Even when it comes to cars – graphics, typesetting, colour and design all play a role in conveying a message. Gavin Williams investigates the most iconic automotive badges of all time.
When he’s not missing deadlines (Ed. Ain’t that the truth ;), Gavin Williams is a partner in a design business. He therefore appreciates how thoughtful design can improve just about anything. Once upon a time he even wanted to be a car designer, but then he realised how terrible his technical drawing was. But ‘those who can’t do, teach,’ so here here it goes.
We had to start with this one because it kind of created a whole new type of car – the hot hatch. The GTi badge evolved over the years while the cars themselves got fatter and less Gran Turismo-like as maternal duties took their toll, until the Golf 5 reintroduced the iconic original GTi lettering and made it fast and capable once again. The Golf 2 GTi 16V was the car to have when I was a kid (although the 8V) by all accounts was way better according to Jacky Ickx. But admit it, 16V just looked better!
It seems a little crazy in this day and age where almost everything we drive is turbocharged, that the mere sight of the word ‘Turbo’ made a car instantly very exotic back in the ‘80s. Obviously, the 911 still trades on the fact that it has a Turbo and that flowingly linked typeface still adorns the back, as it always has, which isn’t surprising given the company’s reluctance to change anything aesthetically about the car.
Porsche don’t hold sole bragging rights to the ‘Turbo’. Renault were all about the Turbo from their exploits in F1 and rallying, so in many ways were the first to appreciate how ubiquitous it could become. Hideous turbo lag and spectacular reliability issues hindered progress on track but on the road the 5 Turbo also became an overnight bonkers classic and even won a few rallys. Nothing subtle here to see here, the badging let you know from every conceivable angle that you were looking at a turbocharged pocket rocket.
The elegant, flowing lines of Pininfarina’s creations are matched perfectly by the flowing typography of their logo. Seeing this iconic styling house’s name adorning a car automatically gives it some strange aura of exclusivity. The cars Pininfarina created reads like an invite list to an automotive lifetime achievement awards. Even the fact that tax-shy, pint-sized rocker, Bono, owns one can’t mask the Maserati Quattroporte’s allure. The ‘I don’t care about cars but I do care about my appearance’ understatement of the Peugeot 306 to the stupid name but impossibly good looking La Ferrari and hundreds of others, all we can say is grazie to their founder Battista Farina and the incredible designers they’ve groomed over the years.
The Bauhaus brutalism of Audi’s Sport logo initially (like BMW’s dark arts division) had three striking colour bars of red and two shades of grey (let’s not even go there) arranged in parallel. In later years the type mark was deconstructed and simplified, and is now just a simple red rhombus –the addition of which makes a regular Audi suddenly something to be truly feared and respected. It somehow always reminds me of the guttural howl and waste gate dump and squeal of Audi’s old Ur-Quattro rally beast.
Simple, stark lines define the essence of purpose represented by BMW’s cult-like M-division. Perhaps suitably sounding like a shadowy underground task team, they are represented by three striking colours arranged in parallel almost in contrast to Audi Sport’s original emblem. The badge has obviously evolved over the years but has remained one of the most suitable visual expressions of Neil Degrasse Tyson’s famous catch phrase: ‘Watch out! We got a badass over here!’
Again with the parallel lines! It’s obviously German basic visual language for ‘very zooper fast, jah!’ Founding engineers Aufrecht and Melcher, based in the town of Grossaspach, cleverly created an acronym that would come to mean colossal power and ultimately Formula 1 world dominance. The simple, blocky typeset is a clear statement of not being there to mess around and no matter which digits follow them, AMG is shorthand for brutal engineering brilliance. Javohl!