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Iconic auto manufacturers usually have one thing in common – a distinctive logo or insignia that embodies their values, demonstrates their aspirations, and portrays their image as a brand they stand for.
Just like people, businesses grow, learn and evolve and so does their logo. Furthermore, in a digital-age, the car industry is accommodating to change and innovation by modernizing its logo and brand visual identity and rising to the challenges in a competitive market.
In this article, we’re looking at the evolution of some prominent British automobile brands.
And our research led to the discovery of what the original car logo design looked like to compare it to the contemporary one and find out the story about the design change.
1. Aston Martin
Carmakers are obsessed with wings – thanks to its symbolic representation of the spirit of flight, and even Aston Martin is no exception to this. The British automaker was founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin. It was originally known as Bamford & Martin Ltd. They changed their name to Aston Martin in 1914, after Lionel Martin won the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England.
The earliest known iteration of the Aston Martin car logo was introduced in 1921 – it was a simple double-lined circle with letters “A” and “M” merged within it. The wings badge came in later in 1927, and since then the logo has seen some minor changes but has stayed true to its traditional winged emblem design.
The current version of the Aston Martin logo comprises a green rectangle with the company’s name in capital letters on the top of the white wings.
While there are many theories regarding the symbolic meaning of Aston Martin’s logo, but the truth is that it has no particular meaning as such. The wings are traditionally a symbol of speed, freedom, dreams, solidity and exploring boundaries. However, in the case of Aston Martin’s logo they were actually inspired by the Bentley car logo and borrowed the wings concept from here. Today, the Aston Martin logo is considered as one of the most elegant automotive symbols in the world.
Originally founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company, the British car manufacturer’s name wasn’t changed to Jaguar until 1945. As a matter of fact, their symbol was not that of a jungle cat either but was that of a handwritten-styled wordmark executed in yellow-gold and placed inside a bright blue circle with gold wings on each side. Anyhow, this logo was done away with due to the notoriety the SS name had acquired because of WWII. And it was during this time the company decided to add the “Jumping Jaguar” to its vehicles. This shift by the company also made a clear and simple representation of the newly adopted visual identity which signified speed, strength and power.
The Jaguar icon has changed very little since its debut. The latest logo updated in 2012, has modernized to a tridimensional Jaguar figure with silver, gray and black colors. The gradient colors accentuate the 3D shape, which adds movement and vitality to the logo. All in all, Jaguar is that one automobile brand whose logo has perfectly imitated its company name and is one of the most desirable emblems of the road.
3. Land Rover
The clue is all in the name – the Land Rover was designed to rove the land, regardless of the conditions.
Authentic, classic and truly charismatic, Land Rover is one of those marvelously extraordinary vehicles whose appeal has transcended time, fashion and boundaries. However, did you know that this ultimate iconic British off-road vehicle got its start in 1948 by taking inspiration from Willys – Overland Jeep with the addition of Rover mechanics.
Unique, rugged and utilitarian in everything, Land Rover’s logo was also quite interesting. In fact, Land Rover’s first logo was hardly a logo at all. Rather, it was a metal nameplate with the words “Land Rover” and bisected by a signature “Z” – indicating the brand’s motto, “Above and Beyond,” and representative of their 4x4s’ capabilities. This logo also mentioned “Solihull Warwickshire” and “England” to celebrate the brand’s origin.
In 1989, the metal nameplate was replaced by a proper logo (the iconic green oval); much of that original styling has remained unchanged. However, the line no longer bisects the words as in original logo but is instead hinted at by a pair of what look like apostrophes.
The current logo that we see today is was created in 1986 and has been upgraded with just slight changes over all these years. It consists of emerald green oval with a white outline and the Land Rover wordmark.
The bold and strong lettering from the Gills Sans font family adds to assurance, durability and quality of vehicles that Land Rover as a brand stands for. And that’s probably one more reason that from Her Majesty The Queen to Sir David Attenborough have chosen Land Rover as a firm favorite for their driving adventures.
Lotus is a brand redolent with history and heritage. Founded by Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, Lotus cars had their start as racing and road cars.
The original Lotus emblem was introduced in 1948 and had Chapman’s initials in a monogram style within a triangle with rounded angles. The “Lotus” inscription was written in all capital letters alongside the arched triangle base, and had a bold sans-serif typeface with smooth curves. This logo has remained virtually unchanged since. But with a new Chinese ownership, things are rapidly evolving at Lotus. To better reflect its bold and dynamic future, Lotus decided to tweak its logo in 2019.
