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  • Writer's pictureHsin Yu Chen

The most significant change to the BMW logo in a century.


The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.
The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.

Yesterday, BMW unveiled its all-new flat logo, and today we'll share the evolution of BMW's logo. But before talking about the logo, let's first delve into BMW's history.


Like many automotive manufacturers, BMW's origins can be traced back to the military and heavy industry. During World War I, there were two aircraft manufacturing companies in Munich, Germany, namely “Rapp-Motorenwerke“ and “Gustav Otto Flugmotorenfabrik”. Both factories focused on producing aircraft engines.


1917年,BMW汽車前身BFW公司總部
1917年,BMW汽車前身BFW公司總部

In March 1916, Franz Josef Popp, Max Friz, and Camillo Castiglioni merged and consolidated the two engine manufacturing companies. At the same time, the company partners decided to change the company's name to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH (BMW), which translates to Bavarian Motor Works in English. The abbreviation "BMW" is commonly used, and in English-speaking countries, it is often referred to as "Bimmer," while in China, it is known as "寶馬" and in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, it is generally referred to by its original abbreviation, "BMW."


During this time, BMW did not have its own exclusive corporate logo. In the early stages, the logo and its meaning were not presented to the general public as they are today. The primary focus was on producing and maintaining aircraft engines for the German Air Force, rather than consumer-oriented branding as it is now.


BMW emerged from the firm Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH (1913–1917). This can also be seen in the first BMW logo from October 1917, which continued Rapp’s tradition of having a black ring around the company logo bearing the company name.
BMW emerged from the firm Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH (1913–1917). This can also be seen in the first BMW logo from October 1917, which continued Rapp’s tradition of having a black ring around the company logo bearing the company name.

It wasn't until 1917 that BMW modified the logo of its predecessor, the Rapp company, and registered it as a trademark in Germany.


The logo features a circular black background with the inner circle divided into four equal parts filled with two colors: blue and white. The outer edge of the circle is adorned with the golden letters "BMW." The inspiration for the blue and white colors inside the circle did not come from the blue sky and white clouds or aircraft propellers; instead, it came from the color scheme of the flag of the Free State of Bavaria (Freistaat Bayern) in Germany, where the company's headquarters are located.


Staatsflagge Bayerns
Staatsflagge Bayerns

Indeed, although the BMW logo drew inspiration from the color scheme of the flag of the Free State of Bavaria, there is a slight difference. The color arrangement in the BMW logo is actually the reverse of the state flag's color arrangement. The reason for this difference lies in the early days of its creation when local trademark laws prohibited the use of the state's flag or any related elements in commercial logos. As a result, BMW chose a simple color reversal to circumvent the restrictions imposed by the trademark laws.


Left: This was the emblem that BMW used to present itself at the motor show in Berlin in 1924. Right: In the early years, BMW produced engines for a wide range of applications: aircrafts, automobiles, agricultural equipment and boats.
Left: This was the emblem that BMW used to present itself at the motor show in Berlin in 1924. Right: In the early years, BMW produced engines for a wide range of applications: aircrafts, automobiles, agricultural equipment and boats.

The misconception that the BMW logo originated from an aircraft propeller is actually related to an advertisement BMW released in 1929.


Since this BMW publication from 1929, the myth that the BMW logo is a propeller has endured.
Since this BMW publication from 1929, the myth that the BMW logo is a propeller has endured.

At that time, as the global economic crisis (also known as the "Great Depression") began to unfold, Pratt & Whitney, under license, produced the latest aircraft engines. In order to promote the newly manufactured aircraft engines, BMW displayed two airplanes flying in the sky in an advertisement image, with the BMW name on the spinning propellers of the aircraft. Since then, this image has been widely propagated in the public media, especially in 1942, when a similar advertisement appeared in BMW's publication called "Flugmotoren Nachrichten" (Aircraft Engine News). As a result, many people came to believe that the BMW logo was derived from the propellers.


BMW did not make any serious efforts to discourage this myth. In fact, it continued to represent the BMW emblem as a propeller, like this 1942 illustration from the company’s works magazine.
BMW did not make any serious efforts to discourage this myth. In fact, it continued to represent the BMW emblem as a propeller, like this 1942 illustration from the company’s works magazine.

