Lexicon® Blog

Why Do All Car Logos Look the Same?: How Visual Identity Can Complement Brand Names

In Branding, Cars, Linguistics, Naming on October 20, 2016 at 9:19 am

As an exclusively verbal branding agency, Lexicon usually refrains from commenting on the topic of visual identity. But in some cases, design has an interesting parallel with brand naming: the basic forms used in a brand’s logo can communicate beneath the surface in the same way that the sounds and structure of a brand name can. For example, have you ever noticed most car logos have a round, container-like shape?


A few exceptions make use of vector, or arrow-like, shapes – the Citroën logo, for example – or animal-based metaphors that project ideas of speed and strength onto the target product (e.g. Peugeot’s lion logo, Jaguar, Aston Martin’s or Bentley’s wings). Some brands even combine all three elements, as is the case with Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The logos of Lexicon-named Scion, Flywheel, and Turo all incorporate the rounded container or vector shapes.


The pervasive use of container shapes in car brand logos contrasts with its scarce presence in those of other products, such as technology or apparel to give just two examples:


So, is it just a coincidence? Did all car brand logo designers secretly agree to use this shape? Is it a simplified representation of the car as a container? Did all those designers choose the same basic shape unconsciously? Or can we just chock it up to a trend?

Whether or not this design decision was a conscious one, this subtle, non-verbal aspect of branding has meaning. The “container” is a well-known image schema, which cognitive linguists define as one of the basic building blocks of human cognition, and a powerful tool for creating meaning.

Image schemas are regarded as the basic scaffolding of human cognition. They offer highly abstract representations of spatial relations. It may seem obvious, but the topology of the container image schema includes an inside, an outside, and a boundary between the two:


Image schemas are also pre-conceptual – rather than being taught about them, we learn them through our own bodily interactions with our surroundings. As infants, we see food outside of us which then enters our body when we are fed – our bodies are containers. Even prior to being born, we experience our mother’s womb as a container.

From these early physical interactions, we build upon and extend the logic of the image schema. For the container, we learn that inside contents are protected from outside conditions. Based on previous experiences of protection in our life (e.g., being inside our mother’s womb, being inside our homes, inside our beds in our bedrooms), we project these feelings of comfort and protection onto other experiences we have of containers.

The way brands are represented can take advantage of the container schema to borrow some of this equity of protection and comfort. For car logos, the use of the container shape subtly highlights essential properties of a quality car: protective, safe, and comfortable, which may extend to ideas of being reliable and dependable.

That brand names have the power to communicate beyond simple semantic meaning underlies most of our work at Lexicon. In addition to the association with various real words, Scion also sounds powerful; Turo sounds like a luxurious service. But brand names can’t communicate it all. A strategically designed logo can use image schemas to effectively complement the name. Scion’s logo helps it communicate power and protection; Turo’s looks luxurious and dependable. By understanding both of these verbal and non-verbal communication strategies, brands can double the effectiveness of their visual identity.

– Lorena Pérez Hernández, A member of Lexicon’s World Brand® Team

Automotive Think Tank Final Thoughts: Noah Rucker

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Cars, High Technology, Naming on September 1, 2016 at 4:03 pm

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

It’s been quite the journey.

From Changing Lanes to Insuring the Future, the automobile – and the world we live in – seems destined for change. Details as small as the term ‘daily commute’ could shift, evolving from current connotations of negativity to ones of relaxation or even vibrancy. Something to look forward to, not dread.

This Think Tank has been about exploring these possibilities, and it should be noted that the ideas we’ve generated are not just whimsical thoughts or impossible fairytales. Even while writing these posts, notable happenings such as Ford’s Bold Announcement or Tesla’s Master Plan have sprung forth. The Battle for the Backseat is already under way, and Commoditization of the Car Exteriormay soon begin. Quite truly, the future is in motion, and the shifting automotive landscape may be a revolution in the making.

And, as with every revolution, there is the need for guidance. There will be both early adopters and late adopters, as was explored in our post Call Me Old Fashioned, and it will be a brand’s job to steer users smoothly into this new world. As visionaries in the field, Lexicon Branding hopes to give its clients – current and new – the tools to distinguish themselves in this new space.

We’ve all heard that phrase to ‘embrace change’, but we often find ourselves coming up with every excuse not to. But truth is, companies will need to come to terms with this motto, and sooner rather than later. Ownership, aesthetics, even sociability: these aspects could all soon change. And while some of these implications were explored in our posts Sharing is Caring and Sharing Interests, the ideas behind them are virtually limitless.

Before long, our landscape may very well become unrecognizable. Cities could look different, and personal habits could change. For companies, it’s important to pair these changes with brand names that capture the essence of these innovations and ideas – to truly marry the spirit of the future with the ideas of the present.

At Lexicon Branding, we’ve envisioned how this revolution could play out and how it could give rise to new and distinctive brands. With a cornerstone of our lives on the brink of change, we are at the cusp of this revolution, gazing ahead, spying handholds in the precipice to lead a brand to its peak. And we can’t wait to see what this revolution brings.

Hopefully that drives the point home.


*thanks to Think Tank member Sarah Schechter for the images!

Automotive Think Tank Final Thoughts: Eva Epker

In Naming, Business, Branding, Cars, High Technology, Brand Name Development, Brand Naming on September 1, 2016 at 9:02 am

From our Summer 2016 Automotive Think Tank Blog

I rode my bike everywhere this summer. A car would have made grocery trips, hill climbs, and city visits much easier than they were, but the responsibilities of gas, parking, and maintenance outweighed the benefits.

In five years, though, if I have to choose between a car and a bike once again, my decision may be completely different. An autonomous car, one that is literally around the corner, would allow me to forego the responsibilities of car ownership while keeping the convenience of having one. The autonomous capabilities of that car would also allow me to read or sleep, ride to and from work with others who share my schedule, and visit local tourist attractions with like-minded people.

Lexicon’s Think-Tank was an opportunity to explore these possibilities and to map out a world that doesn’t yet exist but soon may. For example, Ford wants autonomous cars on the road in the next five years. But getting these cars on the road is just the first step, and this project was meant to explore what could happen next. How will car interiors, exteriors, and insurance companiestransform? How will societies transition from people-driven cars to self-driven ones? Are the cars we know today destined to be only relics of the past?

The past ten weeks have given Lexicon’s summer interns an opportunity to pull on their individual experiences and the knowledge they gained this summer in order to brainstorm possible answers to these questions. This blog is the result of conversations and creative sessions, emails and edits, posts and puns.

Our vision of the future may turn out different from reality, but, by developing our own ideas, we hope to inspire others’ creativity and improve their understanding of the future of autonomous vehicles and automotive branding. That way, as autonomous cars gain popularity, as cities adapt, and as branding changes, our readers—and clients—have an improved understanding of the world around them and of the decisions they may face—even the ones as simple as choosing to store their bikes safely at home for the summer.