How the Volkswagen Logo Signals a Fresh Start

The iconic logo of one of Europe’s leading auto brands has undergone the design equivalent of cosmetic surgery. Volkswagen officially unveiled its refreshed logo at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany today. Accompanying the automaker’s “New Volkswagen” brand concept, the logo can be seen on the company’s much-anticipated new electric hatchback, the ID.3.

Volkswagen logo
Volkswagen’s new electric hatchback, the ID.3, features the company’s revamped logo.

Will consumers embrace the facelifted logo (or will they even notice)?

“Anytime your brand feels dated or incongruent with where your brand is headed, a refresh is needed. This applies to logos too,” observes branding expert and Think Media Consulting founder Shahla Hebets. “Of course, it becomes more complicated and risky when you have a large iconic brand, but these companies should also have the resources and skills to direct an exceptional creative team or agency.”

According to Hebets, logos convey a brand’s identity and require some vigilance to stay relevant as the culture shifts. This is especially true in the digital space where evolutionary cycles come with greater velocity and frequency.

“This is amplified because your logo needs to be distinct and memorable but also resonate with your target customer. As much as consumers love familiarity, we don’t tend to connect with brands that appear to be yesterday’s news, or worse yet, brands that may have a negative connotation in the market. I suspect that is what Volkswagen was trying to avoid,” says Hebets alluding to the 2015 emissions scandal that shook Volkswagen’s goodwill to its foundation. “They want to appear to be relevant and fresh to today’s consumer and a logo redesign is a great place to start.”

Minding the GAP Logo Fallout

Even when intended to telegraph the turning over of a new leaf, changing a familiar logo is fraught with potential issues. Given the uproar a few years ago when the Gap change its logo, the question looms as to whether or not Volkswagen should expect the same kind of blowback.

“The Gap situation was a great example of a redesign gone bad, but that shouldn’t dissuade companies from upping the ante when it comes to conveying their brand’s essence,” says the Colorado-based Hebets, who has worked with wide range of companies across multiple industries such as Hershey’s, Visa, Marriott, Apple, Kellogg’s, and Avis.

“It really boils down to understanding your customer, the new customer that your brand is trying to attract, and having a talented design team that can bring these elements together within a redesigned logo. Gap’s redesigned logo didn’t appear to take these things into consideration and instead felt half-baked which is why they experienced blowback,” Hebets explains.

Volkswagen’s new logo was released to Europe today with China following in October and then North and South America by 2020. Visit logo fan site Logopedia for a complete lineup of Volkswagen logos dating back to the company’s inception.

Courtesy of Logopedia.

Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and the writer-director of the recently released feature film "Pill Head." He is the editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun.

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