BMW is trying out a different logo, though it has not appeared on any motorcycles yet.
BMW is one of the few companies that builds both motorcycles and cars. Sharp-eyed fans may have noticed a new logo starting to infiltrate the car side of the company, the first major alteration to the iconic design since 1963.
The new logo, which appeared on the Concept i4, features a flat design rather than the 3D effect introduced to the existing design in 1997. Controversially, it also does away with the black ring around the outside of the roundel, which has been a part of BMW's logo since even before the beginning of BMW as we know it.
BMW, or Bayerische Motoren Werke in the original German, began life in 1913 under the name of Rapp Motorenwerke, specializing in building aircraft engines. The Rapp Motorenwerke logo consisted of a knight chess piece (not unlike that of Knight Rider's fictional Foundation for Law and Government) surrounded by a black ring with the name Rapp Motor on it.
When the company became BMW in 1917, the black ring was the only element of the original logo that was retained. The printing became gold and the company's initials replaced the name, no doubt because "Bayerische Motoren Werke" was too long to fit. It is common knowledge that the blue and interior of the roundel represented an airplane propeller—except that it didn't, at least not at first. This is actually supposed to be a variation of the Bavarian flag, with the colors reversed from the actual flag since it is illegal to use a German national emblem in a logo.
BMW got into the motorcycle business in 1923 with the R32, though it still kept its core business in airplane engines until the end of World War II, when that part of the company was disbanded for obvious reasons. It wasn't until 1929 that BMW co-opted the emblem's passing resemblance to a propeller in its advertising. The company never refuted the misconception that they had always intended the logo to be a propeller, which led to this story turning into "common knowledge" over the past 90 years.
Although the trim colors and the font of the BMW name have changed over the years, it has always remained basically true to the original 1917 design—until now. Admittedly, the 1997 3D version of the 1963 logo looks a bit dated by today's standards, though it was the latest and greatest at the time. The new logo, though, eliminates the black ring, which has been a design element for over 100 years, with a transparent ring. It also uses a modernized font and eliminates the 3D effect. While this looks good on darker colors, the way it looks on light colors, as demonstrated on the light bronze Concept i4, doesn't appeal to fans of the brand. The white outline and BMW lettering don't stand out against light-colored backgrounds.
Despite the new logo's use on this concept car, BMW has said that they will only use this version as branding for online and real-world communications, not on vehicles. Yet this raises the question of why use a different logo at all since branding should be consistent across all platforms. Perhaps BMW intends to move in this direction of branding, but to do so slowly to not disrupt generations of owners who still identify it with the current logo.