As carmakers go, Lexus is pretty new to the world. It may be a well-known and well-regarded name, but its genesis can be traced to as recently as 1983. That was the year Toyota executives decided they wanted a piece of the luxury car market. BMW, Mercedes, et all had been dominating the scene for too long. It was time they got some healthy competition. Determined to give it to them, Toyota set about developing a new premium sedan, code-named F1. It would take a while for the project to be completed, but 6 years later, it was ready. Now named the Lexus LS, the car formerly known as F1 was unveiled in September 1989. The brand hasn’t looked back since. At the heart of its image is its instantly recognizable stylish logo. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering about the origins of that self-same emblem, you’ve come to the right place. Prepare to find out more as we take you through the history and story of the Lexus logo.
The Story of the Brand
In 1983, Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda tasked his design team with the challenge of building the world’s best car. It was a tall order, but determined to rise to the occasion in style, his team immediately began working on doing just that. The project was code-named F1 (“Flagship One”). The end game (other than creating the ‘world’s best car’) was to tap into the premium segment, an area that Toyota had previously struggled to gain a foothold in. Keen to capitalize on the potential of their new project, Toyota instructed its advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, to come up with an all-singing, all-dancing campaign to support its new brand. They answered by setting up a specialized unit, Team One, to create a winning marketing campaign. Image consultants Lippincott & Margulies were bought on board to develop a name for the new brand. After much toing and froing, they created a shortlist of potential names; Vectre, Verone, Chaparel, Calibre, and Alexis.
Alexis was the most popular of the suggested names, but this was the 1980s. “Dynasty” was filling the airwaves, and Alexis Carrington was the name on everyone’s lips. Nervous of being aligned to a name that was already associated with a fictional character, but equally disinclined to drop the idea completely. Toyota decided to make a mash-up. They dropped the first letter of the name and replaced the ‘i’ with a ‘u’. And thus, Lexus was born. According to The News Wheel, there are two main theories about the meaning of the name. Some say it’s an acronym for “luxury exports to the US” while others say it’s a combination of “luxury” and “elegance.” Team One, on the other hand, says nothing of the sort. According to them, the name never had a specific meaning. Toyota has a slightly different interpretation of events. According to the brand website, ‘Lexus’ is a combination of root words that include the Latin “Luxus”, the French “Luxe” and the Greek “Lexicon,” all of which translate into luxury. Regardless of the deeper meaning, it worked. With the name of the brand now decided, it was time to start working on the logo.
The Creation of the Logo
According to Wikipedia, three firms were involved in the creation of the Lexus logo: Saatchi & Saatchi, Molly Designs, and Hunter/Korobkin, Inc. Between them, they managed to come up with a slick, stylish design that perfectly complemented the newly born Lexus slogan, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” The final product incorporated Saatchi & Saatchi’s choice of logo typeface and Hunter/Korobkin, Inc.’s inspired rendering of the letter “L.” After being presented with the final design, Toyota made a few minor refinements to make it easier to manufacturer. In 1988, the logo was unveiled in all its glory in teaser ads at the Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York auto shows. It went down a storm. With its stylized “L” encircled by a round oval and its stylish choice of a steel grey finish, it smacked of sophistication, refinement, and modernity – all the things, in fact, Lexus had been aiming to deliver in its cars.
For the final version of its new brand’s logo, Toyota wanted a simple, refined color scheme that perfectly complemented the premium image of the brand. Forget about neon pinks and luminous greens – nothing says refinement and sophistication like grey. So grey was what Toyota chose. Selected to convey creativity, timelessness, and luxury values, the steel grey color of the Lexus logo has stood the test of time, creating an overall look that manages to be both futuristic and elegant at the same time.
Lexus pays attention to detail. It’s one of the things it’s best known for. So it probably comes as no surprise to learn that an enormous amount of attention went into getting the font of its logo just right. For the brand name that appears alongside the logo, a custom typeface was decided on. The rest of the logo is rendered in a font from the Nobel font family. As one of the few logo fonts to really understand the value of negative space (check out that spacing between the E and the X as an example), the font works in perfect harmony with the rest of the emblem, resulting in a unique logo that perfectly exemplifies the brand’s image.
The Evolution of the Lexus Logo
Some brands like to change their logo almost as often as they change their product line. Lexus doesn’t. It took a lot of time, effort, and money (Saatchi & Saatchi don’t charge peanuts for their time) to create the logo, and they clearly see no reason to invest any more expense into changing it now. And ultimately, why would they? The Lexus logo is as closely associated with the brand as the cars they make. It’s stylish, it’s simple, and it’s refined enough not to be subject to the changing fashions of the times. As Logo Realm notes, the logo has only undergone one minor alteration in its time. In some applications, the oval that encircles the central “L” is discontinuous, featuring two small gaps where the “L” meets the oval. However, considering that the continuous oval is still used just as much, the alteration can’t be seen as a true logo change: rather, it’s just another version of the same logo.