BMW Group's Archivist, Jakobs, stated, "For a long time, BMW did not correct the association between its logo and aircraft propellers. This is because the association is not entirely wrong, but it's also not 100% accurate, as BMW does indeed have a connection with aircraft." The New York Times published an article in 2010 to correct the interpretation of the origin of the BMW logo, but the original story had already been widely accepted and acknowledged, so the narrative of the BMW logo being inspired by aircraft propellers continues to persist.


About the Logo

BMW Logo


Phase 1: 1917 - Birth of the Logo


The logo design initially appeared only in BMW's internal printed documents until 1923 when it also appeared on the company's first motorcycle model, the R32. This was the first time people could see this brand new logo on the roads.


The BMW logo appeared on the streets for the first time in 1923, on the fuel tank of BMW’s first motorcycle, the BMW R 32.
The BMW logo appeared on the streets for the first time in 1923, on the fuel tank of BMW’s first motorcycle, the BMW R 32.


Phase 2: 1933 - A More Sober and Noble Logo


In 1933, BMW made its first modification to the logo. Compared to the 1917 version, the changes were not significant. The main modifications included thickening the outer and inner circles with a golden border, using bold letters for "BMW," and reducing the spacing between the letters. Although the changes were subtle, the bold golden border and font indeed gave the logo a more sober and noble appearance. At that time, as BMW decided to enter the mid-high-end automobile market when developing its own cars, this new image aligned well with their aspirations.


Phase 3: 1953 - A More Youthful Logo


In 1953, BMW once again modified the logo. The new logo featured a white border for the inner and outer circles, white BMW letters, and a light blue center. The new design presented a more youthful look.


Before adopting the new logo, BMW had not strictly standardized the style of its previous versions. Although the "blue and white" inner circle pattern remained unchanged, variations existed in font colors, styles, and the thickness and colors of the double circles. As a result, there were various logo versions in use by product designers within BMW. However, after this redesign, BMW fully standardized the use of white border and lettering on a blue and white background as the logo for its printed materials. On BMW motorcycles and cars, the logo featured a silver outer circle with white "BMW" lettering.


Phase 4: 1963 - A More Technological Logo


BMW's third logo modification in history was made in 1963, with again minor changes. The modifications included reverting the light blue color back to the original blue and changing the font from serif to sans-serif. The updated logo maintained the youthful characteristics from the previous version and added a touch of technological feel, better conveying the emphasis on sportiness and high-tech features of the products during that era.


Phase 5: 1997 - A Modern Logo


This time, the changes were again not substantial, but the logo received a 3D effect on the basis of the previous version, making it more dynamic, modern, and eye-catching. The new logo retained all the previous characteristics while updating it to be more in line with the sporty and dynamic features of BMW cars, after years of emphasizing "performance and handling."


Phase 6: 2020 - A Flattened Logo


The most recent logo change retained the classic "blue and white" inner circle while completely redesigning the rest. The outer circle was replaced with a transparent design, representing a more open and clear concept. The logo also removed the three-dimensional effect and shadow design, adopting a minimalist line to create a cutting-edge sensation, in line with the current trend of digitization. While preserving the brand's essence, this change marks a complete departure from the century-long tradition, signifying a fresh start for the automaker.


The upper part represents the logo used from 1997 to 2020, while the lower part represents the logo used from 2020 onwards. The font follows the contour of the inner and outer circles, presenting a redesigned look.
The upper part represents the logo used from 1997 to 2020, while the lower part represents the logo used from 2020 onwards. The font follows the contour of the inner and outer circles, presenting a redesigned look.

BMW Vice President Jens Thiemer stated that this logo redesign is not just a mere design update, but also represents the future mobility of BMW. He mentioned, "We want to attract our customers with the new transparent version of the logo, and our new brand design aims to address the challenges and opportunities brought by the digitization of the brand."


BMW M & BMW i
BMW M & BMW i

In addition to the flattened BMW logo, the logos of the BMW M and BMW i series have also transitioned from three-dimensional to flat designs.

BMW M & BMW i上舊下新
上舊下新

Regarding the BMW M logo, the change is a subtle adjustment to a flat design. As for the BMW i logo, the blue elements and the letter "i" have been separated and placed next to each other. The BMW i series will become part of the future family of pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.


The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.
The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.

The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.
The new logo's effect on the BMW i4 concept car.

As far as I know, the BMW i4 is scheduled to commence production at the Munich plant in 2021.













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