Why are car brands changing their logos?

Over the course of late 2019 and throughout 2020, something curious has been going on with several car brands; they’ve been changing their logos. Take a look at the likes of Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Kia, GM, and most recently, Peugeot. Their logos have transformed from the formerly 3D-effect , be-chromed, gradient-filled forms to seemingly flat, two-dimensional designs.

What’s happening? Are these brands going retro? Or is there a deeper story to this mass re-imaging campaign?

Ask any of these companies and you’ll find a common thread, the change in logo signifies several changes within the company. We’ll go over some of the most common reasons.

  • Sending a new message

Easily the most common reason for these logo changes are to convey something new. There’s no better way to do that than with a redesign of the logo. Simply look to logos of global brands like Amazon and FedEx and it’s easy to see how words and shapes can be made designed to convey hidden messages.

In the case of these car brands, it’s often to convey open-ness, simplicity, ease of use. Gone are the closed spheres, shields, bars, and what have you. Many of these logos are designed to be transparent, letting the background of what ever it’s embossed or printed on shine through. Many brands have cited, this is to convey open-ness, meaning the brand is open to constructive criticism, communication, and possible partnerships with clients.

The new logos are also much simpler in design to convey the simplicity and ease of use of their products. That same impression is hoped to be transferred onto their vehicles or related mobility products.

Finally, the redesigns are typically to refocus on what's essential: the most recognizable parts of its logos.

They don’t want to be seen as monolithic uncaring corporate giants, but as something the consumer can converse with.

  • Transition to mobility
VW ID Buzz concept

If there’s anything the past couple of years has shown, it’s that calling yourself a car company is extremely stifling. The car, by its definition, is typically a four-wheeled passenger vehicle. Yet these days, many of these companies are delving into more than just cars. In the case of Peugeot and BMW, the companies also make motorcycles.

Many of these brands, particularly Nissan, Volkswagen, GM, and Kia have also begun research on electric powertrains, self-driving technology, and even additional services beyond simply vehicle sales and maintenance. In many cases, the new logo announcement is also paired with the shift from a car manufacturer to a mobility company, as Toyota has bravely renamed itself.

  • The move to digital

Perhaps one of the most practical reasons for changing logos is because of the recent shift to digital. All of these brands have their own set of apps, programs, and online presences. Each of these require some kind of icon, profile picture, or thumbnail. In this digital age, a clear and concise icon or photo can help it be instantly recognized in a sea of icons and profile pictures, even when shrunk down to thumbnail size on your phone’s screen. At this smaller scale, logo flourishes like chrome effects or gradients will hardly be evident.

In addition, these flat designs make it easier to illuminate the logos with LEDs, something that’s becoming increasingly popular these days and a very likely possibility with future cars. Nissan, Kia, and BMW already have a few concept cars with the new logos.

  • Better integration in new mediums

Last but certainly not the least, these new logo designs are future proof, at least for the foreseeable future. Designs like these are easy to replicate accurately in a variety of mediums, be it in printed format (like a letterhead or brochure), digital form (social media profile picture, app icon, website), or even any other medium such as embossed on delicate material like calling cards, leather seats, apparel or a variety of other merchandise.

  • Just the start

If the recent wave of logo changes is already causing you to scratch your head, this is just the start. Many more automotive and motorcycle brands (who are still using the outdated 3D style) could soon follow suit. So sit tight and keep your eyes glued to the screens.

We could see more ‘mobility’ companies hoping to ‘signifying open-ness’ in 2021. Are you ready to synergize?