New Aston Martin Logo is Another One for the Birds

Flying cars never have really caught on. But flying car logos, that’s an entirely different thing.

Automobile brand logos that use wing design motifs have been around almost since the invention of the internal combustion engine but more recently they are turning up with greater frequency across nearly the entire automotive spectrum.

This comes to the forefront this week with the news that Aston Martin has redesigned its signature logo, keeping the wing-like elements in a simpler motif. While you need to see old and new side-by-side (old on top, new below) to really detect the differences, it does reinforce the trend of winged logos.

“The Aston Martin wings update is a classic example of the necessary evolution of logotypes of provenance,” is the way its designer Peter Saville put it and while you can see differences, they are subtle to say the least.

It’s probably impossible to trace back which car manufacturer was the first to use the wing motif. Bentley can probably make the best case as it’s been using wings as part of its signature identity since its founding in 1919. On its website the company, now owned by Volkswagen, devotes an entire page to the history of its logo, created by its namesake founder W.O. Bentley

“The Bentley car symbol is uncomplicated and elegant, but also full of meaning. The bold ‘B’ pays homage to the founder of this historic auto company…the wings that accompany the W.O.’s namesake offer a meaning that is two-fold.

“During his time as a captain in the Royal Naval Air Service, W.O. Bentley engineered a more powerful and reliable aircraft engine for the use of British forces. This connection with flight is embedded in the wings. His undying love of motion is captured in the iconic Bentley wings.”

So, chalk it up to “love of motion” for the widespread adoption of wing motifs. Chrysler says its use of wings in its logo can be traced back almost to the origins of the company in the mid-1920s. Indeed a 1928 Chrysler logo has a set of silver wings, which replaced the original stylized lightning bolts of its original design. This design remained on and off for decades until it was replaced by a mid-century-modern creation in 1955 that used two arrows that matched the burgeoning tail fins of Chrysler cars of the era.

After using its perhaps most-iconic logo, the famed Pentastar logo starting in 1962 and lasting through most of the century, Chrysler returned to wings in 1998 and has used variations of that design ever since even as the company has changed ownership hands a number of times. Today, you can still find the winged logo on selected models although the actual number of Chrysler branded vehicles being offered today is rather limited.

Back in Britain, Mini, the brand now owned by BMW and one that has also passed through multiple hands, can trace its use of wing-like graphics back to its beginnings in 1959 it wasn’t until the German automaker bought it in 2000 that true wings sprouted on its logo, debuting the following year and remaining to this day with a few tweaks.

Another venerable British brand, Morgan, continues to use wings on its logo, since at least the 1920’s. Website offers this explanation for the creation: “The origin of the Morgan Motor Company’s logo is uncertain, though the wings may be inspired by a flying ace of the First World War, Captain Ball, who said that to drive a Morgan three-wheeler as the nearest thing to flying on the ground.”

Winged logo fever continues to spread today. When Korean manufacturer Hyundai introduced its upscale Genesis line in 2008 it debuted with a logo sporting a pair of wings adorning the brand name. On the website of its Golden, CO franchise, the dealer offers this explanation for the logo: “Many speculate that the wings within the Genesis emblem signify its premium brand status. Much like other automakers that share in the ‘wing’ logo, such as Aston Martin, Chrysler, and Bentley. However, the winged logo is a symbol of speed.”

There have no doubt been other winged logos through the years and one can make the case that Mazda’s V-shaped motif is in fact a pair of wings while the classic Duesenberg logo goes the wings one better with an entire bird as part of its design.

It’s somewhat fascinating that as auto manufacturers work feverishly to create distinctive identities for their products so many fall back on wings to help tell their branding stories, hoping that connection to speed and sleekness resonates with buyers. The irony of course is that when it comes to true flight, of the big U.S. airlines only American still uses wings as part of its logo, going back to its start in the 1930’s.

Winged victory? Maybe.

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