Eighty-two years ago, the citizens of Germany were told about a new car whose reliability and affordability would put it within reach for most middle-class families. “It is for the broad masses that this car has been built,” they were told.
The speaker was Adolph Hitler. And the car for the masses? Volkswagen.
World War II would delay production of the budget-friendly car until 1945, but the carmaker gained fame almost immediately, thanks to its name—Volkswagen, or “people’s car”—and its clever logo: a “V” sitting atop a “W,” inscribed in a circle.
The brand’s dark founding story notwithstanding, Volkswagen has gone on to become one of the most successful marks in automotive history. And its logo? Good things don’t need fixing, and the exemplary piece of design work stood for decades as a durable brand symbol for a company that built 6.2 million vehicles last year.
That is, until this morning.
Earlier today, Volkswagen officially debuted its new logo that will soon be adopted company wide. The badge made a limited appearance last year, but only on its ID.3 electric car. Now, the emblem is ready for prime time and will be seen across VW’s range of models as well as on the facades of showrooms and manufacturing plants.
But even after all the exertions of a renowned design team, you can be forgiven for not quite seeing the difference between the old and the new.
Basically, Volkswagen chief designer Klaus Bischoff took the “W”—already separated from the vertex of the “V” by a small seam—and detached its feet from the circle so that it essentially hangs by its arms. Bischoff’s team also swapped out the traditional blue-and-white color scheme for a deeper blue and a range of other colors.
“My personal drive in this redesign was to make the W float, bringing a new lightness to the Volkswagen brand,” Bischoff said in a company statement.
But wait—all that effort just to disentangle the letter “W”? What’s the thinking?
As it turns out, Volkswagen is doing what a number of other legacy brands, including Bank of America and Sheraton, have done with their own logos in recent years: keeping the signature elements that consumers recognize while simplifying a few key details, in hopes of making the logos more digital friendly.
As Volkswagen corporate explained it, “The new design is a refreshed, minimalist take on the classic logo, allowing for more flexibility and versatility when it comes to the signature symbol.” Essentially, that means the new badge will read more clearly on tiny screens such as phones or smartwatches by having a greater definition between the two letters and the circle that encloses them. Volkswagen has said that the refreshed logo will also appear on its manufacturing plants and other structures, as well.
That’s a big task, of course, though the company estimates that changing out the logos on Volkswagen’s 10,000 dealerships in 154 countries should be completed by the middle of this year. On vehicle grills, the new logo will appear first on the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport.