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Mainstream automotive identity

October 29, 2009

Ever since I first noticed the similarity between Spanish car maker Seat’s logo with that of the SVHS video format (the intended successor to VHS) back in the late eighties, I’ve often considered how mainstream automotive identities vie for attention and differentiation in a crowded, competitive market – to say nothing of defunct video formats. As economy, sustainability and ergonomic considerations play an increasingly fundamental role in mainstream car design and vehicle shape and style become less differentiated across classes, it’s reasonable to expect greater differentiation between car marque identities, if only to redress the balance of overall design convergence.

car logo comparrisons

This is no easy feat however; the Ford logo has remained virtually unchanged over nearly 100 years. The prospect of change is daunting. Not only does a car logo have to meet all the usual design criteria – it has to work on a variety of products as a ‘seal of approval’. I can think of few logo type applications more ubiquitous than that of the car marque.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because the other day I noticed a car in front of me, then I looked at the badge, then I realised I didn’t know who the manufacturer was. The badge was in the form of a chrome shape (as they tend to be) albeit it not unattractive, but with no marque title and no other distinguishing features. And therein lies the challenge. If the manufacturer’s name is omitted and the design eschews animals and mythical creatures, or the logo does not resemble unrelated but well-established iconography, there is precious little which might truly resonate across a global market. It takes more than abstract symbolism to make an instant and lasting impression. Incorporating the initial letter into the design might help, but might also be deemed detrimental in some cases. At a time of imminent change across the automotive industry and where common consumer values are inevitable, perhaps that’s the point?

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