Cadillac, a brand of luxury and performance cars, has a storied history and experienced an incredible evolution of its logo. As the second oldest American automaker, it’s been around for over a century. Founded in 1902 by Henry Leland, it started in Detroit, Michigan.
Named after the city’s founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the company also took on the explorer’s coat of arms as its logo. Cadillac led French explorers to the United States, where they settled Ville d’Etroit, which later became Detroit, the home of the automotive industry in the US. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was a French military officer that was seen as courageous and a pioneer, much like the Cadillac company became – a pioneer in the automotive industry.
The automobile maker’s first model was the Runabout in 1903. The two-seater premiered at the New York Auto Show and sold for $850. The current Cadillac logo kept some colors, and the classic crest has long been used.
The General Motors brand primarily sells vehicles in the US, Canada, and China. It started as a company led by financiers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, who partnered with Henry Ford when the company began. After Ford’s withdrawal Henry Leland, who crafted a powerful engine, stepped in, and the rest is history.
The company has come a long way from its first-year production of 2,500 cars, a British Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England for excellence in technical innovation, to merging with GM and selling over 100k cars a year. Many firsts were achieved, including the first fully enclosed cabin passenger car. 1912 saw the first electric system from Cadillac and the first V-8 engine in 1915. Power steering came along in 1954.
The Cadillac Logo Through the Years
As you can see, the logo has gone through many changes, including a period with Merlette’s. These six birds represented the trinity belief and a lineage of nobility. They lasted as a part of the logo until 2000, when it took on a geometric look.
Another logo segment that lasted until the 21st century was the wreath as Cadillac looked to the future and a more modern image. One thing that Cadillac teaches us is that it’s okay to make changes to your logo. You’re not married to it, and change is a good thing as your business scales and evolves.
A Closer Look at the Logo as it Evolved
Where it All Began – The Original Cadillac Emblem 1902
Created in 1902 when the company was founded as Cadillac Automobile Company, the original Cadillac logo came from the La Mothe family coat of arms. It included the crown, crest, Merlette’s, horizontal lines in black, and the wordmark that has been used at different times throughout the company’s history. This first logo contained the La Mothe Cadillac wordmark. The Merlette’s, or birds, appear in threes symbolizing the Holy Trinity, with two representing the maternal and paternal ancestry. The wreath surrounding the logo pays homage to the questionable noble background of Antoine Cadillac.
These first years saw the “horseless carriage” with ten horsepower. These three years of the original logo saw the Model A and Model B production.
Cadillac’s First Revision 1905
The first change to the Cadillac logo was in 1905, and it kept the same circular shape, with an additional sphere in the middle that featured a checkerboard-like design. The birds were still present, but a floral motif and a prominent crown were added. This logo design was introduced along with the Model C, which had a short wheelbase. Model’s D through M followed before Cadillac redesigned the logo once again.
A More Refined Design 1908
Gone were the flowers from the 1905 logo. This bold new look was more refined. The crown, crest, and birds were present. The brand also delivered a bold typeface message in their logo, “Standard of the World” with the Cadillac brand name emblazoned over the top. This logo is what adorned the Model’s S and T in 1908.
The Simplest Cadillac Logo Ever 1914
After six years, the brand changed to its most simple design yet. There were no crest, crown, or birds. Simply the Cadillac name with a moon-like design on the C and the year. This logo only lasted a year, when the Type 51 luxury V-8 vehicle was introduced in 1915.
The 4th Change of the Cadillac Logo 1915
This throwback to the original logo lasted five years. This edition added a wreath and crown with a surround of leaves. The Cadillac wordmark was more prominent and written in classy serif.
Cadillac’s Stately Sixth Logo – 1920
After five years, Cadillac returned to a round shape. Like the original logo, it included the birds, tulip bulb wreath, and crest. A seven-pommel crown replaced the nine-pommel one. The inscription was removed from the crest. In 1927, Harley Earl designed the La Salle under this logo.
The Seventh Cadillac Logo 1933
The shape stretched out and took flight with wings in 1933. Present were the birds, crest, and pummel that adorned the crown that once sat atop the logo.
