By on March 6, 2020

BMW is updating its logo for the modern era. The old glossy emblem with the dated lighting effects the company has leaned upon for the last 23 years will be replaced with a new transparent image that nixes the black background entirely while maintaining the lettering and central blue-and-white roundel. You’ve probably already seen it on the Concept i4, or are perhaps familiar with its monochrome cousin intended to help distinguish the brand’s flagship models.

The manufacturer has said the new logo aims to establish a new corporate identity for online and offline communication purposes, so it could be reserved for press materials and advertising. Yet it has appeared on one automobile already, indicating the brand may eventually have bins of them at the end of every assembly line. Is it a fashion faux pas or the perfect reimagining of the brand’s longstanding iconography? 

Volkswagen would probably say it’s the latter, as it also recently reformatted its own logo to appear flatter and more consistent with the digital age. We’re disinclined to agree. Without the black background, the new BMW emblem (above) will undoubtedly be harder to read at a distance and be less impactful on cars — though it hasn’t yet been tapped for any production models.

That leaves the propeller-based roundel to do most of the heavy lifting for strained eyes, though the company issued a quick reminder that the symbol isn’t supposed to have anything to do with aviation. Despite building airplane engines during both World Wars and adopting the “propeller” image in 1917 (smack dab in the middle of the first global conflict), BMW claims the roundel is simply its own take on the Bavarian flag — which we totally see. But we also understand why the company would want to distance itself from anything that would be reminiscent of its wartime activities. Some of the decisions BMW made during the 1940s aren’t the kind of thing you’d want to bring up in polite conversation.

We’re not here to chide the brand for missteps made before most of us were born, so we should instead address the screw ups occuring now. This is the second time in the last seven months that the company has gone out of its way to tell everyone that the emblem has no ties to aviation … even though it changed its logo when it “had no end customers to solicit” and did most of its business with the German Air Force. It also featured the logo atop actual aircraft in advertisements published between 1929 and 1943. BMW even set up an LED display on a vintage plane in 2013 so that the propeller would display its logo while spinning.

With a little digging, we found examples of BMW pushing the anti-plane narrative going back to 2015. What has the automaker gained from this? A handful of lazy articles taking BMW’s press releases at face value and more people using the internet to verify the propeller claims/refutation. There’s still no real consensus online and digging deep enough will have you reading all about the company’s temporary strategy of using forced labor. Maybe the image never officially had anything to do with planes, but you can forgive millions of people for making that association.

Perhaps BMW’s marketing team has never heard of the Streisand effect.

But the past is the past and we’re moving on to that new logo. The manufacturer has maintained that the image is to be chiefly used for communication purposes and said there were no plans to slap it on any cars or dealership signs. That’s assuredly subject to change on an executive whim but we can’t really see it working on the hood of a non-black car.

This also probably leaves you wondering what’s the point of changing the logo if you aren’t going to use it broadly. It apparently has something to do with digitalization, though the marketing jargon BMW laid upon us was a little thick. We thought the brand just wanted something that looked a tad more modern but the little emblem actually represents a major evolution.

“BMW is becoming a relationship brand. The new communication logo stands for openness and clarity,” Jens Thiemer, BMW’s head of brand management, said in a statement. “We want to use this new transparent version to invite our customers, more than ever, to become part of the world of BMW. In addition, our new brand design is geared to the challenges and opportunities of digitalization for brands. With visual restraint and graphic flexibility, we are equipping ourselves for the vast variety of touch points in communication at which BMW will be present, online and offline, in the future. This additional communication logo symbolizes the brand’s significance and relevance for mobility and driving pleasure in the future.”

[Images: BMW]

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47 Comments on “BMW Gets Another New Logo, Insists Symbol Never Stemmed from Aviation...”


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I see the reason they would like to distance themselves from those dark events, although it can be argued that in the times of total war absolutely every single economic activity was geared towards war production.

    I ignore whether they used slave labor or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Agreed. It’s not terribly relevant to the business anymore and this endless attempt to try and disassociate itself from its origins seems extremely counter productive. The public perception is set in stone (helped by years of BMW’s own marking). Now it’s coming at us every six months to say that the whole plane thing was a mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Save the Prius owners who want to do the politically correct thing and continue to blame BMW and the Germans for how that nation conducted themselves in WWII, the Roundel has no pejorative meanings to me, and I see no continued rewriting of the aircraft symbolism connected to the emblem to benefit BMW. It’s an instantly recognizable brand and symbol of quality, to me, and makes no more sense than Ford giving up the blue oval because Henry was accused of being anti-Semitic. So few people are still around that have those associations with each brand. The Roundel, with its black border and white/blue center should remain BMW’s symbol.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          This endless scoffing at “Prius owners” is mighty tiresome. As if you knew them all, or any of them! It’s akin to racism, in that a certain group is lumped together, treated as if they all thought and acted the same, and then derided in smug self-superiority.
          The same approach is taken toward anyone who doesn’t kowtow to Fox News and the Koch brothers.
          It makes ignorance blatantly apparent.

