Coat of Arms: The Legacy and Future of Buick’s Iconic Shields Logo

Every automaker has an iconic logo design. Ford has the blue oval. Chevy has their bowtie. Dodge has the ram icon. Buick is no exception to this rule – the brand’s iconic shield emblem has been part of the company’s culture and heritage for as long as most people can remember. It connects the company’s legacy to its future, as well.
 
The Importance of Brand Recognition
 
A brand logo or icon is about one thing – recognition with customers. They’re often chosen for a direct connection to the company’s name or identity. For instance, the T in Tesla, or the GM of General Motors. Apple’s apple logo is also an excellent example. You can also look to New Balance shoes’ NB logo and thousands of others. 
 
Other times, the emblem is a bit more enigmatic in meaning. Nike’s Swoosh is one such, as is the bowtie emblem for Chevrolet. Some of them begin as one thing or represent something particular and then evolve to something else – Mercedes’ logo originally represented the propeller of an aircraft, as did the blue and white of the BMW logo. Buick’s own logo has undergone a great deal of evolution over time and has been completely replaced more than once in the company’s history.
 
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The Original Buick Logo Was Actually a Scottish Military Emblem 

 
Buick was founded by David Dunbar Buick, back in 1903. He was a high-school dropout, an inventor, and an immigrant to the US from Scotland. While he might have founded the brand, his lack of financial savvy actually saw him forced out long before Buick became successful. Interestingly, the automaker today owes its name to its founder, as well as its logo. 
 
In the beginning, the logos used for individual vehicles were based in large part on the name of the company, similar to the way that Ford has done things for decades. It remained this way for over 30 years until a researcher named Ralph Pew discovered a description of the Buick family’s medieval heraldic coat of arms. It was an orange shield featuring a buck’s head, as well as a pierced cross at the bottom left. This overall design was then used as a brand badge beginning in 1937. 
 
The shield design was used for quite some time, but it evolved a bit here and there. One of the most notable changes was the shift from orange to red. The original logo was also mostly rectangular in shape, with a pointed bottom. This slowly changed to the curved shield shape we’re familiar with today. The buck head and cross were changed from gold to silver, and then eventually removed completely.
 
The Recognizable Three-Shield Logo
 
It was not until 1959 that the Buick logo began to take on something more closely resembling its modern appearance. By that time, Buick had three car models on the market. They decided to adopt three shields, one to represent each model, surrounded by a circle. The red shield represented the LeSabre, while the grey/white shield represented the Invicta. The blue shield represented the Electra. This logo would go on to be used for a little over a decade before it evolved yet again.

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This was far more recognizable than the original shield/heraldic 
emblem and became very popular. The colors were chosen for several reasons. Red indicates courage, while white indicates purity. Blue indicates peace and tranquility, as well as sophistication. Note that the white shield was often depicted as silver in order to stand out against a background of white, but silver carries the same connotations as white.
 
The Buick “Hawk” Emblem 
 
It was the 1970s, so perhaps we can forgive the radical departure from the decades of previous branding at Buick. Whatever the reason might have been, the three-shield logo was eliminated completely. A new logo, featuring Happy the Hawk was designed. It showed a hawk with its wings spread, over the word “Buick”. This was supposed to coincide with the launch of the Buick Skyhawk. 
 
The model branding was successful, and the hawk emblem remained in use for another decade or so, although it did muddy the brand identity for the company, causing some confusion among customers who had grown up with the three-shield logo and now did not recognize the new hawk logo. Thankfully, the Skyhawk did not make it through the 1980s. Both the car model and the hawk logo were cut, and the automaker went back to its original tri-shield logo. 
 
A Return to the Classic Buick Emblem 
 
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With the re-adoption of the tri-shield logo came a return to brand recognition. In fact, it was found that over 90% of consumers recognized the logo, which cemented its use by the company for the foreseeable future. However, there have been a few tweaks and adjustments made to the logo since the 1990s.
 
Perhaps the single most visible change for US consumers was the loss of two of three colors. Originally red, white/silver and blue, the logo was redesigned to feature a silhouette of three shields picked out in just silver. This color was chosen because it represents purity, dignity, and sophistication.
 
With that being said, the tri-colored shield did not vanish completely. In fact, Buick only used the silver tri-shield logo for cars sold in the United States. Those exported to other countries still had the familiar red, silver and blue logo.
 
Things changed again after 2012-2013. Without much fanfare, the silver outlines were out and the tri-color shields were back in place, although some Buicks were still badged with silver shields. 2019 will mark yet another major divergence. Buick is removing the company’s name from all of its vehicles for the 2019 model year and moving forward. Why remove the brand’s name? You wouldn’t see Ford doing that, and Chevy’s name is emblazoned on every model they produce. You’d never think to see a Lincoln that didn’t let you know it was a Lincoln, either. So, why the move?
 
There are several reasons for the shift. One of those is that the tri-shield logo in red, silver and blue is instantly recognizable to consumers around the world.  Most automakers take a regional approach to branding, but Buick has had years to experiment with its approach and has found that a consistent brand voice works best. The company does not use the word “Buick” on models designated for export from the US. It was only applied to those sold within the States. Removing the name gives the company a global, cohesive brand image.
 
Finally, there are hints that removing the brand’s name from their vehicles allows more room for individual model branding. For example, the Avenir, which will likely be the foundation of the automaker’s new high-end trim level. This will allow Buick to target an “affordable luxury” niche as yet unexploited by competing brands such a Lincoln, while sister brand Cadillac shoots for high-end luxury buyers.
 
With “Buick” removed, there is more than ample space for model names, trim designations, and other information. It’s interesting to note that the removal of the brand name is also occurring throughout the company’s advertising. While the “That’s Not a Buick” campaign of recent years was doubtlessly successful, new TV ads will focus more on the specific model, with an unstated understanding that it’s a Buick.
 
In Conclusion
 
When it’s all said and done, the removal of the Buick name will likely not be an earth-shaking move. The tri-shield logo is synonymous with the brand and is what most consumers have come to look for when shopping for a Buick. This is particularly true with the re-emergence of the true tri-color triple-shield logo in red, silver and blue, rather than the silver cutouts used for several years.
 

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