Why so Little Originality in Auto Badges?

Drive anywhere in the USA, and the preponderance of Toyotas and Fords on the road will have you thinking that almost all cars sport oval badges. But it’s not so! Some of them are round.

Actually, there is a bit more variety in badge shapes, but the great majority are, in fact, either oval or round. I suspect there may be some good design reason for that — I’m surely no designer — but to me, it seems like a lack of original thinking. Why do badges have to fit into a circle or an oval? Come on, automakers: break the mold.

Now, the badge isn’t necessarily the same as the brand’s logo. Sometimes it is, but often it’s a variant of the logo (like, say, the logo with a CIRCLE around it!). Anyway, here’s the result of my investigation, mostly conducted at the local Big Box Emporium of Cheap Plastic Crap (where, I defiantly acknowledge, I do a fair amount of my nonfood shopping). Images are in random order; all are mine, except the following, which I’ve borrowed from other sources: BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, Mini.

Toyota badge.

Toyota: two ovals in an oval. Dull.

VW badge

VW: as round as round can be.

Volvo badge

Volvo: mostly, it’s a circle, but the arrow at 2 o’clock gives it a certain..masculinity?

Suzuki badge.

Suzuki: the courage to have the initial letter, in a dramatic font, standing all by itself, with no border of any kind.

Subaru badge.

Subaru: The collection of stars is a pretty strange logo which really does need a border to contain them.

Nissan badge.

Nissan: The horizontal bar breaks the circle a little bit, making it just a little bit more interesting than a logo entirely contained by a circle.

Mitsubishi badge.

Mitsubishi: some of this conglomerate’s companies go by the name “Three Diamonds.” Doesn’t need no stinkin’ circle, does it?

Mini badge.

Mini: a circle with wings. Right. Circles have wings. Little boxy cars can fly.

Mercury badge.

Mercury: a boring round badge for a boring brand with no sharp edges.

Mercedes logo.

Mercedes: yeah, it’s round, but it’s different. The circle doesn’t encircle a symbol or logo: the circle is an integral part of the symbol. For this reason, we call it classy, not dull.

Mazda badge.

Mazda: the border isn’t quite round or oval: it’s kind of squashed. And it’s really a part of the design, as in Mercedes’s badge. So we’ll give it a B.

Lexus badge.

Lexus: an L (or is it a nose?) inside an oval. Boring.

KIA badge.

Kia: a name in an oval. Kind of dull. Could the  logotype stand by itself, with no border?

Jeep badge.

In comparison to KIA, Jeep’s all-typography badge seems to work fine without a border. And each letter is affixed separately.

Infiniti badge.

Infiniti: basically an oval. Who took the first piece of pie?

Hyundai badge.

Hyundai: an H in an oval. How do you say “boring” in Korean?

Honda badge.

Honda: another H in a border; this one a rounded, vague trapezoid. The border still makes me snooze.

GMC badge.

GMC: the big, masculine letters closely spaced have good design integrity, don’t need a border to hang together.

Ford badge.

Ford: the ultimate oval logo. Since it’s probably the oldest badge on the road, we’ll give it a pass. Heck, they might have invented the oval badge!

Dodge badge.

Dodge badge: the big bad ram (um, it’s really just a sheep) in a shield-shaped border. OK, it’s not round. And I like the pretty baaa-lamb.

Chrysler badge.

Chrysler: those are some big wings you put around that round badge there, Grandma.

Chevrolet badge.

Chevrolet: The logo is plenty intact and self-supporting, needs no border to set it off. It’s a cross, but it’s so different from the “usual” cross that probably few people associate it with Christianity.

Cadillac badge.

Cadillac: GM is always tweaking the Caddy badge. At its heart, it’s a heraldic shield. The current iteration, however, is flanked by a garland that damn near encircles it, and then the whole thing is placed on a circle, thereby making it solidly dull.

Buick badge.

Buick: I think those heraldic shields could stand on their own, without a round border. See also: Cadillac.

BMW badge.

BMW: the logo itself is round; there’s no round border encircling it. Works for me.

Audi badge.

Audi: it may be made of circles, but it’s definitely not a logo within a circle. Pretty much one of a kind.

My takeaway is the obvious one: Don’t let the design ideas of your competition steer your designs. Think outside the oval.

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