Ford logo – also known as Blue Oval logo – is among the most recognizable car brand emblems. The Ford emblem is also among the oldest and most valuable brands globally. Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker. Established in 1903, Ford is credited to have applied the methods of mass production of cars through assembly lines. Ford, along with General Motors (GM) and Chrysler (now owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), is referred to as Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers. Currently, Ford is the second largest US carmaker and features among the top-10 automakers globally.
Ford Motor Company Information
16 June 1903
Dearborn, Michigan, United States
Ford Logo – the Blue Oval, since 1927
Ford’s corporate logo consists of its stylized moniker in a blue oval that has been in use since 1927. The logo was designed by Childe Harold Wills who was among the first ones to associate with Henry Ford. Wills also played a crucial role in designing the iconic Model T. Over the years, there have been some changes and modifications in the logo but it has retained its trademark calligraphy. Here is a brief history of Ford logo and its evolution in the last several decades.
The Original Nouveau Border Ford Logo
Prior to the blue oval, Ford experimented with a number of designs – the first one being an intricate nouveau border bearing “Ford Motor Co. Detroit, -Mich.-”. As can be seen from the image, this original Ford logo was completely different from the one currently adorning the vehicles. This logo served the purpose between 1903 and 1907 before being replaced by Wills’ “Ford” lettering.
Childe Harold Wills makes an entry
As we mentioned above, the Blue Oval became ubiquitous only in 1927 and the nouveau border logo was phased out in 1907. In the intermediate years, what adorned Ford vehicles was the Ford emblem created by Wills which originally did not feature an oval. Wills joined the company as metallurgist and chief designer and as such, the responsibility of creating a new brand identity fell on his shoulders. Wills took his father’s stencil set and created the iconic lettering that has only seen small changes ever since. The “script with wings” design added long tails to “F” and “D” letters.
Side note – Wills’ partnership with Henry Ford started in 1899 when he moonlighted at the latter’s first entrepreneurial attempt named Detroit Automobile Company. The company floundered but sealed the friendship between the two visionaries. Detroit Automobile Company was reorganized in 1901 as Henry Ford Company which saw departure of Henry Ford in the subsequent year following a dispute between Ford and his investors. It is quite interesting that Henry Ford Company was renamed to Cadillac Automobile Company!
Introduction of oval and the surge of Blue Oval logo
Although the company officially started using the Blue Oval emblem in 1927, there are instances of Ford’s UK business adding the oval and the blue background in its communications to buyers much earlier. This happened sometime in 1907 and accordingly, Ford emblem started to be known as the Blue Oval. The logo was used to advertise Ford as the “hallmark for reliability and economy”.
The Winged pyramid Ford emblem that crumbled soon
Henry Ford certainly had an eye for detail and he saw no reason to play around the brand’s classy design identity created by Wills. A major departure came in 1912 when the company started using Wills’ lettering with a blue-winged pyramid in the backdrop declaring Ford “The Universal Car”. However, it didn’t take long Henry Ford to spot the disconnect and this Ford emblem was rolled back the same year.
The official Blue Oval Logo
Ford officially started using the Blue Oval logo in 1927 (to be more precise, on the 1927 Ford Model A) and ever since, it has retained the basic characteristics, except some minor changes in shape and colors.
The next major change happened only in 1957 when a new Ford Emblem was introduced featuring a more angular oval. We searched extensively on the Internet but couldn’t find information about the genius who came up with this design. That’s understandable!
Despite the awkward design, the Dearborn automaker persisted with it until 1976 (we’ll see why) when a flattened oval made its way. The new Ford badge replaced the white font with silver and added a silver edging. Overall, the new Ford 3D logo became much sleeker and is the closest to the one we see today on Ford vehicles.
Centennial Blue Oval
The next major change came in 2003 – the year Ford completed 100 years. Understandably, the logo is called Centennial Blue Oval. The new Ford emblem may appear quite similar to the outgoing one but closer inspection reveals that the silver edges have turned white. Ford also introduced the Centennial Blue color as the background.
Fun Fact – The logo that wasn’t to be
As promised earlier, here is a detailed account of why Ford continued with the awkward angular oval logo for so long. It was in 1966 that Henry Ford II – Henry Ford’s grandson – decided it was time to break away from the old design and hired famous logo designer Paul Rand to create a new brand identity.
Paul was the go-to guy in 60’s when it came to graphic designing and created logos of IBM, ABC, Westinghouse, Cummins, and UPS. The famed designer replaced the oval with an elongated oval (obround) shape and came up with a more modern interpretation of the Ford lettering. After careful consideration, Henry Ford II concluded that the new design is too radical and he should stick to the good old Blue Oval. What a genuine call it was!
Another fun fact – The Blue Oval Logo mortgaged and reclaimed
As with the rest of the industry, the storied automaker had its bad days during 2006 and was losing money on every car sold. With a recession looming, there were clear headwinds of the magnitude that were not seen before. While GM and Chrysler opted for taxpayer-sponsored bailouts, Ford CEO Alan Mulally chose an audacious path of putting down all of the automaker’s assets to secure a massive USD23.5 billion loan. Having resurrected Boeing before joining Ford, Mulally had gained a solid reputation as a turnaround expert but the move was risky and if Ford were to fail, it would have tremendously dangerous implications. The Blue Oval was among the several assets Ford put down for the loan, others being Mustang, F-150 trademarks; its Dearborn headquarters as well as factories.
Mulally went on to aggressively cut costs by boosting use of common parts, reducing labor wages and getting rid of its Premier Automotive Group brands Aston Martin, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover. The exercise, although painful, worked and Ford managed to come out of the crisis without a government bailout.
In 2012, Moody’s and Fitch raised Ford’s credit rating to investment grade and the automaker reclaimed official ownership of the Blue Oval logo as well as the other assets.