The new Lotus logo is very much similar to its earlier logo – it consists of a quarter circle contained within a larger circular outline. Even so, Lotus has changed the logo font to achieve a clean and sleek look. The initials ACBC of the company’s founder have been changed to sans-serif, as are the letters that form the LOTUS typeface. The word LOTUS is now straight in place of the curved arc of the inner quarter-circle. They have also got rid of the chrome-like outline.
The renewed minimalist Lotus logo with its legendary green and yellow color palette stands for sun, speed and passion. This logo rightfully does justice to the world’s lightest cars and Colin Chapman’s philosophy – simplify, then add lightness.
McLaren is not just any car brand or a racing team. This car is a true exhibit of a work of art with exceptional quality and speed. But this is not the only interesting fact about it. Did you know about the fascinating history behind its seemingly innoxious logo design? The curved ray, also known as the iconic “McLaren swoosh” — is all over the company’s handicraft. But what is the real meaning behind this McLaren symbol? Like many car logos, the McLaren logo has its own storied history, so let’s find out.
The first McLaren emblem was created in 1964 by British illustrator Michael Turner for the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team. This logo is a badge with racing Stripes in the green, red and white color palette. Further, it also features a kiwi bird to commemorate Bruce’s (the founder of McLaren) love for his home country New Zealand.
In 2021, the McLaren logo underwent a substantial redesign. It changed the mono-black speedmark to orange. This change symbolized ‘one’ McLaren, which thus represented McLaren’s three different businesses and united us as one Group. The font style was modernized by giving it a slimmer treatment to signify the brand’s racing heritage of agility and speed with the new ‘McLaren Orange’ logo. This refreshed brand identity has continued with the familiarity of the previous McLaren logo. It has also optimized it for the digital environment.
The Mini is the small iconic car known for its unique style and cheerful design. But did you know, the creation of one of the most revolutionary cars was because of a fuel shortage in 1957 caused by the Suez Crisis. This meant that the oil supplies would be reduced, and the UK government introduced petrol rationing. As a result, the sales of big cars with high fuel consumption slumped, and the market for so-called “bubble cars” accelerated.
To save Britain from this crisis, the British Motor Company (BMC) realized that they had to produce a small, economical and cheap city car fast. Thanks to Alec Issigonis, the engineering genius and godfather of Mini, who rose to the occasion and presented to the world the best compact car.
The first Mini cars were manufactured by two enterprises in Oxford and Birmingham. The Oxford car was called Morris Mini Minor, while the one from Birmingham was known as Austin Seven. Both of these car models were two versions of the same vehicle; the only differences were the badges, radiator grills, and variations in the use of chrome embellishment.
The first logo of Morris Mini was a circle embedded between two silver wings. The Morris Mini logo then became the hallmark for the MINI emblem that we know today. In comparison, the Austin Seven logo featured a cursive handwritten wordmark with a coat of arms above it.
After the acquisition of MINI by BMW, the icon winged logo was updated for a more modern and monochromatic look. The logo is supremely simple, oozing fashion and sophistication, while the straight wing lines symbolized speed, agility and confidence. This strong visual identity of MINI made it one of the most popular and recognizable cars worldwide.
7. Morgan Motor Company
The only entirely British-made and the last family-owned car manufacturer, Morgan Motor Company has long been the champion of tailored hand-built cars.
Founded in 1905 by engineer and former Great Western Railway employee Henry Frederick Stanley – the Morgan story began with an innovative single-seat, three-wheeler prototype. It became the company’s most popular design, which is in production till today.
Staying true to its highest standards of craftsmanship and technology, the first Morgan Motor logo took inspiration from Albert Ball – a World War 1 fighter pilot — one of the best — and he also loved his Morgan Three Wheeler. The wings on the logo showcased an icon taking its flight, while the blue and white color palette represents sophisticated design and bespoke quality that the brand stands for. This visual identity hasn’t changed in 60 years, but Morgan recently updated its logo to refresh, adapt and attract a changing customer base.
The new Morgan logo is a stylish and elegant emblem which at times is accompanied by a simple yet modern wordmark placed under it. The lettering is in blue or gray, depending on the background and placement. Regarding the typeface, the brand uses a traditional geometric sans-serif for all capital letters of the nameplate.
