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Porsche's crest (left) as rendered by Franz Reimspeiss in 1952. The design originates the year prior at a meeting between Ferry Porsche and Maximillian Hoffman in New York City. 

Designers: Ferry Porsche & Franz Reimspeiss are known. Maximillian Hoffman may have participated. 

Porsche Crest Origins

 

 

Porsche’s crest is a trilogy of symbolic elements that reference:

1. Stuttgart—the place where corporate Porsche began as a design & engineering consultancy in 1931;

2. The state where Stuttgart is located, Baden-Wurttemberg;

3. The country where Stuttgart is, Germany.

Design of the crest began in New York City in 1951. The creative process was instigated by Maximilian Hoffman, the pioneer of U.S. foreign car importing---the first importer & retailer of Porsche in the U.S. It was during a meeting between Ferry Porsche and Max (likely at dinner or in a lounge/bar) that Max mentioned to Ferry the fact that all car makers have a logo... “What about Porsche?” Ferry took a napkin and immediately began sketching a Porsche logo. Franz Reimspeiss, a Porsche employee in Germany, is credited with the final logo rendering done in 1952.

     The visual elements that compose the crest have meanings and forms dating back hundreds and thousands of years. This chapter of Porsche History explores the origin of each design element within Porsche's crest. Also looked at are the subtle design modifications the company has made to the crest over the last 40 years.

Origin & symbolism behind Stuttgart's horse.

950 A.D. - In the SW corner of Germany, not far from the Black Forest and bordering the Neckar River, there’s an area of fertile, rolling green hills. Here, a Duke Luidolf---the son of Germany’s King“Otto the Great”---begins a horse breeding farm. Prospering, his farm evolves into a settlement. The area is sensibly named "Stutt Garten”--- “Stud Garden.” Later, “Stuttgart.” The graphic symbol for the area, like the name, was an obvious choice...

      

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Stuttgart’s first single-horse seal circa 1433.

While not yet in the prancing posture that Porsche will use the horse, the origin of the single horse at the center of Porsche's crest is here.

Credit: Heraldry of the World

The first single-horse design for Stuttgart appears around 1433. The individual credited with this graphic is Evergarth I. His claim to fame is being the son of the local Bishop (of Constance.) Multi-horse symbols existed prior to Evergarth I’s design but he is the one who  concluded a single horse being a better visual solution than multiple horses. Basically, one horse allowed for a bigger horse within a given space, and so more visual clarity being provided the key subject, the horse. At this moment, there is little energy expressed by the horse, only a single raised fore leg. It will take some years for a more dramatic visual metaphor for Stuttgart to arrive.

The big deal with horses.

 

Throughout the Middle Ages, horses are very significant animals. They transport people, haul goods, and offer steerable brute force where needed. Practically any horse would suit these roles provided being amply fit. Stout bred horses are another matter entirely. These individuals are marked by their undeniably imposing stature. Who would want and could easily afford these brutes? Rulers in power who were eager to expand their dominance, or in the least, protect the domain they already had. To serve this purpose, stout horses were mostly bred for combat. In fields of conflict, soldiers afoot are quickly demoralized when glancing across the way and seeing a mounted cavalry of any substance. If led into battle, those same foot soldiers were doomed---and they knew it. While it was distinctly better for such men to walk away from an encounter with mounted cavalry, politics often got in the way of intelligence.

      

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Circa 1500. Someone concluded a horse standing only on rear quarters being a more appropriate graphic metaphor for Stuttgart.

Credit: Heraldry of the World

Between 1433 and 1500, someone realized a calmly standing horse with one foot raised was inadequate to promote Stuttgart's specially bred horses. The "prancing" figure then came to be. In this visual form, Stuttgart's horse had come to more distinctly represent "power.' So significant was the horse as a metaphor of power that following the visual design, and in the 1700's, the verbal measure of force came to be expressed commonly as "horsepower,” abbreviated,“hp.” 

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Stuttgart's flag. Adopted in 1950.

