When I see the relatively new Kia logo, which is just the brand’s name but in an extremely angular, scrunched-up font with a seemingly connected “I” and middle line-less “A,” the first thing that comes to mind is “wow, that makes sense on a state-of-the-art EV but feels laughably out-of-place on this minivan.” But apparently, there are many, many people whose reaction is more along the lines of “wait… what does that say?”
Each month, there are around 30,000 web searches for “KN car,” according to data posted by ad agency owner Ashwinn Krishnaswamy on Twitter. The spike in searches — which seems to come from people trying to figure out if they’d missed the launch of an entirely new car company — started early last year, right around the time that vehicles with the new logo would’ve been hitting the streets, according to The Drive. That data also shows that other popular searches, with thousands of hits per month, include “KN car brand,” “kn car logo,” and “kn carnival car” (“Carnival” is Kia’s name for the minivan I referenced earlier). I also have some anecdotal experience to back the data up: when I brought this story up in Slack, four Verge staffers noted that they had also wondered who “KN” was.
KIA Logo Evolution
Launched in 1944, the KIA motor company has undergone several transformations. Before becoming an automobile manufacturer, KIA used to manufacture bicycle parts. After producing its first car, Brisa, in 1970, KIA has continued to engage in the automobile industry, producing motorcycles, trucks, and cars under its parent company Hyundai Motor Group. As did the business, the KIA brand logo has also evolved over the years. Trust me, it wasn’t always the simple three-red letters with an oval circle we know too well.
But one thing remained constant, the company’s logo had always been a reflection of its rebranding at any point in time. For instance, at the time the company released its first logo, it was still producing bicycle parts. So it shouldn’t be so surprising that the first logo looked like a cogwheel similar to that found on bicycles with the word KIA in the center. This was the official brand logo from 1953 to 1964. In 1964, a new logo was introduced, which had a much more simplified form than its predecessor. The logo looked like an inverted Q and was used for 22 years.
During this period, KIA ceased manufacturing automobiles, and when it returned to the business in 1986, a new logo was introduced. Once again, the company returned to the use of letters for its logo. In this case, the letters carried the design of a chimney with a puff of smoke (represented by a wavy blue line) coming from it. In 1994, the logo evolved once more to the simplified version that has graced most of the company’s automobiles for the past 27 years.
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On January 6th, 2021 – KIA once again introduced a new brand logo amidst displays of fireworks launched from 303 drones. The celebration, which took place at Incheon, South Korea, did not only mark the company’s official rebranding but also set a new Guinness World Record for “Most unmanned aerial vehicles launching fireworks simultaneously. I am sure you might be asking yourself the same question that countless others have asked;
What Was Wrong with the Former Kia Logo?
Quite frankly, nothing. But speaking about the former logo, KIA CEO Ho Sung Song said, “it was long-in-the-tooth”. A metaphor that means the former logo was old. Considering that KIA had branded their vehicles with the logo for 27 years (1994 – 2021). One could see where the CEO was coming from. However, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the new design, one being that brand logos are like good wines that age well. This means that the older the logo, the more it grows on people.
Familiarity is a brand’s best friend and that is what the previous logo has over the new one. People knew it and could relate it to the history of KIA over the years. Under the previous logo, KIA had risen from a “little-known brand”, into a global player in the automobile industry. The three-row KIA Telluride won the 2020 SUV of the Year and the compact but comfy KIA Altos. The new logo hardly has such a powerful history behind it except for the promises of the company executives.
But then, with the introduction of new KIA models like the E-Soul, Nitro Range, and the all-revamped Imagine Concept Car, the new KIA logo will pick up the pace with time. So let’s not be too hard on it. I’m sure we will all learn to love it if we get over this one thing.
Kia New Brand Logo Design and Inspiration
KIA’s latest brand logo is a memento of its future ambitions. The company revealed in a press release that the new logo signifies the company’s “ambition to establish a leadership position in the future mobility industry by revamping nearly all facets of its business”. But before we get into all that, let’s talk about the new logo.
Simply put, the new logo looks like a handwritten signature of the word KIA. The cursive is unmistakable as each letter of the word is made to touch each other creating continuity. This was all done intentionally. KIA explained that the rhythm and unbroken lines of the logo show its commitment to bringing inspiration, and the symmetry is a sign of its confidence (perhaps of seeing its commitment and promise through).
But they didn’t stop there. The company also emphasized on the rising gesture (referring to the wavelike motion of the logo) is symbolic of its ambition and what it will be offering to its customers. KIA sums all this up with a brand slogan to go along with the new logo. The slogan reads “movement that inspires”.
Besides being old
So why did they need a new logo? Besides being old, KIA’s CEO also pointed out that the automobile industry is evolving rapidly, and KIA is adapting to the changes in the industry. To do this, the company hopes to inspire its customers and challenge its employees to rise to the occasion by meeting the pace of the fast-changing industry. How exactly do they plan on doing this? That’s where Plan S comes in.
As per the reports, confused by the compactly-packed, middle-line less letter ‘A’ of the new Kia logo, over 30,000 people are actively searching for ‘KN’ cars to find out more about the “new car brand”.
There’s been an uptick in the volume of the said searches since March 2021 – which is around the same time when the company revamped its brand identity. The statistics also reveal that keywords such as KN car, KN car brand, KN electric car brand, KN SUV, what is KN; amongst others have been surging majorly in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.
It is interesting to note that people are able to recall the car name correctly but are confused with the manufacturer’s identity as keyword stats also show users searching for ‘KN Carnival’ and ‘KN Telluride Car’.
In the company’s words, however, the new logo stands for ‘Symmetry’, ‘Rhythm’, and ‘Rising’ and “embodies Kia’s determination to lead change and innovation based on those.”
The New Kia Logo Is Confusing Thousands Of People And We’re Issuing A Technical Service Bulletin To Fix It
Man, what a journey! I kind of like the happy flag-waving of the 1986 logo, and that inverted-Q thing is pleasingly simple and cryptic. I think the real mystery here is why Kia didn’t just adopt the Korean “flying K” logo for global markets, since that is abstracted enough to not suffer from alphanumeric legibility problems. And it looks good, sort of evoking lightning strikes or knees bent mid-run or a pair of bird profiles in flight. It’s not bad!
Of course, a logo does not need to spell out a carmaker’s name; plenty of logos don’t, but we equate them with the brand just fine. Think about Mercedes’ tri-point star or Subaru’s stylized Pleiades or Peugeot’s lion or Audi’s four rings of the old Auto Union or a leaping jaguar, and so on. But what makes those logos different is that they’re not actively confusing. This isn’t about a non-wordmark logo, it’s a problem of a logo made of letters looking like the wrong fucking letters. If the Mercedes-Benz star looked like a P or something, it’d be weird, for example.
But, no, that’s not the path Kia chose. Instead it went with the confusing not-KN logo, and here we are. But you know me, I’m the kind of guy who’s going to change the 1157s in your taillight rather than curse your darkness. So, with that in mind, I think I have an easy solution to Kia’s logo problem. Just this minor tweak:
See? Easy! Now it reads like KIA again! And you don’t lose the stylized look or anything, it just breaks up the ᴎ-shape in the logo so it can read like two separate, recognizable glyphs. Even better, this change was specifically designed to be able to be retrofitted to all affected Kias on the road! In fact, our very own crazy designer of things, The Bishop, spent some crucial procrastinating time mocking up the packaging for this service part and the required technical service bulletin and inevitable recall notice:
Look at that, Kia! We got your back! Now go call your supplier of adhesive-backed-chrome-look things and tell them you need a little hyphen-shaped deal and get the ball rolling.
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