Why are car badges getting simpler?

In the last few years almost all big manufacturers have switched from 3D badges to 2D. But why is this? Well, the answer is quite simple!

Eagle-eyed car enthusiasts and graphic designers would have noticed that brands are quickly changing their logos and badges from 3D to 2D.

Volkswagen was among the first to make the switch to two dimensional during the launch of the ID.3. Volkswagen was soon followed by Kia, Vauxhall, Nissan, BMW and Rolls-Royce.

BMW

Amazingly, BMW's logo has remained largely unchanged since 1917, it's only been slightly tweaked over the last one hundred or so years. The BMW logo represents the Bavarian flag, which is where BMW was founded.

The latest tweak to the BMW logo might just be the most significant change in the history of the brand.


Toyota

Not only has Toyota opted for a flattening of their logo, but they've also abandoned the wordmark. Toyota is among the few brands in the world that has a logo that's noticeable enough to drop the wordmark. This elite club of companies that can drop the wordmark from their logo consists of McDonald's, Apple, Starbucks, Instagram, Nike and a couple of car manufacturers. 

Bravo, Toyota. If it isn't broken, don't fix it; just modernise it.


Audi

I might be a little bit bias here; I like Audi. I drive an Audi and, my next car will likely be an Audi. Opinions aside, Audi is another manufacturer that in 2016 dropped the wording from their logo and went for a flat minimalist design.

The four rings first appeared in 1932 and have been a staple of Audi's branding since 1932, aside from a brief stint in the 1970s when Audi opted for a text-based logo. Audi has always appeared slightly more modern than their competitor, this logo flattening continues that trend.


Volkswagen

Volkswagen's logo has stayed pretty much the same since 1937 and is another car manufacturer that is part of that elite club of brands that can drop all wording from their logo and still be instantly recognisable anywhere in the world. Thanks to their wildly successful Golf, Beetle and Type 2 models, Volkswagen has cemented their iconic logo in the minds of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

Volkswagen's new flat logo design lends itself well to the new ID range.


Kia

Kia is heading upmarket. The Kia logo has changed a total of 6 times since 1944 - 4 of those changes were drastic changes. Hopefully, Kia stays with this flat upmarket design. It's much better! Although judging by their eventful logo history, in 20 years it could be completely different. 


The 3D to 2D movement isn't just because it looks more modern. It's more of a solution to a problem, a problem that was caused by small mobile screens and large interactive billboards. 2D logos are more user friendly in the digital world of apps, social media and websites. In simple terms, 3D realistic-looking logos aren't easy to view or use on the internet. For example, creating a vector image of a 3D logo isn't possible. The benefits of using a vector image are that it's infinitely scalable and, it takes up a fraction of the hard drive space when compared to non-vector based file formats such as jpg, png and pdf.

Despite this shift, most logos haven't changed. They've just been simplified and flattened. This trend isn't only in the automotive industry either. Research shows that customers are shifting towards no-nonsense, thoughtfully designed products.

Before this recent switch, manufacturer logos almost all had some form of chrome effect to mimic how the logo would look on a car. This approach is called skeuomorphism, and it's recently fallen out of favour with the digital communications and design community, with all logos now being designed with mobile screens in mind first.

If you're old enough to have had an iPhone pre-2013, you might remember that the camera app icon looked like a camera lens, the wallet app icon looked like a wallet and the weather app looked like the sun. Now, fast-forward to 2022, all app icons are 2D.

Will we ever go back to the old days of shiny 3D manufacturer logos? Probably not, but there are a lot of advocates of skeuomorphism, so we can't rule out a return just yet.