The Geometric Eighth Cadillac Logo 1939
Six years after the wings were implemented, they were gone, and the shape went in a triangular direction. The lower part of the logo was reminiscent of a car grill. The logo went out in monochromatic and colorful patterns. The brand name was removed, and the stately look may have a lot to do with the World War II climate in which they lived. The company spent time producing tanks and aircraft.
The Ninth Logo for Cadillac 1942
This religious, art deco looking symbol looked much like a statue with a shield that rose behind the classic Cadillac crest and returned the crown to a more prominent placement.
The Tenth Logo 1948
The 1948 design took on a V shape and was topped with the Cadillac crest.
The Eleventh Logo 1957
The V was continued in the new logo, but it widened, allowing the crest to sit lower in the design.
The Four Decade Logo 1963
The 1963 edition returned to the classic design with the laurel wreath in grayscale and the coat of arms. The vibrant five-color crest with wreath design lasted almost four decades. This logo lasted through their 1967 Eldorado luxury car until the end of the century.
The Thirteenth Cadillac Logo 2000
The turn of the century brought a new design idea for the brand, Art, and Science, and modernization signaling a need for a new image for Cadillac. While it will always be a classic brand, their cars and logo wished to appear modern and sleek. Art and Science are all about sharp, clean lines and blunt edges.
Not only was the logo revamped, but their cars also took on new shapes. It was important for the brand’s future to reposition, and their logo represented that change. Along with new models and innovative ads, the company wanted to leave very little traces of the emblem of old.
The Cadillac Logo Today
This logo was introduced right after the near bankruptcy of General Motors. All of their brands were clamoring to be saved. Oldsmobile was out, and Cadillac seemed to be in jeopardy. At this juncture, the company jumped in and took on more edgy advertising, car design, and an updated logo.
Since 2014 the logo has included both the wordmark and a widened crest with no sign of the crown. The colors tan, red, and grey grace the logo with the company name in cursive font in black. It shows where Cadillac is today as an innovative company that remains elegant as it reaches forward into the future. The design is used with and without the brand name. This change undoubtedly relates to the company’s attempt to attract new, young buyers. The streamlined look was revealed on the Elmiraj Grand Coupe concept car in 2014.
The logo’s position has changed in the last year, moving from mid-grille to top of the grille. This subtle change is due to the grille size and headlight position. They sit on each end of the grill; if the logo sits in the normal centered position, it seems to “fall.” It just made more sense from a design standpoint to provide a balanced look for those looking at the vehicle’s front. The logo is also getting a change when it comes to electric cars. The logo will be in a monochromatic version for these eco-friendly cars.
Elements of the Cadillac Logo Through the Years
The Regal Crown: Many of the company’s logos included a crown, symbolizing power and nobility.
Wings: The brand often used wings that coincided with their V engines. Wings can represent power and speed.
Laurel Wreath: Once, an abstract piece that took on a metallic look disappeared from the brand with the 2014 redesign. The wreath stands for honor and victory.
That Classic Cadillac Crest: This prominent symbol included a coat of arms symbolized pioneering. The crest is made up of a coat and shield. The birds are called merlette’s and were adapted from a martin without the legs and beaks.
The Cadillac Font: Designed by Vladimir Yefimovi, the legible calligraphy font is akin to the English 157 font.
The Colors that Evoke the Feeling of Excellence
The elegant color brings on sexy and authoritative feelings. The mysterious black shows up in the nameplate and coat of arms.
Silver symbolizes sleekness and gives a modern look to the logo. The color represents wealth and industry.
White keeps everything simple and allows the eye to relax and appreciate the accompanying colors. The pure color can also signify loyalty.
Blue, used sparingly here, is all about loyalty and calm. The crest displays the color in four sections of the crest.
Gold is a rich color of extravagance and the prosperity Cadillac owners enjoy. Three sections of the crest are gold, which shows wealth and riches.
Red shows the energy and vigor the company still has after all these years. It decorates four parts of the logo.
As a part of the Cadillac brand, these colors represent riches in gold, superiority in black, boldness in red, virtuosity in silver, and courage in blue.
Like Cadillac, companies don’t have to eliminate their logos. They must simply re-envision the logo to match your rebranding.