Talk to a designer and you're likely to hear how important brand heritage and design DNA are. But a logo says a lot about a car company, too. As proof, consider the millions of dollars that automakers spend to plaster their logos on the sides of buses, across TV screens and on highway billboards.
But do you know the meanings and histories of some of the most recognizable logos in the industry? Match the history with the logo in this quick test.
1. This is one of the most famous logos in American culture, and it also has one of the most muddied histories. Even the parent company is not completely sure how or who created it. One version says the company's founder fashioned the logo from a wallpaper pattern he saw in a Paris hotel room in 1908. But his own family disputed that. His wife said he saw it in a 1911 newspaper ad for a coal company. But his daughter wrote in a biography of her father that he drew it during dinner. This much is known, though: The logo first appeared on a car in 1913.
2. No, this is not a seagull. It's a stylized "M" and is meant to represent a flight toward the future. Notice that the middle of the M looks like a "V," which embodies the company's passion, creativity, flexibility and vitality. The current version of this logo is a relative newcomer, having been designed eight years ago.
3. Consider this one a gimme. The logo is derived from the coat of arms of the French explorer who founded Detroit in 1701. The colors have different meanings. Black and gold stands for wisdom and riches; red for boldness and prowess; silver for purity, charity, virtue and plenty; and blue for knightly valor. The logo was first used in 1902. Past versions of the emblem had a coronet and birds, called merlettes.
4. This logo represents a waterfall. It first appeared in the early 1980s, replacing a design depicting the Roman god of speed and commerce.
5. Each of the patterns that make up this logo stand for something: corporate responsibility to society; integrity and fairness; and international understanding through trade.
6. In 1953, five Japanese companies merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the parent company for this brand. The Japanese word for this company means unite. A design showing a cluster of stars, a symbol of unification of those companies, was adopted at the time. The star cluster shows what the ancient Greeks called Pleiades, part of the Taurus constellation. According to Greek mythology, Atlas' daughters turned into this group of stars. That's where the unity theme comes from.
7. The ancient chemical symbol for iron was adopted to create this logo. The logo was complemented with a diagonal band running across the radiator of cars beginning in 1927. The band originally was a technical necessity to keep the chrome badge in place, but it gradually became a decorative symbol. It is still found across the grille of vehicles sold by this carmaker.Answers: (1.) A., Chevrolet; (2.) E., Mazda; (3.) F, Cadillac; (4.) G, Mercury; (5.) D, Mitsubishi; (6.) B, Subaru; (7.) C, Volvo
Sources: Automotive News, Cadillac, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Media Archive, Subaru, Mercury, The Chevrolet Bowtie by Richard Scharchburg, Volvo Cars of North America