with partners Adolf Rosenberger and Anton Piech.
Porsche's crest as rendered by Franz Reimspeiss in 1952 (above left.) The design originates the year prior at a meeting between Ferry Porsche and Max Hoffman in New York City. The Reimspiess version seen here was refined prior to the crest being first debuted in the 1952 356 model. Above-right is the current crest.
Designers: Ferry Porsche & Franz Reimspeiss are known.
Max Hoffman may have participated.
There is some distortion in the apparent size of this horse due the small girl tugging the reigns from behind it. Still, the brute-bulk of this breed is evident.
Horse photo credit: Ava Ashley
Porsche Crest Origins
Porsche’s crest is a trilogy of symbolic elements. In all, they represent where---geographically---the company began. That is in Germany, in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, and in the city of Stuttgart.
1951 - New York City. That is where & when Porsche's crest came to life. The creative process was instigated by the pioneer of U.S. foreign car importing, Max Hoffman---the first importer & retailer of Porsche in the U.S. It was during a meeting between Ferry Porsche and Max Hoffman, likely at a cafe/lounge/bar, that Max mentioned to Ferry the fact that all car makers have a logo,“What about Porsche?” Ferry took a napkin---hence the cafe/lounge/bar implication---and immediately began sketching a Porsche logo. Franz Reimspiess, a Porsche employee in Germany, is credited with later rendering the crest in 1952. Reimspiess' image including his personal mark can be seen at left alongside the crest's contemporary version.
The elements that compose the crest have forms & meanings dating back over a thousand years. This chapter of Porsche History explores the origin of each design element within the crest. Also looked at is its first introduction to the 356 in 1952. Then at the subtle design modifications that Porsche has made to the crest over the last 40 years. We begin by looking at the origin of the element at the center of the design...
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---son of Germany’s King“Otto the Great”---begins a horse breeding farm. Prospering, his farm evolves into a settlement. The area eventually comes to be named for what it is, "Stutt Garten”---“Stud Garden.” Later simplified to "Stuttgart.” The graphic symbol for the area, like the name, was an obvious choice...
Stuttgart’s first single-horse seal. Circa 1433.
While not yet displaying the prancing horse that Porsche will use, the single horse at the center of Porsche's crest originates here.
Credit: Heraldry of the World
The first single-horse design for Stuttgart shown above is credited to Evergarth the Ist, his claim to fame is being the son of the local Bishop (of Constance.) Multi-horse symbols existed prior to Evergarth's design but he is the one who rightly concluded a single horse being a better visual solution than presenting multiple horses. Better because one horse allowed for a bigger horse within a given design space, and so more visual clarity being provided the key subject, the horse. At this moment in the horse's design path, there's little energy expressed by the subject, only a single raised fore leg. It will take several years before someone realizes that a more dramatic posture for the horse is in order.
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, construction and farming for instance. 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 special individuals? Rulers in power---those who were eager to war. This being for the sake of either protecting the lands a ruler already had, or conquering others to expand their rule, wealth & power. To serve such purposes, stout horses were intentionally bred for combat. For some, speed was more highly valued than build. Breeding tailored horses to suit particular interests would become a Stuttgart specialty.
In fields of conflict, soldiers afoot were quickly demoralized when glancing across the way and seeing the opposition mounted atop horses of substance. Or, in the alternative, watching as an opposing mounted force sped about before them. If led into battle against a mounted foe, those same foot soldiers were predictably doomed. While it was distinctly better for such men to walk away from such an encounter, politics often got in the way of intelligence.
Circa 1500. Stuttgart's "prancing" horse arrives. So too does the form that is at the heart of Porsche's crest. Above the horse in this design, "Stat Stutgart" translates into"city of Stuttgart."
Credit: Heraldry of the World
Between 1433 and 1500, someone realized a calmly standing horse with one foot raised was inadequate to promote the image of a powerful horse. Whomever was visually thinking this through recognized a horse reared up, standing only on its rear quarters, was more impressive than one with a single lifted foot. And so the "prancing" horse was born for Stuttgart---and for Porsche. So significant was the horse as a metaphor of power that following this visual expression, in the 1700's the verbal measure of force---for steam engines at the time---came to be expressed commonly as "horsepower," abbreviated "hp."
Stuttgart's flag. Adopted in 1950.
Credit: Heraldry of the World
Stuttgart's symbol has seen many iterations over the years. Three of them are shown above. Within every design, the horse has been consistently present from the beginning to this day.
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. The horse business continues.
Stuttgart photo credit: Adobe Stock., complimentary.
Where amorous horses once grazed the gently rolling slopes of Stuttgart, there's now a sprawling low rise metropolis. In spite of the many conflicts the area has witnessed over hundreds 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. Amidst these contemporary enterprises, Duke Luidolf’s practice of horse breeding continues, this with contemporary interests focused on competitive & festive display, dressage, and private personal use. Horses bred for genuine combat are few and far between if any in the Stuttgart region.
Porsche's crest / arms.
The city of Stuttgart resides within the state of Baden-Württemberg. Likewise and within Porsche's crest, the horse resides within the symbol for the state, that being the coat of arms (arms) that represented the state when Ferry conceived Porsche's crest.
The area of the state was first recognized in 1081 under the rule of Conrad the Ist, founder of the Wurttemberg dynasty. Visual records don’t go back that far. The earliest recorded symbol for the region is associated with Ulrich the Ist, in 1259.
