General Motors Co.’s luxury brand logo, which started life as the coat of arms for 18th-century explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, is getting a 21st-century makeover.
The Cadillac crest, which has seen 38 iterations over nearly 112 years, is evolving to stay true to the Cadillac brand’s growth and design progression.
The new crest has no wreath. As a result, Cadillac designers say it is easier to integrate into vehicles. The crest itself was elongated and is more trapezoidal, but retains the historical colors, grid, center-line peak and jewelry-like look.
“It’s a beautiful next evolution of what this emblem is,” said Teckla Rhoads, executive director of GM’s global industrial design, in an interview. “It really expresses the forwardness of the brand without losing any of the integrity of what the brand signature is.”
The 2015 ATS Coupe, debuting today at the North American International Auto Show, will be the first production car to wear the new crest when it goes on sale this summer. The updated logo is part of the Cadillac space at the auto show.
“In this iteration, you’ll see the crest matches our longer, lower and leaner mantra that we have on the current portfolio of vehicles,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of Global Cadillac design. “It mirrors the evolution we’re going through on our art and science philosophy.”
The redesigned Cadillac emblem actually debuted on the acclaimed Elmiraj concept car that was shown last summer at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was last redesigned in 1999 and has been used on production Cadillacs since 2000,
This latest Cadillac crest was developed by GM’s 35-member global industrial design team, which began sketching a new emblem in summer 2011. Smith said Cadillac felt it was the appropriate time for a new look.
“You have to worry, are we going to offend anybody by changing it?” Smith said. “I think the answer is no. I think that Cadillac has the freedom to evolve and this is really just saying we want to take the next step.”
Anne-Marie LaVerge-Webb, GM brand identity studio design manager, also redesigned the Cadillac logo in 1999. She said challenges included ensuring the emblem meets regulations such as pedestrian safety standards in Europe, that it doesn’t protrude from a vehicle too far and that technology — such as long-range radar — can operate through the emblem.
Emblems don’t just have to work on the grille: They also have to be compatible with the rear deck lid, steering wheel, wheels, key fob, sill plates and sides of a car.
Redesigning the Cadillac emblem fell heavily to creative designer Nathan Korkus. His goals included making the crest a little more youthful and better integrating it into vehicles, while maintaining the history and colors.
Korkus said the crest’s red color represents power and bold actions. Blue stands for valor. Black and gold together represent wisdom and riches. Silver stands for purity and charity.
The Cadillac crest started as the coat of arms for French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701. The coat of arms crest was first used by Cadillac Motorcars in 1905 and registered as a trademark in 1906. Crests in the early years included a crown, shield, wreath and birds.
The new crest has pockets on the outside, helping give the crest a layering effect, dimensions and a frame, Korkus said.
“In my mind, that was a very abstract version of the wreath being incorporated into it,” Korkus said.
Rhoads said Cadillac’s script writing will remain the same.
Cadillac changed its logos frequently in the early years, but has had just four new looks since the early 1980s.
“The Cadillac brand is pretty iconic … ,” LaVerge-Webb said of the company logo. “Ours is so distinctive. We have the colors. We have a unique shape. It’s unmistakable.”