Behind the Badge: A Study on McLaren’s “Swoosh” Design, Kiwi Birds, & Cigarettes
British automaker McLaren, creator of some of the world’s best-performing sports cars, has an interesting history behind its current, seemingly innocuous logo. The red, curved ray–commonly referred to as the “swoosh”–is all over the company’s handiwork. But what does it represent?
Some purport that the red curve was derived from the original crest used by McLaren that featured the silhouette of a kiwi bird. However, that line of thought divides experts, with others insistent that the swoosh is not a stylized rendering of a kiwi’s head. Another camp believes that the swoosh is a smoother version of the V-shaped chevron emblem that identified Marlboro’s sponsorship of McLaren back in the day.
So what is the history behind the McLaren badge? To find out, we have to see where the company started.
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Learn about the Sleek McLaren Emblem
|The first emblem used by McLaren was designed in 1964 by artist Michael Turner for the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team. It features a kiwi, the symbol of Bruce’s home of New Zealand.|
|The kiwi was streamlined in later iterations after a redesign in 1967 that set its silhouette against a vibrant “McLaren Orange” color. This sleek shape became known as the Speedy Kiwi.|
|As McLaren’s racing participation went global in the early 1980s, designer Raymond Loewy bestowed a new logo on McLaren. The pattern of chevrons came from sponsor Phillip Morris who wanted it to resemble a checkered flag (while also recalling the style on its Marlboro products).|
|In the 1990s, the series of chevrons became a single one over the company’s name. According to McLaren, “The revamped logo that first appeared in 1997 featured a streamlined speedmark which bares similarities to the vortices created by our rear wing. It appeared on the top of our cars’ side-pods. They evoke the aggressive markings found on predatory animals and insects.”|
So, according to the company, the current emblem has nothing to do with Marlboro or the kiwi. But based purely on sight, it’s hard to deny their influence…
Love thinking about the automobile logos like McLaren’s? Check out the rest of our Behind the Badge series examining fascinating automotive logos!
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