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People behind the brand

| Updated on June 19, 2014 Published on June 19, 2014




Most brands go through a cathartic process of ‘symbolic’ rebirth every time there is reason to believe that their name, logo or motto needs to keep up with the changing times or to reflect a change in their businesses.

The more haloed the brand and the more steeped in history, the more sensitive and difficult this process will be. This is very true in the automotive industry too, which has some iconic brands and their equally famous logos.

The cost of redesigning and reinterpreting a brand and its logo could run into millions of dollars today. But one iconic automotive brand which is a household name worldwide now was originally reborn after a simple contest inviting suggestions from the public.

The brand we are talking about is Toyota Motor Corporation.

It was originally called Toyoda, after the founder Kiichiro’s family’s name and vehicles were sold under this emblem. But, the company was primarily into the production of automatic looms and the automotive division was new. So, a new name or logo was under consideration and a contest was announced in July 1936 inviting proposals. The grand prize was 100 Yen – about three per cent of the cost of the company’s truck being sold then.

The original

In September 1936, a couple of years after the company had begun selling vehicles under the Toyoda brand, it announced the results of the public competition, which eventually lead to the change in the brand name to ‘Toyota’. It is said that there were about 27,000 entries that came in from the people of Japan, including some from the company’s employees – part of a batch which had been collected a couple of years earlier. The one winning entry that was selected to represent the new logo of the company was apparently the three Japanese Katakana letters for Toyoda written inside a circle. It is said that Risaburo Toyoda, who had not born into the family and whose second name used to be Oshima before he married into the Toyoda family, felt that Toyota was a better name for the company.

His logic was based on the cultural and linguistic significance of the name. It was regarded as a favorable transition from ‘Toyoda’ to ‘Toyota’, because voiceless consonants sound more appealing than voiced consonants. In addition, through the concept of ‘Jikaku’ – counting the number of strokes in writing characters (in Japanese script) to determine good and bad luck – the Toyota name’s eight-stroke count is associated with wealth and good fortune.

Lastly, it is said that the change also signified the expansion of an small independent company to a larger corporate enterprise. That is how the Toyota band came to be.

The 3 ovals

The three ovals logo we see today on Toyota cars was born in October 1989. The new logo was meant to commemorate the 50th year of the company and to represent the increasing global footprint of Toyota. The development of the new logo took about five years.

There are three ovals in the new logo that are combined in a horizontally symmetrical configuration. The two perpendicular ovals inside the larger oval represent the heart of the customer and the heart of the company. They are overlapped to represent a mutually beneficial relationship and trust between each other.

The overlapping of the two perpendicular ovals inside the outer oval symbolize ‘T’ for Toyota, as well as a steering wheel, representing the vehicle itself. The outer oval symbolizes the world embracing Toyota. Each oval is contoured with different stroke thicknesses, similar to the ‘brush’ art known in Japanese culture.

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Published on June 19, 2014
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