McLaren Logo Meaning: Marlboro, Testing Vortices or Kiwi?


Every brand has its own unique and distinctive logo and this is particularly true for automotive brands where logos play an ever-important role. One of the most popular, expensive, stylish, and luxury racing cars, the McLaren logo meaning needs no introduction to sports car lovers. McLaren was founded in 1963 and the visual identity of the brand is based on simple and stylish concepts, albeit with a complex meaning. The McLaren logo was designed in 1981 and has remained with the company ever since, though it has been upgraded over time.

McLaren Logo PNG

McLaren Information

FounderBruce McLaren
ProductsSports Cars
Logo CreatorMichael Turner
Raymond Loewy

McLaren Logo Meaning

McLaren Logo meaning

McLaren logos were modified over time as shown above. The very first logo was created in 1963, the same year when the business was still in its infancy. Michael Turner, the artist, created a crest-like symbol with a black outline of a kiwi bird in a green, red, and white color palette. The kiwi was a nod to the motherland of the company’s founder, Bruce McLaren.

A stylized abstract image of a kiwi bird appears in the 1966 logo, which was sleek and modern. The logo was dubbed “Speedy Kiwi” and went on to become a staple of the McLaren racing team. The bird’s black color looked fantastic against both white and the brand’s signature orange (at the time) backgrounds, exuding optimism and experience.

McLaren Logo Evolution

McLaren International Logo

The Speedy Kiwi adorned McLaren cars for 14 years before being replaced by what is named McLaren International logo. Designer Raymond Loewy combined a black thick word mark and a stylized tricolor (black-red-white) checkered flag to create the new logo. The new McLaren logo was heavily influenced by Phillip Morris (Marlboro maker) which was the sponsor of the racing team. Looked this way, Loewy did a fantastic job of using two logos in a single one while keeping it close to racing. According to official sources, the logo was commissioned by the tobacco company as a gift to McLaren.

In subsequent years, the multitude of chevrons was reduced to just one in red color, placed on top of the last letter.

Another major change came in 1998 when the chevron was replaced with a swoosh mark, again in red. This logo is known as McLaren Speed mark. Of its many interpretations, one is that the swoosh marks return of the kiwi silhouette in a stylized manner. Another interpretation is that the swoosh is just an evolved chevron. However, this is unlikely since Philip Morris had moved its sponsorship to Ferrari in 1997, thus requiring McLaren to redo its logo.

McLaren Car

Meanwhile, the official explanation of McLaren logo meaning is that the swoosh represents the swirling vortices that appear during testing of a car in wind tunnel. This is technical stuff probably aimed at McLaren enthusiasts.

Enter the mono black speed mark. Symbolizing ‘one’ McLaren, the logo was reflected across McLaren’s three different businesses and united us as one Group. But that doesn’t mean it has forgotten its racing heritage, as the company went full circle with a return to its iconic ‘McLaren Orange’ racing livery.

Its racing soul shines even brighter in the latest evolution, the speed mark has turned papaya to distinguish us as McLaren Racing and a slimmer, modernized font style expresses its agility and speed as racers. While continuity is maintained with the familiar McLaren logo, the refreshed identity future-proofs its brand and optimizes it for the digital environment.

Despite the changes in these years, the visual identity of McLaren emblem has largely remained same. At the same time, the changes represent the rich history of the car brand.


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