Morgan’s new visual identity puts a lot of emphasis on minimalism and still strikes a perfect balance to pay homage to their rich legacy that propels the brand for the future.
Rolls-Royce is that one car in the world that surpasses far more than other extravagant cars. It is the marque that defines luxury and refinement. The Rolls-Royce logo and the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ figurine are both timeless classics.
Through the years, the iconography of Rolls-Royce has had notable changes, but it still retains a few common attributes from its original visual identity.
The first Rolls-Royce logo was created in 1907. It composed of the brand’s distinctive emblem, placed on an ornate coat of arms. The color palette of the earliest company’s visual identity was primarily red, which demonstrated Rolls-Royce’s passion and power.
In recent times, Rolls-Royce has embarked on a quest to modernize its branding with an aim to appeal to a younger audience. Thereby, in its current logo, Pentagram redesigned the visual identity for Rolls-Royce. It updated the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy emblem to become the luxury car brand’s main logo. At the same time, the company has also retained the famed double-R monogram as a nod to its incredible history and legacy.
Rolls-Royce has further revamped its color palette and typeface to reflect increased simplicity and clarity while attaching greater emphasis for making the luxuriousness of the brand ready for a digital era.
True car aficionados who are loyal to the ounce of petrol in their veins know the excitement of a TVR. The TVR cars are known for their mighty engines anchored on incredibly light and terrifically designed carbon fiber bodies. It is an exception from the stereotypical fancy and posh British cars. That’s precisely what founder Trevor Wilkinson had thought when he started the company in 1947 in Blackpool, Lancastershire.
TVR is actually derived from the founder’s name TreVoR. Initially, the company started its business in car sales and repairs. Still, later it switched to making sports cars as Wilkinson was joined by another auto enthusiast Jack Pickard as TVR’s co-founder.
The first logo for TVR consisted of three-dimensional lettering in silver-metallic color with a black horizontal stripe pattern around it. In this stylized inscription, all three letters “T,” “V,” and “R” are connected to each other and enclosed in an oval circle. There are horizontal bars on both sides of the circle, parallel to horizontal stripes that have emerged from the letter “V.” The letter “V” further has a vertical bar extending to the circle. The entire logo is set in an inverted triangle and has a thick border.
In 2017, the TVR logo adopted a flat design that signified a simple and modern look in line with other car logos in the market. This new TVR logo is executed in a custom italicized sans-serif typeface with extra-thick lines. It has traditional straight cuts on the letters. Since the letters “T,” V,” and “R” are connected, this wordmark logo evokes feelings of progression, authority, and stability.
As one of the oldest British carmakers, Vauxhall has an exciting history rather than just selling mainstream cars.
Vauxhall was established in the Vauxhall area of London as Alex Wilson and Company before being renamed to Vauxhall Iron Works in 1897. While the company was founded in 1857, it made marine engines for most of the 19th century before it manufactured its first car in 1903.
The very first logo of Vauxhall Motors was that of a griffin holding a “V” flag. The mythological creature griffin (with the body of a lion and head of an eagle) comes from the coat of arms of Sir Falkes de Breauté, whose mansion, Falkes’ Hall, eventually became known as Vauxhall.
Since then, the logo has evolved and innovated over the years as the brand continues to reinvent itself with the most recent logo update announced in 2020.
While Vauxhall’s logo redesign has retained most of its iconic elements, it has focused on a contemporary minimal aesthetic that is consistent with other automobile brands in refreshing their logos with digital in mind.
Vauxhall’s new logo is modern, clean and opted for a flat design in a bid to better suit digital applications.
Furthermore, the logo is complemented by a deep blue shade for the word “Vauxhall,” which is bedecked underneath the logomark – a color pairing that underlines Vauxhall Motors’ heritage as a confidently British brand.
Evolution helps brands stay fresh and relevant in a fast-paced world. By just looking at the logo and the overall visual design of a brand – comparing its early logo iterations with the current one – we get a better understanding of what has changed and what has stayed the same over a period of time. This can help us understand how brands provide a holistic experience to their target audience at every point consistently. It also gives us a historical snapshot of how brands created, innovated and engaged at different periods of time while aligning decisions for developments in branding.
If you’re just starting out or looking to redesign your logo, we can help.