridente."
The letters at the top of the triangular green lozenge are " A - C - B - C ". They are the initials of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, the Designer, Builder, and Founder of Lotus. In the logo, the initials are larger than the word Lotus. The triangular lozenge is colored British Racing Green, which is the color designated for cars of British origin that will be competing in international events. The lozenge is placed on a field of yellow, signifying the sunny days that Chapman hoped would lie ahead for his company. In April of 1968, World Champion Driver Jim Clark was killed at Hockenheim, Germany, while driving a Lotus Type 48 in a Formula 2 race. From that day forward, all Lotus cars have worn a black nose badge, out of respect for his passing.
A young man named Ted Lee had, hired by William Morris as an accountant in 1922, designed the MG octagon. It’s angular art-deco style reflected contemporary fashion. William Morris was then presented with the design and Lee remembers him saying it was “the best thing to come into the company”, adding “and it will never go out of it”.
The Octagon was also incorporated into their dip-stick ends, oil tank lids, radiator caps, instrument bezels, embossed in upholstery, chromed, paint-filled, printed and stamped, as well as semi-octagonal tappet covers, octagonal gear change knobs, and aluminum gear change extension casings.
Andre Citroen started a small gear cutting business called 'Engrenages Citroen' in Fauburg St Denis, invented and produced the first helical gear, which are now used in every car there is. Based on the gear's appearance, he introduced the logo for his company as two double helical 'chevrons'. This emblem survived all his other subsequent activities and is still the internationally recognizable double chevron logo of Citroen cars.
In 2011, the logo changed from the red square with the brand name written beside it in black, shown on the right, to a curvier shape, in the chrome color that seems to have become the standard for car logos lately.
In 1812 Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot converted their windmill into a steel mill, and produced rolled steel, clock springs, cylindrical steel rods, then later machine tools, crinoline dresses, umbrellas, wire wheels, irons, sewing machines, kitchen gadgets, invented the peppermill, and later began producing bicycles. The Peugeot "lion" logo was designed by jeweler and engraver Justin Blazer in 1847. It was based on the flag of the Région Franche-Comté. The logo was stamped on Peugeot kitchen gadgets to denote the quality of their steel. In 1889, Armand Peugeot created the company’s first steam-powered car. A year later, he abandoned steam in favor of gas-powered internal combustion engine after meeting Gottlieb Daimler. It took Armand another 14 years to convince his family that cars should be considered a worthy product to bear their precious the Peugeot lion logo.
(I'll probably add a few more to this post sometime soon)