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Logo Design History and the Secret Messages Hidden In Automobile Company Logos

Logos have been in use since time unknown. The automobile logo design companies behind some of the most eminent logo designs have done a commendable job – their logos have come to represent brands, reinforcing the brand promise and delivering unparalleled customer satisfaction along the way.

We’re all quite familiar with the three-point star that symbolizes Mercedes or the iconic four intertwined rings logo for Audi. Their logos serve as a unique identifier of the brand, revealing the manufacturer in just a glimpse. They’ve become synonymous to quality, precision, and the special values proposed by each manufacturer.

However, there’s much more to these than simple design aesthetics or their easy-to-remember nature. For most automobile companies, their logos contain secret messages hidden in the design. In fact, this is a common practice for logo design companies everywhere.

Here we’ve tried to highlight the hidden messages in some of the most popular automobile companies’ logos. While some of these may be implied, it takes a little observation and in-depth study to figure out what others mean.

Mercedes Logo Branding

Mercedes Benz is a German automobile manufacturing company founded in 1926 as a division of Daimler AG. They first adopted the three-point star in their logo in 1916.

Before this, they used to custom-design proprietary typefaces to spell out their brand. Since 1916, their logo has been through a series of revisions. They finally perfected their three-point star logo in 1990, using signature metallic grey hues to mirror a sophisticated corporate image.

The use of a fairly uncomplicated typeface reflects resiliency, simplicity, power, and authority. Mercedes has become a status symbol for the elite and sophisticated segment of the population.

Here’s the catch; Mercedes three-point star actually reflects the company’s mission to dominate over air, sea, and land with its cutting-edge fleet of luxury vehicles. It defines their purpose of innovation, defining their product range as the benchmark of quality, success, and a futuristic vision.

Audi Logo Branding

The famous automobile manufacturer Audi uses four interlinked rings in its logo to reflect the merger of its predecessors. Audi, formerly known as the Auto Union Consortium, was born as a result of a merger between Dampft Kraft Wagen, Wanderer, August Horch & CIE, and Audiwerke GMBH.

The logo was first introduced during the period preceding World War II. However, at that time, the four rings were used to brand Auto Union’s racing cars. The logo and the brand name were lost for more than two decades following the World War II, finally being resurrected in 1965.

By 1985, all cars produced by the 11 production units across the world were being branded under the common brand name Audi. Since then, Audi’s logo has become synonymous with quality, style, and innovation.

In 2009, the logo was revised to include shadows of the overlapping rings. The typeface was also altered, aligning it towards the left. Their proprietary Audi Sans typeface has appeared commonly across all their marketing materials since then.

BMW Logo Branding

BMW is one of the most remarkable German automobile manufacturers founded in 1916. The Bavarian Motor Works Company was originally known for manufacturing aircraft engines. In 1918, they were forced to redirect their manufacturing efforts to automobiles as a result of the Versailles Armistice Treaty.

Although their logo has been through a series of revisions, they have nevertheless retained their classic black circular band enclosing four alternatively-colored quadrants.

This can be analyzed in two ways.

Firstly, it is believed that BMW tried to preserve their history as an aircraft engine manufacturer. The white/grey quadrants illustrate the propellers of an aircraft, contrasted against the clear blue sky.

Secondly, these colors are also known to be the national colors of Bavaria. Needless to say, the BMW logo has come to stand for strength, quality, and power over time.

Toyota Logo Branding

The Toyota Motor Corporation (formerly known as Toyoda as per the founder Kiichiro Toyoda’s name) is a Japanese automobile manufacturer and was established in the 1920s. Following a mass rebranding effort in 1936, the company’s name was changed to Toyota.

The company announced its willingness to accept public participation in the rebranding process. Over 27,000 logo designs were received of which the Japanese script for “To-yo-ta” was accepted.

The altered name could be written using eight brush strokes instead of ten (in the Japanese script), which, according to “jikaku” (an ancient tool used to determine good or bad luck by counting brush strokes) is associated with good luck.

Since 1936, the company has flourished rapidly to unparalleled heights. However, the Japanese script-based logo seemed to be causing marketing inconsistencies across the world. Thus in 1989, the ellipses-based logo was introduced.

According to the Toyota Motor Corporation, the three overlapping ellipses symbolize the unification of the consumers’ heart, Toyota’s dedication to serve, and its progress in technological advancement and adoption. The ellipses are also shaped as an enclosed “T”.

According to some other critics, this particular logo spells out the company name as well. Whichever way you look at it, Toyota has built a reputation for quality, consistency, and dedication.

Their choice of the red and white combination reflects their passion to innovate and create cutting edge solutions for all. On top of this, their use of the most popular sans serif geometric typeface – Helvetica – reflects simplicity and clarity at its best.

Ferrari Logo Branding

The speed maestro in the automobile industry – Ferrari – does not need an introduction. Founded in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari, it took the company around 18 years to launch an automobile for the roads. Before 1947, Ferrari was exclusively involved in the production of race cars. This is where the brand received its reputation for speed, wealth and luxury.

The Ferrari logo contains a prancing black horse contrasted against a bright yellow background. The same horse used to brand Francesco Baracca’s fighter plane – one of the most notable airmen of the First World War.

In the 1920s, Enzo Ferrari met Enrico and Paulina Baracca (Francesco’s parents) on the race track one day. Paulina requested Enzo to use the prancing black horse as Ferrari’s symbol, assuring him that it is a sign of good luck. Enzo added the yellow background to include the color of Modena, his birthplace.

The red, white and green stripes on the top of the logo come from the country’s flag. Thus the Ferrari logo came into being. Although several variations of the logo have been adopted, the key element – the prancing black horse – has remained unchanged.

The prancing black horse stands for power, resilience and strength. Moreover, it is a symbol of good luck. The prancing black horse has become engrained with the brand’s personality, lending authority and power to all its masterpieces.

Volvo Logo Branding

The Volvo group is a Swedish company specializing in heavy equipment manufacturing. The company was established in 1927, and is known to have an extremely diverse background. The word “Volvo” comes from Latin and is roughly translated as “I roll”. Volvo initially began by manufacturing ball bearings for automobiles.

Since 1927, Volvo has used the chemical symbol of Iron – the circle with an arrow pointing in the top right direction – in its logo. This logo has been through a series of revisions. The iron mark aims to reinforce the symbol of strength, durability and power.

The same symbol is also used for Man as well as the Roman God of Warfare, Mars. The company was looking for a masculine touch to their proposition and aimed to reinforce the Swedish tradition associated with the iron manufacturing industry. Both these conditions were successfully fulfilled by their logo.

However, it has now become synonymous with modernism, excitement, and resilience.


There are no hard and fast rules about how to design a logo for an automobile manufacturer (or any other company for that matter). In fact, designing a business logo takes significant thought and consideration to make it truly priceless.

It requires strategic planning and conceptualization to design a logo that is an instant win with customers. The aim is to highlight the company’s propositions in a way that resonates with the target audience, connecting with them on the conscious as well as the subconscious level.

These automobile manufacturers have successfully crafted their brand image, communicating their core values efficiently and effortlessly. These serve as an inspiration for automobile logo design companies across the globe, enabling them to design masterpieces that encompass entirety as this does.

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