Credit: Heraldry of the World

The symbol created for a horse breeding settlement hundreds of years ago remains in use for Stuttgart today. And, at the center of Porsche's crest.

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Stuttgart is the sixth largest city in Germany with a population of 5.8 million in its metropolitan area. Known for industry, technology, and financial services, Stuttgart is also a wine producing region of some respected measure.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock., complimentary.

Stuttgart Today

 

Where amorous horses once grazed, there's now a sprawling low rise metropolis. In spite of the many conflicts the area has witnessed over thousands of years, Stuttgart looks gracefully beyond it all with a mix of old world charm and contemporary sophistication. Porsche and Mercedes headquarters, factories, and museums are found here. Other auto related corporate giants calling this home are Bosch and Mahle. Manufacturing aside, Stuttgart is also an important hub for financial services, technology development, and research. Duke Luidolf’s practice of horse breeding remains an area tradition.

 

State Heraldry

 

The city of Stuttgart resides within the German state of Baden-Württemberg. This area was first recognized in 1081 under the then ruler Conrad I, founder of the Wurttemberg dynasty. Visual records don’t go back that far. The earliest recorded symbol for the region is associated with Ulrich I, in 1259. 

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Seal of Ulrich I circa 1259.

These 3 antlers will find their way into Porsche's crest.

Credit: Heraldry of the World

Over time, rulers, politics, border changes, wars, and ever changing design tastes have all influenced the many design iterations that have evolved to represent the state. Typical of Europe at the time, King’s and the regions they ruled adopted visual motifs referred to as a “coat of arms.”  Or simply, “arms.” The consistency of visual format from one arms to another is not by chance. The format is due a design structure that arose in northern Europe in the mid-12th century. Becoming fashionable, the format was widely adopted by kings, princes, knights and other significant power holders throughout western Europe. Arms and their abbreviations were used primarily for functional communication purposes but were also displayed for aesthetic decoration. Banners, shields, signage and more all served to present one's arms. 

Painting credit: Medevilchronicles.com

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Wurttemberg's (Baden-Wurttemberg's) visual symbol has seen several design changes over hundreds of years. Below is a small sample showing how, over time, artistic style has evolved. The far left image dates back to 1405. At the far right is the image from 1918.

Credit: Heraldry of the World

In battle, visual design served the valuable purpose of quickly distinguishing friend from foe. Also seen in combative tournaments, arms would allow the caller that announced the competitors, also the audience, to know who was fighting who.

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In the formal sense, Porsche’s “crest” is a “coat of arms.” The upper most design element in a coat of arms—notably above the arms— is where the “crest” is. Porsche’s crest, when being a part to a Porsche car, is also referred to as a “badge.” Similar to the function of an arms as an identifier, the meaning of “badge” stems from small tokens or distinctive marks worn by knights to express their identity or allegiance. 

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Everything, be it natural or man made,

is symmetrical. Where there appears to be a lack of symmetry in an object, look again. It is likely the object is comprised of individual objects that are symmetrical. Or, the viewing angle to the object needs to be adjusted to the symmetrical plane.

If symmetry eludes to something, it would seem

the universe is quietly insisting

on "balance."

Over hundreds of years, one graphic element has seen a continuum in Wurttemberg’s composition. The 3 antlers. Speculation has this grouping being an indication of early existential perception---the designers of the day were referencing metaphors of mystical import as a practice of subliminal expression. In this case, they were pointing to the "three" universal states: time, matter, and space. (Within each of these states, there is yet another set of 3s. Time = past, present, future. Matter = solid, liquid, gas. Space = width, depth, height. This duality symbolizes the division of "III" into two halves with yet another trilogy: the center, the left, and right. The symmetry of halves is---by some insistence of universal law---relentlessly present in natural and man-made objects.) ​While the early authors of heraldry designs are gone from us, their perceptional thoughts of universal idioms live on. Within Porsche’s crest, the 3 antlers carry on. And Porsche's crest's boundary is---by universal insistence---symmetrical.

