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Special feature: The evolution of BMW’s iconic logo

24th Jun 2020 10:00 am

Always thought BMW’s logo depicted a propeller? You couldn’t have been more wrong.


We all know that the acronym BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke. But the origins of the German manufacturer can be traced back to Rapp Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer based in Munich. Rapp Motorenwerke became Bayerische Motoren Werke in 1917.  In those days, according to the BMW Group Classic archives, BMW advertisements did not carry a logo or emblem, and that’s because BMW had no target audience as such at the time - it made and maintained aircraft engines for the German Air Force. But that didn’t mean a logo wasn't commissioned. The first-ever BMW logo was round, just like Rapp Motorewrke’s emblem. It featured two golden rings, and the letters ‘BMW’ were etched on the outer ring. The colours of Bavaria - white and blue – were central to the emblem and contained in quarter circles. The colours were inverted - always white and blue and not the other way round -  because local trademark laws prohibited the use of national emblems or coat of arms in logos or trademarks.


So what about the persistent story that the BMW logo was inspired by a rotating propeller? That took root after a BMW advertisement that showed an aircraft with the logo in the rotating propeller. A similar advertisement in a BMW magazine in the 1940s further perpetuated the myth, and thus, the legend grew. Over the years, there have subtle changes to the logo’s design, and the last update happened in 1997, when the roundel acquired a ‘3D effect’ thanks to the use of shadows and the Sans Serif font for the lettering.


In March 2020, though, BMW created a new corporate identity for online and offline communication purposes. The BMW, BMW i and BMW M communication logos have been given a fair overhaul, with a new logotype. According to BMW, the new design “is an expression of the revised brand identity, which places the customer at the centre of all activities. Pared down and two-dimensional, it conveys openness and clarity. The additional transparent version of the logo is a more open invitation than ever for customers to join the world of BMW. The change reflects BMW's transition from centring purely on the automotive world to being about technology and connections.”


The refreshed logo dispenses with the black ring and has substituted it with a transparent circle. The other elements, including the typeface, are now flatter. The iconic blue and white emblem, of course, has been retained. While the new logo did appear on the hood of the Concept i4, BMW has no plans to adopt it for its production vehicles.

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