The history of the Formula One logo...

Formula One has been around since the late 1940’s and the first world championship race was at Silverstone in 1950. A season consists of a series of races, which is known as the Grand Prix, that takes place on purpose-built circuits and closed public roads (aka street circuits), all around the world.

Since then, it has become a global phenomenon, hooking people in at all ages with the help/influence of tv-show’s, movies, and social media. Now with the world constantly changing, did the logos throughout its history make pole position or DNF?

Function Over Style – 1950

The first F1 logo, with simply the words ‘Formula One’ written in blue on a white background was not designed to stand out, but more for the practicability of getting the organisation’s name out there. I mean we are talking about the 1950’s after all!

When this logo was designed nobody knew the huge popularity that would unfold, as F1 was more tailored towards gentlemen of the jet-set, living life in the fast lane, no one seemed to mind the simplicity of the logo, because people cared more about the racing than the brand. But was it strong enough to stand the test of time… the answer was no! In 1987 they made the move to change.

Now that’s Radical – 1987

Debuting in 1987, there was a radical change to the F1 Logo, a quick ‘we need something new, modern, eye-catching!’ as interest started to pick up in the sport. It may be more up to date, compact and bold, but did this make it better and did it explain what F1 was about?

The new design changed to ‘Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’ and featured a white silhouette of a racing car over ‘FIA’ to make it more relevant to racing cars. Unlike its predecessor, this logo design was only able to stay on pole for 7 years, quite an early retirement you could say.

Negative Space – Gone Global – 1994

Time to refresh! Formula One was fast becoming more global, with Grand Prix’s being held in Europe, South America and Japan. The F1 organisation believed that they needed a logo that would express their values and explain who they were. This new ‘negative space’ logo helped raise awareness and develop an entire generation of new fans that grew to love the design.

Now we all love a negative spaced logo, especially if it’s done well, the FedEx arrow being an example of having something work so simply to such a great effect. This Formula One logo was becoming a champion in its own right, well on its way to pulling a Hat Trick!

Now looking at the logo what’s interesting is, the ‘1’ in formula 1 isn’t (as some people thought) the red lines on the right, it’s found in-between the space of the F and lines themselves. The red lines are represented as speed marks, to help create a sense of movement to the logo and by using the colour red helps to showcase passion.

To this day it’s regarded as one of the most creative brand images of all time, as its not only linked to 23 years of Formula One, but the globalization of the name and sport worldwide, helped it become a recognisable and much-loved symbol of the sport. The logo was created by Carter Wong, a London-based design agency.

Many people were sad to see this logo go but it had reached its final checkered flag… what was next for F1?

Time for a New Era – 2018

When the new owners ‘Liberty Media Group’ took over in 2017, they wanted a rebrand to represent a new era of F1. Now change can often get people riled up and certainly, the new logo that was revealed did just that!

The new logo is simple & modern to work in a digital space, a complete U-turn from the previous design; so, it’s no wonder many people were cautious with the change. Research shows that the decision to adapt the logo was to help the brand commercially on digital platforms and merchandise, as it was felt that the previous logo would not be as impactful in the digital world.

The design was explained by F1’s marketing head Ellie Norman, who said the logo was based on two cars going around a circuit and battling for the finish line… now that’s cool! Apparently, it’s a much more versatile logo and certainly seems to have taken off. What’s interesting is Wieden + Kennedy, the Oregon-based advertising agency, reportedly produced 600 options for the logo, 600!! but ultimately the victory lap went to the current logo shown here.

Even with the benefits commercially, many people questioned if this was the best idea, even some of the drivers had remarked that they liked the old one better: Lewis Hamilton said “the one we had already was iconic. Just imagine Ferrari or Mercedes changing their logos.” But is this just because of the nostalgia? Even old-school brands like Coco-Cola and Starbucks have had to simplify their look to enter a digital space.

Okay, so to summarise – the current F1 logo is in pole position at the moment, but how long will it be before some young pretender comes along with a… new winning formula?

Will it stand the test of time? We shall see. As David Croft ‘Crofty’ would say “and its lights out and away we go.”