          • 0 avatar
            northeaster

            Having driven Prius rentals on a small number of occasions, I think it’s fair to say that the derision might be directed to the car itself.

            No matter how innovative the engineering, the driving experience rather s…ed for quite a number of years.

          • 0 avatar
            Sceptic

            RHD: “It’s akin to racism, in that a certain group is lumped together, treated as if they all thought and acted the same, and then derided in smug self-superiority.”
            I did cultural relativism. Typical anti american liberal argument. Like Bernie Sanders saying that communist regime was good for Cuba because they build hospitals and schools.
            Dear RHD, maybe we should not treat all Nazis the same? After all there were good ones too…

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Like Bernie Sanders saying that communist regime was good for Cuba because they build hospitals and schools.”

            …or Trump telling the world what swell guys Kim Jong Il, Erdogan and Putin are…

            If you made a royalty on the stupid crap politicians say, you’d be making out pretty well.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “No matter how innovative the engineering, the driving experience rather s…ed for quite a number of years.”

            based on the three I’ve driven, I’d say they’re about as engaging as a forklift.

            or even worse than that, because you can do all sorts of other things with a forklift.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Typical anti american liberal argument.”

            yes, because the “Trump president 4 life!” people are such patriots.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      Welcome to Merkel’s Germany, where we are reminded of ‘our sins’ from 1933 to 1945 on a daily basis. Quite literally.

      The Leftist-Green indoctrination of our youth has reached a new low, and many children probably believe that German history only takes place from 1933 to 1945. If you are planning on visiting my country, I will give you a good tip; avoid watching television here. You will find nothing but idiotic reality television shows as well as countless and constant documentaries about World War II and how we are still guilty 75 years later and so forth.

      As far as I am concerned, this is part of BMWs history. Everyone knows about it (I would think!).

      The new BMW logo is absolutely emotionless and dull, by the way.

      • 0 avatar
        AdamOfAus

        I visited Germany 10 years ago, was great. All I’ve seen of it since then means I probably wouldn’t visit again.

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        Yeah, I’m sure the Japanese have a better handle on its WWII guilt.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          LOL

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          To be fair across the board, some of America’s actions during WWII – meaning the means employed – could use some reflection too. War is gruesome and frankly every side used some horrid means to accomplish their goals. No I am not referring to the atomic bomb either. I happened to see this story this morning. I never heard of it before and most likely few here have either:

          https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/07/asia/japan-tokyo-fire-raids-operation-meetinghouse-intl-hnk/index.html

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            I’d be wary of straying to far down the road “America’s actions during WWII” if you are following it. There are many more Asians who suffered worse and longer from the unkind ministrations of the Empire of Japan prior to Operation Meetinghouse. Rather a “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” type situation for the Empire during that period.

        • 0 avatar
          randyinrocklin

          Think the diamond star Mitsubishi. They built the Zero.

      • 0 avatar

        You are not alone. We also do not watch American TV because most of it is PC BS or political propaganda of left or of right. It is also non-stop apology show about crimes committed by white protestant men and Israelis all over the Solar System and Milky Way and their over-achieving in areas of science,engineering and career-wise in general at the expense of victims (women, “minorities” and so on). And I thought Soviet TV was bad.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        With respect, Thomas, given that the goose-stepper nostalgia is making a comeback in Germany and all over Europe, and historical awareness of Nazi atrocities is fading, perhaps there’s nothing wrong with reminding ourselves what it was about to begin with.

        https://www.ushmm.org/remember/holocaust-reflections-testimonies/echoes-of-memory/millennials-and-the-holocaust

        Some of this is just a natural side effect of time marching on, I suppose, but there are people out there who will use that to their political advantage, and they’re not people we want anywhere near the levers of power in any government.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “visual restraint” – Do NOT tell the grille stylists about this new guidance.

  • avatar
    Zoomers_StandingOnGenius_Shoulders

    “BMW is becoming a relationship brand” What relationship? The one between you and your service dept?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I miss when they were a car brand that built “ultimate driving machines. Ah well, they have a name for people that sell “relationships”. I believe they call them pimps.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        they still build Ultimate Driving Machines. They just also build a lot of other stuff too. As PMD would say, they’ve chased every single market segment, real or perceived.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Step-brothers Herbert and Harald (stepson of an infamous man with a limp) Quandt purchased and saved BMW from sale to MB in the late ’50s. That family still owns a large stake in the concern.

  • avatar
    oilstains

    The new logo is less easy to see and understand, much like their product line has become in recent years. They had so much brand equity built into 3, 5 and 7, and so much enthusiast street cred with “M3.” Then, they started adding numbers. Then they decided even numbers would be two doors. Except for the ones that were four-door coupes, which aren’t actually a thing in the real world. So now their most recognized car should be called M3 but is actually called M4, a 640 gran coupe is a four-door version of a two-door version of a four door, the numbers don’t seem to mean anything, a car called X6 which looks like a German AMC Eagle on steroids exists and all this time, a 911 is still a 911. Guess what else a 911 is? My next car.

