Top Manufacturers Logos by US Market Share
With over 7 million registered motorcycles on the road in 2007 (1) its fair to say that the two-wheel industry is alive and healthy. From dual-sport to soft-tails, motorcycles and America fit perfectly together. The freedom and independence of leaning it over are only matched by the diversity of manufacturers and the endless customizations available for every bike on the market.
As Ducati and Buell rebrand their respective companies with new logos, I decided to take a look at the top motocycle manufacturer’s logos and offer some thoughts on their design and artwork. I will present them in order of US market share as reported from 2007. (2)
What I like about the Harley logo right off the bat has always been the badge feel. It belongs on the back of a jacket, as a tatoo, as a sewn-on patch on the arm of a rider. What I have more recently noticed is that the word “Harley-Davidson” is post above the badge. This badge reference could be a police reference, as many police forces ride Harleys, but the overlay of the HD connects more with the image of a Harley rider, more rebellious and free-spirited. I also like that the “T” in Motor appears more as an arrow pointing north. This logo is a widely recognized symbol of the motorcyle spirit, they would be hard pressed to improve upon it.
Having owned a few Honda bikes (no lawnmower yet) I’m a natural fan of the logo. I am drawn to the symbolism of the wings and how the concept of flight is projected on owning a Honda bike. They even use it to name one of their bikes, “the Goldwing.” The fact that the honda type is the same across their brand helps make a positive connection to their reliability and dependence, but also firmly cements the idea of flying on two-wheels as dependent on being aboard a Honda.
Yamaha’s tuning forks or suspension forks offer a glimpse of how they feel about timing, precision and excellence. Their signature blue is vibrant and solid. Like Honda, Yamaha must leverage and balance the brands other product lines while still maintaining its connection with the motorcycle marketplace. Only Yahama and BMW make use of a circle logo that here doubles as a wheel with the forks perhaps loosely resemblant of spokes. The wheel/circle also allows for the feeling of progress and moving forward.
Another Japanese company, Suzuki’s logo has always lagged for me. Perhaps its the close identification with Stussy, a clothing brand made popular when I was growing up, or that fact that the red blue color scheme felt like it competed with itself and more notably the other big Japanese manufacturers, but the logo has never sat right. The big red “S” might resemble a curvy road of some sort, but even this comparison is a bit of a stretch. As a designer, I would love the chance to re-examine their logo and make my own suggestions, (perhaps a future post) but for now, I’ll let others weigh in on their opinions, this one just doesn’t do much for me.
The last of the Japanese motorcycle companies, Kawasaki’s giant “K” logo with san-serif title-case company name is a slight bit out of balance to me. The heavy down stroke of the giant “K” pull the logo to the left, and with the lowercase type I’m never brought far enough back which causes me to lean to the left the entire time. I’m not saying leaning while riding is bad, but you have to lean both ways unless you only drive nascar tracks. The swooping portions of the right side of the “K”, especially the lower portion feels like a perfect mountain road curve which I think brightens up this somewhat boring logo.
“Keep the Motor” was the first words uttered to me after I learned about the German motorcycle company. Since that day, I’ve been passed by KTM’s on the track, trails and open road enough to know that those who ride them, ride them hard. The logo’s right lean along with it’s thick type treatment say power, movements and momentum. I also really like the giant “T” which gives the logo balance and looks like a set of handlebars. KTM, keep the logo.
This is a classic. Not much to say besides elegance, performance and a bad movie quote the made YTMND.com so popular, “white propellers zipping around a blue ski…” I love that BMW has not altered their brand logo in any way to connect it with their motorcycle division. I think in this case, the parent brand is the strength.
The Triumph logo showcases a bit of a smile to the tough-and-tumble world of motorcycles. The sweeping tail on the “R” nicely connects with the “H” to make this more cheerful logo balanced and friendly. Once again, this swoop as seen in other logos may conger up images of the open road. I like the British company’s logo, simple and straightforward, albeit, with those English serifs, I’ve got a picture of green hills and a street triple leaning into each curve.
Unveiled just a year ago in November of 2008, the new Ducati logo is a great example of design excellence. The first thing is that there isn’t one thing that is more dominant or noticed first about the logo, it is just viewed as a whole rather than a sum of its parts. Its parts however, are the traditional Italian red, the classic Ducati typeface, the curve of the road and the emblem or medal that it all sits on. The curve leans to the right which is the same direction you would read the company name, so there is a natural feeling to the movement from left to right. The logo, like BMW, also has a beveled edge to it, giving it the feeling of something you want to touch or run your finger over. Finally the medallion shape of the background also draws an invisible “V” which could stand for “Victory”, a staple mission statement connecting Ducati to the racing world. Excellent logo, it certainly makes you want to see the rest of the bike.