German Flag

 

To conclude Ferry’s tribute of 3 regions, he chose the 3 national colors as appearing in the German flag. The same colors appear in the Wurttemberg shield however to complete his city-state-country theme, it was obligatory to reference some country-related design element. Germany’s flag colors were it.  

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German flag. The 3 colors are well suited for coloring the Porsche crest as there is a light, medium, and dark tonal range for use.

Flag designer: Unknown but tri-color format dates back to 1778.

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Free Corps painted by Ferdinand Holder. Troops were volunteers from all over Germany and Austria that joined together to fight against Napoleon's French forces. The corps consisted of infantry, cavalry, and snipers who were called the "Schwarze Jäger“---"Black Hunters."

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 Franz Xaver Reimspiess was a graphic artist in addition to his automotive engineering expertise. 

Photo credit: Unknown

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1952 - Porsche’s crest design makes its first debut on the horn button of the 356 models produced in Stuttgart.

Photo credit: neverquitlarry

1954 - The crest is placed on the 356’s forward hood handle.

Photo credit: benge1512

1959 onward - Centered on the forward area of the front hood.

Photo credit: DriverSource

The flags of most European countries like love songs, were all  conceived through some measure of pain & suffering. Germany’s flag is no exception. Colors come from the “Free Corps” German forces that fought the Napoleonic wars. To uniform themselves, troops of the Free Corps collected any garments available and to harmonize the corps identity, the random garments were dyed the most convenient color at the time: black. The flag’s yellow/gold color comes from the color of the most appealing buttons on the Free Corps uniforms. These buttons being brass (as opposed to the lessor buttons made of horn or wood.) The flag’s red scheme has a mysterious heritage. There’s indication of the red having been taken from the feet of the heraldic two-headed eagle that was the symbol for the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, this graphic dating back to the late 1400’s / early 1500’s. Red’s heraldic symbolism is energy, strength, and courage—all battle & power related metaphors. 

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Two-headed eagle---symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, circa 1400/1500s.

Designer: Unknown

To what extent Ferry & Max took their napkin-thinking during their dinner, or perhaps while discussing matters at the bar, is uncertain. What is known is a Porsche crest having finally been rendered by Franz Xaver Reimspeiss, a Porsche employee—his areas of expertise for the company being engines, brakes, and chassis design.

 

(Reimspeiss also supposedly created the VW logo via a Volkswagen sponsored contest. Reimspeiss was awarded a small cash prize plus bragging rights for his win. Reimspeiss is not alone in claiming authorship in this matter. Others who wanted credit: Nikolai Borg, a Swedish designer. Also Martin Freyer, a German designer. Many years after the fact, Borg took VW to court to pursue his claim. He stated openly that money was not of interest to him. What he wanted was credit for his supposed design. The Vienna Business Court ruled against him. While they agreed that Borg did do a VW logo, they found Reimspeiss’ design existed prior to his. Case closed. Freyer claimed the VW logo resulted as a collaboration between himself and Reimspeiss. No historical record was found indicating Reimspiess ever supported or denied any such collaboration. The record also suggests Freyer not having pursued VW in regard to his assertion. There is one other name that appears with some sense of oddity relative to the VW logo, that being Ludwig Hohlwein, a German who was a prolific and highly regarded poster designer. He lived until 1949 and so was indeed available at the time and a graphic designer of repute. However, the association given to him relative to VW is the year 1920—prior to VW’s corporate existence. Hohlwein's assocaition is so glaringly obtuse that he is mentioned, respectfully, as a curiosity.)

Crest's Evolution

 

As time inevitably imposes evolving aesthetic sensibilities, Porsche has heeded the need to make visual refinements to their crest to remain contemporary, a.k.a., competitive. To smartly preserve brand recognition, changes made to the crest have been subtle and incremental, so far spanning 40 years (as of this writing.)

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Graphic display credit: Markus Klimesch

First and obvious is the red tone-down made in 1973. Less obvious is the crest’s outward flare towards the top being eliminated. This makes the crest's vertical sides parallel. The result is a more sedate, sophisticated visual statement.

