What’s Wrong With the New BMW Logo?

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Frankly, Scarlet, “I don’t give a flying piston,” was my answer when recently asked for comment on the newly redesigned BMW logo (originally created in 1917). I wasn’t trying to be rude. But during the past few weeks I’ve lost all patience for questions about logo refinements (there are so many these days). Anyway, it was news to me.

When I learned last week that BMW had indeed updated its logo for the first time in 23 years (read a history of the mark here), I was unmoved despite my own lease of one. However, it’s my job to follow these things, so I read in Ad Age that the German luxury auto brand “is stopping short of making the change on its vehicles. The update, which began rolling out this week, is for ‘online and offline communication purposes,’ the brand states in a press release, positioning its new look as ‘better-suited to the digital age.’” Then I read this headline on The Verge: “BMW’s new flat logo is everything that’s wrong with modern logo design.”

Everything wrong with modern logo design?!

Really? Read on: “There are two major changes to the updated logo. The first is largely positive: BMW is reverting back to a flatter design that ditches the very dated 3D effects and shading that were introduced in 1997 with a design that resembles the simpler logo the company has been using since 1963. The second change is the removal of the black outer ring in favor of a transparent background, which just looks plain bad.”

The intent, explains the VP responsible for branding, is to “radiate more openness and clarity,” but the effect is anything but, states The Verge, which adds, “it looks nice on BMW’s bronze-hued electric i4 sedan concept, but what about on a white BMW? Or a letterhead? Or on a sign for a BMW dealership on a highway? The effect is less ‘clarity’ and more like someone on the creative team got sloppy and accidentally deleted the background on the Photoshop file before they exported it.”

OK, valid point. But regardless, who really cares? It is, in my humble rack and o-pinion, nothing to drain your battery over. In fact, it’s a business decision and, like so many logo refinements or transformations in recent years, we’ll probably get used to, or not—and if not, what difference will it mean? The logo could be embossed white on white, for all I care. Call me indifferent, old fashioned, design illiterate or even a perfidious traitor to the cause of good design. Yet despite the fact that I lease one, I care less that the logo is missing a black border than whether or not the car runs well, and the service is top-notch.

Note: I was more perturbed back in the early 1960s when Volkswagen eliminated its Wolfsburg hood emblem, which delinquents like me used to pry off as souvenirs and boy scout neckerchief holders.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →