Reasons Behind Cadillac Emblem 'Controversy' Finally Explained

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Cadillac’s recent decision to move its corporate emblem to the top of the grille was, apparently, a very controversial one. While older models carried the badge dead center, current models have allowed the symbol to creep nearer to the hood latch. We failed to notice any riots in the streets over the change, but Cadillac Society contends there are a contingent of customers who don’t appreciate the new look.

It also has the answers for why General Motors thought the modification necessary.

It doesn’t take a PhD in visual design to figure out why, though. Due to Cadillac moving away from vertical headlamps, a central emblem would look a little goofy — kind of like it does on present-day Acuras. While we’ll admit that the new badge placement was initially unsettling, akin to the creeping mole featured on Prince John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, it was likely the correct choice.

Speaking with several GM designers, Cadillac Society said the decision ultimately came down to how weird the new models would look with a centrally mounted emblem:

When looking at the front end of a vehicle, the observer tends to notice more prominent styling elements first, such as the headlamps, which form the “book ends” of a grille. In order to create a natural horizontal line between the headlamps, the badge is placed higher on the grille, thereby visually connecting the headlamps and creating a balanced appearance.

Conversely, placing the logo centrally on the grille would mean that it would be positioned toward the bottom end of the front end, which is lower than the aforementioned horizontal line between the headlamps. Not only would doing so remove the alignment of the logo and the headlamps, but it would also make it look like the logo is “falling”.

The emblem is also no longer surrounded by a wreath, like it was back when you were cruising around in your STS. It’s wider these days, allowing for a more at-home look higher on the grille. To better illustrate this point, here’s an image of the current Cadillac CT5 (left) with a mockup of how it might look with center-mounted branding (right).

While not heinous, the lower placement does look a bit off, disrupting that visual flow Cadillac was looking for to achieve better brand cohesion. The CT6 also has a fairly modest grille in relation to other Cadillac models. With all that negative space, the manufacturer had to either shift the badge up a few inches or make it bigger. Its final decision was arguably the more tasteful option. We previously mentioned Acura’s visual missteps, but Mercedes-Benz can also be faulted for going overboard with gigantic branding — especially now that its emblems can be illuminated (for those who don’t believe in subtlety).

But beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Are you one of those people who found the evolving emblem placement unsettling, or is the new way better?

[Images: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 09, 2020

    Cadillac is no longer an aspirational brand regardless of ones race or nationality and if the only way Cadillac can raise awareness of their brand is to raise controversy over the placement of their emblem then this just proves my point. GM should just pack it up and become a Chinese company.

  • MeJ MeJ on Jan 09, 2020

    "...No longer does man have to suffer with paper maps and dead reckoning. The stars adorning the heavens are there just for decoration these day..." This is what's a little sad about modern technology. There is no longer any sense of discovery.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.