May’s Theme – The Editor’s Introduction
I still use the same tailor my Father first took me to as a boy. Their jackets have a small label sewn into the inner lining on the right breast, showing their name but nothing else. Were I to ask them to put the label on the outside, they would be aghast. But they are an old fashioned firm and, I fear, not much longer for this World. Although my preferences have never changed, those of the rest of the World appear to have. It might seem understandable that cheap sports clothing should incorporate free advertising for the maker, since it could be argued that it subsidises the cost, but what seems stranger is that it has become acceptable for an expensive fashion brand to do the same. Don’t their customers object to being walking billboards, or are they simply boasting?
Likewise tattoos. When young, I knew chaps who had been in the Navy who, usually inebriated, had visited a parlour. The result were variable; occasionally the pictures had a naively attractive quality, but the writing always put me in mind of a side of Danish Bacon. But now it is David Beckham. I have worked for many august journals, but I would never countenance the proposal that I emblazoned my body with their names.
Motor vehicles have always been different. Since the Industrial Revolution, it had been the norm for machinery to have its maker’s name incorporated somewhere. Possibly a small brass plate, but sometimes a huge name incorporated into a casting. This was partly advertising, and partly an aide should the machinery require attention. Therefore, it was only natural for the early cars to continue this tradition and it has never gone away.
My own viewpoint is that a vehicle should be judged on its merits, not its badge. Some badges are quite attractive, so might be excusable but, if one is an enthusiast, one will recognise the vehicle in question and, if one does not recognise it, then it deserves to wither and die. You might not agree, and feel that you can give me good reason why your vehicle should be emblazoned “Turbo SportRail XXR”. There is not enough healthy controversy on these pages, so please do feel free to convince me, or add your own opinion.
Simon A Kearne
4 thoughts on “Theme : Badging”
What I find contrary to my expectations is the extent to which badges offer identity far out of proportion to their physical size in relation to the vehicle to which they are appended. There is a habit among young urban males to remove the badges from their Vectras, Passats, A4 and BMW 3s. The removal of these really has a profound effect on the overall appearance. You would be tempted to imagine that when the badge is removed some other aspect of the form has been deleted too. Can, you ask, a 2008 Passat really be that bland without its badge? The effect is perhaps worst on mainstream cars where the design tend to cleave to the middle of the road. An Alfa 147 without its badge is still very much a 147. Interestingly, an Opel Insignia without its badge is still recognisable. I would argue that the badges should be left on and that they are an integral part of the car´s design. The forms are designed to be seen with them on. They are like beauty spots, small visual punctuations that give the eye something to settle on; they anchor other shapes as jewels are used on humans to add to their allure.
Simon makes a valid point, but I agree with you, Richard, that for some cars the badge is part of the design. As I’ve got older I’ve not even bothered to memorise the blander shapes, with the result that, when I see a hatchback laden with spoliers and side skirts, but devoid of badges, I might have no idea what it actually is. As a self-styled ‘enthusiast’, I find that embarrassing but, if I was the designer, I’d find it even more so. I suppose we need to differentiate between the maker’s badge / logo and the secondary stuff that identifies the particular model.
I have a hard time telling some BMWs apart now. Yesterday I saw a 3GT and had to look at the badge to be sure it was not merely the new 3 looking a bit different from how I remembered it. Ferrari desperately need some model badges. All their cars look similar to the extent that I don´t know if I am looking at one or three different vehicles. Their website shows some red shapes that I can´t distinguish. I will be writing more about this, by the way. Another range of cars that´s stumping me is the Mercedes S-class. Some of those are quite indistinct and I find myself wondering a) is the the new version or b) is that an E-class. Humans have a limited capacity to distinguish variations in colour and size without direct comparison. We live in a world of big, medium and small (or extra large, large and medium) and of simple colour names. So it is not a coincidence that the finer the graduations in a manufacturer´s range the more essential badging becomes. In 1980 a Mercedes needed no badge to identify the model. Now they are the only way to be sure. Which means that if you bought an E-class there is a good change the fellow stuck behind it thinks you´re driving a C. Or an S. Or a Toyota.
Badging is yet another area in which I fail to connect with “the modern car”.
Simon has been wise to choose a current Porsche as a prime example of current badging – inflationary badging has been on the rise for the past 15 years or so, but new heights have been reached since the beginning of this decade. I’m awaiting Porsche’s introduction of a third line, actually.
P O R S C H E or P O R S C H E
911 Carrera S 3.7 911 Carrera S Boxer 6
– genuine – – since 1931 –
I guess this excess of numbers and letters is an understandable attempt at teaching the Chinese upper classes that their beloved SUV isn’t a Cayenne, but a Porsche, and that, just for their consideration, the very same people build nice four-wheeled, two-doored garage decoration, too. But at the same time it’s also a surprisingly unconfident statement, particularly on a car as one-of-a-kind as the 911.
But there are, of course, other offenders, too. Some may remember the dreadful W12 badge Bentley seems to have commissioned Halfords’ designers to style, which I posted at The Website That Shall Not Be Mentioned. The wing badge in general is an unwelcome stylistic device, particularly when applied by companies previously renowned for their understatement (Audi, above all).
Without wanting to romanticise the 1990s, I can’t help but once again refer to the very different spirit of that particular period. For that was a time when BMW’s marketing bods more or less openly ridiculed Mercedes for having to apply V12 badges to the W140’s C-pillar and considered their own E32 (and E38) Sevens’ lack of such obvious marques of ostentation a sign of strength. But this kind of stance was probably retired along with the likes of Eberhard von Kuenheim (who wasn’t/isn’t a modest man by most means).