Minimise it! Why is the automotive industry slimming down its logos?

“Less is more!” seems to be the automotive industry’s latest motto. At least when it comes to their logos. That’s because more and more automakers are following the trend to minimise their own look. Have you also noticed this? What’s the reason? I started delving deeper into the issues.

As Creative Director, I have been intensively involved in digital corporate identity, visual branding on the web, as well as web and product design for years. I’m an enthusiastic follower of current design developments on the market.

Hilla Neske, Creative Director

Reading duration: 4 minutes

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As different as car manufacturers are – they have one thing in common: logos in flat design

Most recently, in September 2020, the British car brand Vauxhall unveiled a flatter logo that pays tribute to the trend toward minimalism: a confident British look that revises the original griffin symbol and introduces a blue and red colour scheme. The most striking feature, however, is the new “flatness”, i.e. a simplified version of the previous 3-D look. By the way, the manufacturer itself calls this redesign the “progressive face of the brand”.

Logo simplification is typical of branding in today’s car industry. Audi started this in 2018 with its minimalist rebranding style and other major manufacturers soon followed. Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota, and Nissan all entered the flat logo race shortly thereafter.

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Is simplicity a sign of the new digital future?

What’s the reason for this? It could be that a more minimalist appearance makes a corporate identity (CI) seem ready for the digital world. Redesigning a corporate logo into a flat-design logo allows it to better adapt to the requirements of a wide range of platforms while simultaneously ensuring brand recognition.

By unveiling its slimmed-down logo, VW demonstrated a strategic reorientation and ushered in a whole new era: the electric vehicle age. ID.3 is in fact VW’s first series of a new generation of all-electric vehicles – plus the first model to bear the company’s newly designed logo. The company’s intention is clear. This is how VW wants to welcome the “electric future”!


The evolution of the VW logo: Volkswagen replaced its chrome-effect logo with a flat, “digital” visual trademark

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Almost at the same time, by the way, Nissan presented its new look – during the presentation of a purely virtual car. Toyota has also recognised that a CI under the current digital conditions must be flat, functional, approachable, reduced, responsive, and flexible. That’s why the automaker also decided to relaunch its design in June 2020. Toyota announced that it wants to “look to the future” and be better adapted to mobile platforms. The key to this project is not only updating its brand identity, but preparing it for the coming years.

BMW is also pursuing the goal of planning for the future. “With visual restraint and graphic flexibility,” the Munich-based automaker wants to be ready for multiple communication touchpoints where it will be present both online and offline.

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Is the simplification of logos just a digital trend – or perhaps also a reaction to viewing habits that are quickly changing?

One thing is clear: Every day, we see hundreds of logos on the web – whether on social media channels or other digital platforms. Flat designs offer a clearer and more concise visual experience.

If you look at the developments of company logos – from 3M to Windows to Audi – you immediately notice that many company logos were remarkably simple in the past, only to become more and more complicated over time. Now, things are returning to the original simplicity! It seems like the solution was there all along.

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At the turn of the last century, almost all logos were flat. However, with the advent of Apple Macs and Adobe Photoshop, the design of the emblems changed; everything became increasingly three-dimensional.

But now, digitisation comes with its own “digital conditions”. Everything must be more reduced and flexible. Branding must fulfil many guidelines – from accessibility and font readability to fast loading times. There’s little room to be ornate, complicated, or have many small-scale elements. The current design aesthetic relies on reduced, striking elements – optimised for the digital world.


The evolution of the Pepsi logo (excerpt)

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The BMW logo – redesigned after 20 years

It is also clear that the automotive industry is undergoing dramatic changes – electrification, new players in the mobility market, and few sales in urban environments. This means that automakers like VW, Nissan, and Toyota are currently experiencing disruptions in their traditional markets and need to be as adaptable as possible. In doing so, such companies want to be seen as digital pioneers: visionaries who think about future mobility solutions and offer new services beyond mobility. To create this vision, new digital looks are also needed.

About Hilla

Hilla is a designer with heart and soul. She has a special passion for typography, illustration, and functional graphic design. She finds inspiration for her work in culture and architecture, and she never misses a current design exhibition – she’ll even travel to London for such events.

You want to learn more about Ray Sono? Get in touch!

You want to learn more about Ray Sono? Get in touch!

Nancy Forner
Marketing & Communications
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