Commentary: What's In A Logo?

Yeah…what's in a logo?

That’s a question to ask Volkswagen on why they changed their iconic "VW" logo to something sleeker, thinner, and somewhat controversial.

This question came up as I am working with a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport for publication very soon. It is the first Volkswagen in the North American market to wear the new corporate logo. You will see the logo on future products, including the 2021 Atlas.

On one of my car groups in Facebook, I ask that group to compare the old badge with the new. The majority of them prefer the old, thicker, three-dimensional badge that have been the company’s trademark for a decade or more.

Change is difficult, I know. But, Volkswagen is not listening. They have a reason…well, several.

You see, the reason for the logo change is to be able to render it for digital platforms. A simpler logo is easier to use on websites, mobile devices, and other digital forms that the company will employ worldwide. It will also make its newest vehicles, including the I.D. line of electric vehicles, more distinctive for a new era.

Still not convinced? Not drinking the Kool-Aid from Wolfsburg?

Logos form the language of a company or organization. Since before World War II, Volkswagen created a simple logo stacking the V on top of the W inside of a circle. That logo was cleaned up after the end of World War II to become a symbol of a peacetime company building the people’s car for rebounding Western Europe.

The logo always had the V and the W separated, while both letters were attached to the circle. The new logo now has the W lifted from the circle, while keeping the letters separated in the middle. A keen eye will see the logo through the years to notice these details.

What do I think of the new logo from Volkswagen? I like it. It is a clean design that keeps its iconic shape and lettering with a few twists. It is also sporting a simplified elegance, something that is adaptable in all of its markets worldwide. In some places, Volkswagen is considered an upmarket brand that is just below Audi in the corporate food chain. In other markets, Volkswagen is a mainstream brand with something for every budget.

Any discussion about the new Volkswagen logo lately had been attached to the discussion of the new logo by BMW. The change that the Munich company did for their brand was to make the black circle around the Roundel transparent with sleeker lettering for BMW.

The two logo changes appear to be joined at the hip for some reason. Because these are German automakers? Maybe. But, both companies have been trying to change their image to meet a future where electrification and autonomous driving will become the norm.

I do find fault in that statement. For one, it is true that Volkswagen and BMW are set to introduce new electrified vehicles in the next five or so years. Is that the only justification to change a corporate logo? Again, maybe.

In the case of Volkswagen, their commitment to electrification with the I.D. lineup is solid. They’re ramping up for production sometime after we get out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy starts rising again. In the meantime, Volkswagen is starting to change its image with a clean sheet approach to their marketing. It is the kind of motivation to keep the company going through these tough social and economic times.

What about BMW’s justification for a logo change? Similar to Volkswagen, BMW claims that it was designed for digital use. However, they have a message behind the new logo – an open invitation to the world of BMW.

I could see that – to a point. Though I have to ask to whom BMW is opening their invitation to their world through their updated logo? If you can afford a new 330i xDrive or an X7, that invitation is open to you.

Here is another issue I have with the new BMW logo. If the company asks their retailers and facilities to change their signage with the new logo, it will cost them more in the long run. With the previous logo, molding for the actual signage was simpler to make, as it would take a single piece of plastic to make the complete Roundel. Now that the black part is transparent, I would imagine that it would take multiple parts to replace a single logo, if it is not injected onto a larger plastic background piece. Also, you have a 2-3 color design to work with.

The same issue may be present with making new signage for Volkswagen dealers and facilities. However, the design is simpler because it only takes a single color. If they replace the signage that has a background, then it would only take two colors.

I would be curious how Volkswagen will implement the new logo on dealerships. In the pasts several years, the company’s USA arm had been asking dealers to conform to a new showroom and facility design from the ground up. With most of the dealers adhering to the company’s directives, I would like to see how they would adapt the current facility design with the new logo and corporate image that goes along with it.

This commentary has gone beyond a discussion of a single logo. It goes beyond just a simple graphic. It is the language of a company. It manifests in everything they represent – from vehicles to facilities to digital assets. These changes are never as simple as they seem.

Photo by Randy Stern

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.