     In 1994, the horse is refined resulting in a stronger, less cartoony figure. Also in 1994, the PORSCHE header font is vertically tightened—squashed—to express a more contemporary, “fast feel.” The PORSCHE letters are now in black as opposed to the less visible blind emboss.

     In 2014, the background the horse resides on is made lighter. This inclines the eye to the center of the crest and makes the horse slightly more prevalent.

     As this is written, some crests now appear with the STUTTGART  lettering above the horse in the traditional blind emboss while other crests present STUTTGART in black. This variation suggests a refinement having been made and the old “blind emboss” version being flushed from the marketplace and the new—more visible—black version of STUTTGART being installed. Whether this is a genuine corporate flush & install or an unauthorized “rogue” modification has yet to be proven. Time will tell.

Small change. Big Process.

 

For a global company such as Porsche, logo refinements, even small mods, are planned well in advance—perhaps years in advance. For any visual refinement, several design options are typically developed & presented to internal decision makers. The approval process usually requires several executives and possibly the Board to arrive at a consensus. This process is not necessarily a quick undertaking given opinions on visual imagery being abstractly subjective on the part of each approver. A leader in visual strategy is absolutely necessary to intelligently rationalize what the options are and recommend the best solution depending on corporate goals. This leader is usually the head of marketing or brand management. Debates on even minutia can last months. (Perhaps Porsche is faster at such processing than others.) Following approval, all corporate media files demand graphic updating. Then all marketing materials need to be reprinted or otherwise reproduced, digitally updated, and structurally replaced or refurbished, the mission being to flush the old crest from the marketplace and install the new. Given Porsche’s international presence, the cost & complexity to do this is significant. Bottom line, even a “minor” change in Porsche’s crest represents an immense and expensive undertaking.

 

Expressing Quality

Ferdinand Porsche was a man driven by performance. Quality—usually very precisely measured in his engineered world—was integral to his expression as a consummate perfectionist. Proof of his creative genius, to himself then others, came by his creations winning races, a practice he managed quite often. Born into his father’s exacting realm, Ferry carried his father’s meticulous traditions seamlessly forward. When speaking of the Porsche crest design he authored, Ferry efficiently distilled what could have been a complex statement into a simple goal. He said he wanted a design that expressed what was most important to him, “Quality.” His father’s son he surely was.

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Porsche father & son. This photo was taken (late 1940s) after Ferry had secured his father's release from prison in Lyon, France. 

Photo credit: Porsche

The fine print: “Porsche,” the Porsche crest, and Porsche car model numbers & names are under licensed use by Porsche Cars North America, Inc.(PCNA) from the owner Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Aktiengesellschaft, Porsche AG ("Porsche.") Racing car model numbers & names are likewise the property of Porsche AG. The "Porsche Museum" name is the property of Porsche AG. No association or affiliation with Porsche, PCNA, The Porsche Museum is intended or implied by the author of this section or by GP AutoWerks, an independent Miami-based Porsche service, repair, rebuild & PPI shop that offers comprehensive Master Porsche mechanical care for classic & contemporary Porsche sports cars---356 through 991, 928, 944, Boxster, and Cayman. Ferrari, the Ferrari logo/crest, and Ferrari car model names are the property of Ferrari. No association or affiliation with Ferrari is intended or implied by the author of this section or by GP AutoWerks as previously described.

 

“Porsche History” content is offered for educational purposes only. Content has been crossed referenced for the sake of accuracy but no guarantee of accuracy is offered or implied by the author. All photos, illustrations, and diagrams shown in “Porsche History”  are the property of their respective owners as credited. In some cases, an image owner is unknown in which case the image is credited “Unknown.”  If at any time an image owner can prove ownership to the author, their image will be duly credited or removed. Image infringement shall only exist if an owner proves ownership and their written request to credit or remove a specific image is not accomplished by the author within 30 days of written notice being received by the author. Any such notice to the author requires proof of service of notice. Please contact GP AutoWerks for access to the author. Website structure is © 2022 GP AutoWerks. All rights reserved. “Porsche History” written content is © 2022 Karl Hansen. All rights reserved.  

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