Seal of Ulrich the Ist. Circa 1259.
The 3 antlers within Porsche's crest have their origin here.
Credit: Heraldry of the World
Typical of medieval Europe, King’s and the regions they ruled adopted visual motifs referred to as a “coat of arms.” Or simply, “arms.” Consistency of the 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.
Wurttemberg's visual symbol has seen several design changes over hundreds of years. Below is a small sample showing how, over time, both artistic style and the design has evolved. The far left design dates back to 1495. At the far right is the design from 1918.
Image credits: Heraldry of the World
Painting credit: Medevilchronicles.com
In battle, visual design served the valuable purpose of quickly distinguishing friend from foe. Also seen in combative tournaments, a joust for instance, arms allowed the caller that announced the competitors, also the audience, to know who was fighting who.
In the formal sense, Porsche’s “crest” is a “coat of arms.” The upper most design element in a coat of arms is where the“crest” is. Arms having a combative tone, it made sense for Porsche to avoid the use of that moniker. "Shield " has similar ramifications.
Porsche’s crest, when being installed on a 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 particular identity or allegiance.
Ferry used the 1918 coat of arms as the background on which to place the Stuttgart shield containing the horse. Since doing so, the state's arms have changed to now present 3 lions.
Image credits: Heraldry of the World
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 visual symbol (up to 1954.) This being the 3 antlers. Speculation has this trinity 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. The division of "III" into two halves has yet another trilogy: the center, the left, and right.
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 symbolism embodied by the 3 antlers carries on. And Porsche's crest's boundary is, by universal insistence, symmetrical.
Porsche's color scheme.
To conclude Ferry’s city-state-country tribute, he chose the 3 national colors as appearing in the German flag. It may be observed that the same colors appear in the 1918 Wurttemberg arms seen above. None the less, it was obligatory to reference some country-related design element. The flag's colors were it.
German flag 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.
Like love songs, the flags of most European countries were conceived through some measure of pain & suffering. Germany’s flag is no exception. Black and yellow 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 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 an odd heritage. There’s indication of this red being 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.
Free Corps painted by Ferdinand Holder. Troops were volunteers from throughout Germany and Austria that joined together to fight against Napoleon's French forces. The corps consisted of infantry, cavalry, and snipers who were called "Das Schwarze Jäger“---"The Black Hunters."
Franz Xaver Reimspiess.
Photo credit: Unknown
Two-headed eagle---symbol of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, circa 1400/1500s.
To what extent Ferry & Max took their napkin-thinking during their meeting in NYC (in 1951), that is uncertain. What is known is the Porsche crest having been rendered afterwards (in 1952) by Franz Xaver Reimspeiss, a Porsche employee—his areas of expertise for the company being engines, brakes, and chassis design. A refined version of what Reimspiess created first saw public use in 1952 on the horn pad at the center of the 356's steering wheel.
Crest's visual evolution since 1954.
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 both subtle and incremental, so far spanning 40 years (as of this writing and the images shown below.)
Crest's vehicle appearance:
1951 - Original 356 produced in Gmund presents the Porsche signature only on the front hood.
1952 - Crest debuts on horn pad of 356 models produced in Stuttgart.
1953 - Porsche signature only still appears on front hood .
1954 - Handle is introduced on front hood with integral crest.
1963 - 911's introduction institutes the crest-only format on front hood. Signature is moved to rear of cars.
Graphic display credit: Markus Klimesch
First and obvious is the darkening of the red in 1973. This tones the visual energy down resulting in a more sedate, sophisticated visual statement. Less obvious is the crest’s outward flare towards the top being eliminated. The crest's vertical sides are now parallel. It's likely this adjustment was made to make better use of material. The prior angling outward of the crest required some amount of metal waste per badge. Not much perhaps but any conservation is money saved, particularly when one looks at cumulative costs over many years.
In 1994, the horse is refined resulting in a less cartoony figure. The PORSCHE header font is squashed vertically to express a more contemporary,“fast feel.” PORSCHE letters are also now in black as opposed to the far less visible blind emboss.
In 2014, the background the horse resides on is lightened. This draws 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 seen. Given the much increased visibility of STUTTGART, it would seem another progressive change authored by Porsche's branding department.
Incremental corporate identity "refinement" is the signature of sophisticated brand management. The awareness at play is a clear understanding that people/consumers become attached to brands. More, people value stability, visually and otherwise, in the brands they favor. For this reason, companies often do as Porsche has done in order to protect & preserve the recognition their brand has garnered over years of marketing investment. This is not to say dramatic brand changes cannot be done successfully. Because doing so is of measurable risk, large companies quite often prefer to take the conservative route as Porsche has done.
Small change. Big Process.
For a global company such as Porsche, logo refinements, even small modifications, 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 specific 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 of a visual change, ALL corporate media files require updating. Then marketing materials need to be reprinted or otherwise reproduced. Digitally applications need to be updated. Structural visuals need to be taken down & replaced or refurbished. The mission in hand being to flush the old crest from the marketplace and install the new. To what extent this is done throughout the company's entire global visual communications system is a decision management makes per visual change. Bottom line, given Porsche’s international presence, the cost & complexity to institute even a “minor” change in branding represents an immense and expensive undertaking.
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.
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
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