Toyota Motor Corporation has a fascinating history. It’s one of the few Japanese car manufacturers that were founded well before the Second World War. Their longitude and financial success made them into one of the leading brands of Japan overall. Their fame grew so much, that even the home town of the company now shares their name.
Meaning and History
Toyota has had a lot of different logo versions over the years, some overlapping. Even today, there are 5 different variants for different occasions and regions. And the modern triple oval emblem is a relatively new addition. For the longest time, they used just their name, Toyota, which was in turn a version of the founder’s family name – Toyoda.
The oval emblem itself was created when Toyota became extremely successful all over the world, which led to the need of being unique and recognizable
1937 – 1949
The first ever logo featured the original name, Toyoda. This was the family name of a founder Kiichiro Toyoda, a renowned entrepreneur.
The word was written in a bold and soft font on a white octagon plaque with darkened scarlet edge. The name was written in the same color, by the way. This element sat in the middle on another octagon. This one, however, was a peculiar diamond shape – it looked like two trapezoids stitched to the two ends of a rectangle.
In the vacant space between the plaque and the top and bottom of a diamond, the designers placed two identical combinations of lines. One line was horizontal, and the other two – vertical and slightly tilted inwards. The entire diamond construct alongside the lines was scarlet as well.
1949 – 1989 (for Japan)
Between 1949 and 1958 this was the only Toyota logo. In 1958 appeared a new designed for general use, and this one continued to be an emblem for the Japanese market only.
It depicted a bright red circle (taken from the Japanese flag) with a double white and red outline. There were three Japanese characters inside, all styled in a very unique blocky way. The characters spelled ‘Toyota’. The previous name was written in Japanese with just two additional strokes to the right.
After the war, the company also changed the name, obviously. ‘Toyoda’ sounded much less pleasant and had a ridiculous literal meaning. Plus, the new name saved more space on the canvas and was believed to attract success, spiritually speaking.
1958 – 1969
This logo was first used for American commercials, but it wasn’t really an American exclusive. Unlike other soft Toyota names, this one was black and had thin standard serifs all over the word. All the letters were capital, too. And there haven’t been any additional images beside it.
1969 – 1978
The next development has given the text part its modern look. Of course, there were annoying differences – the letters were too big and thing in proportion, stood too close to one another, and the ‘Y’ was seemingly disproportional as well.
It was still black. It wasn’t until the next iteration that Toyota decided to use red on their non-Japanese logo as well.
1978 – now
This variant is the primary logo, used by the company everywhere. It also substituted the exclusively Japanese logo back in 1989 when the latter was discontinued.
It’s the same soft yet strict word ‘Toyota’ as the previous version. However, now the letters are smaller, more distant from each other and seem much more proportional. This look is used has been used by all the following Toyota logos from then on, the only difference was ever just the color.
As mentioned, this was the first version to use the dark coloring of its text.
1989 – now
This logo mostly appears on cars and the property specifically tied to vehicles. It’s the same logo as before, but now it has a new emblem to the left of it. The emblem is composed of three ovals. The first two comprise the letter ‘T’, while the last one encircles them all and links with the upper oval at the top.
It’s said to represent a healthy relationship between the company and its customers, but it’s also a fascinating design.
2005 – now (Europe, temporarily)
This one is still used, but it was dedicated to the European market up until 2020, when the new European variant arrived. It is pretty much the same logo as the one before it. The emblem on this one, however, is made of metal, has a good deal of lighting and is also chromed richly.
It is the emblem from this logo that Toyota still uses on the majority of their cars – mostly as badges.
2019 – now (USA)
In 2019, the company created this logotype specifically for American commercials. It is also identical to the previous two, save for the color and a few insignificant changes.
Firstly, the text is now black, and it stands rather far away from the emblem, compared to its counterparts. Secondly, the emblem lost some of its size, was repainted white and placed in the middle of a crimson square. This color is a bit darker than the other hues.
2020 – now (Europe)
As you remember, Europeans enjoyed the 2005 design for 15 years until it was replaced with no other than this one. For the first time ever, Toyota doesn’t have any text on their logo, and the emblem stands alone. Its color changed too – now it’s a very dark grey hue, borderline black. But that’s pretty much all.
Emblem and Symbol
There are actually even more combinations than just the five contemporary designs. The emblem itself has been used as a bar badge since its inception in 1978, mostly on the black background. There is surprisingly not a lot of deeper meaning behind the three ovals that make up the emblem. This is all very un-Japanese.
There are many successful car models created by Toyota back in 60s or 70s and still on sale. For instance, there is 1967 Century – a sedan for the Japanese market. The western customers would likely recognize the 1982 Camry or the 1966 Corolla – a pair of renowned sedan models.
Toyota is also famous for being the most successful Japanese race car producer. Their TS050 has won at Le Mans in 2018, 2019 and in 2020. It’s 60% of Japan’s wins and more than BMW, Bugatti or McLaren.