  • avatar
    la834

    This isn’t a new logo; it’s a subtly tweaked old logo, just like the “new” logo Volkswagen just unveiled that isn’t all that different from the one they used in the 1950s. Both revised logos are simpler and flatter than the old ones though, which is the real change and one that parallels what’s occurred elsewhere. Basically, in the last decade, graphic designers have realized that just because it’s possible to apply fancy shading and 3D effects to your logo, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Logos are best when they’re simple – think Apple, Nike, McDonald’s, or Target, all simple single-color designs that are instantly recognizable at any distance or size. Recall also how early iPhones made each app icon look like there was water dripping from it, all glossy in places, whereas later versions have simple, flat textures often with just two or three colors. Modern logos have to scale well to any size, from the tiny “favicon” on your browser tabs to the back of a truck or a large sign.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Their logo is to symbolize aviation and bavaria. Its common for logos and symbols to comboine things into 1 symbol. Thats what makes th3m clever. Bmw just denies the aviation part cuz of their use of slave labor during the third reich and heads of the company were nazis (all the german industrialists were nazis at the time). Thyre afraid if they admit the aviation part theyd be forced to channge the logo due to pr backlash.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      All industrial leaders in Germany were “Nazis” just like all industrial leaders in the Soviet Union and China are part of the Communist Party. You either really were a Nazi or Communist or you darn well pretended to be, or you weren’t going to be an industrial leader.

  • avatar

    If Cadillac can change its logo why BMW cannot do the same? And Cadillac logo has nothing to do with Antoine Laumet.

  • avatar
    Zoomers_StandingOnGenius_Shoulders

    This is stupid.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    New logo is horrible. Then again, my BMW will be replaced with another brand anyways, so no skin off my back.

  • avatar
    MBella

    It’s hollow and transparent. Much like what the company has become. Seems appropriate.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    Changing the logo is one indicator that a company is in trouble.
    Successful companies seldom update their logos, and when they do it’s subtle.
    Struggling companies often seem to have some guy who thinks that changing the logo will help somehow.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    Bland, ghostly white graphics are a thing now, didn’t you know? Even Walmart’s remodeling their stores in a similar style. I blame Apple and its minimalist aesthetic. I can’t wait for it to go away.

  • avatar
    TimK

    They could have gone full forward, in a modern, stylized font:

    BEEMER

    Like a Teuton version of Hummer. Perfect fit for their target market demo and the colloquial name for the brand.

  • avatar
    probert

    “BMW is becoming a relationship brand.” – just shoot me. The brand is defined by douchebag drivers, my relationship is to try and avoid their douchery.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @probert: “The brand is defined by douchebag drivers”

      Let’s fact check that statement :^). According to at least 2 studies, you are correct!

      https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/nordic-welfare-news/the-fast-and-the-furious-research-shows-that-owners-of-high-status-cars-are-on-a-collision-course-with-traffic

      https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/Rich-peo.html

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    …“BMW is becoming a relationship brand. The new communication logo stands for openness and clarity,” Jens Thiemer, BMW’s head of brand management, said in a statement. “We want to use this new transparent version to invite our customers, more than ever, to become part of the world of BMW. In addition, our new brand design is geared to the challenges and opportunities of digitalization for brands. With visual restraint and graphic flexibility, we are equipping ourselves for the vast variety of touch points in communication at which BMW will be present, online and offline, in the future…

    That was a lot of words to say absolutely nothing at all. At least they didn’t say “win-win” or “Synergy” or other BS Bingo terms. Actually, they did, they just used a lot more letters to deliver the same nothing.

  • avatar

    What is all that brouhaha about? It came to blaming BMW for WWII. New logo is not that different from old one. And even it was very different why it matters? BMW is a German company why we should care what image it projects?

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Yikes TTAC…..what a mess.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    Like guys with blonde highlights, BMW is synonymous with “villain” in the eyes of non owners. I don’t want a relationship with any company, much less one that created the X6.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I merely went to the BMW official history website for the answer on their emblem.

    For some reason, copy and paste won’t work on it, but all it says is that the emblem was used on every BMW product from 1917, but the first advertising use was in 1929 on that airplane ad shown here. It says the logo has been regularly reinterpreted over the years. And that’s it, folks. No more.

    It’s TTAC causing BS confusion, accusing BMW of trying to change their history every six months. Can’t help it if every Tom Dick and Matt get so wound up about the BMW logo, they basically squirm at the very thought that BMW would change their tune on the logo’s interpretation, when I see no sign they EVER did. It was all in the observer’s minds, probably from the Brits who had actual car test magazines in the 1920s, which tended to be written by people as smitten by themselves as the muttering rotters at TTAC.

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