Cars have certainly been ornate in the past. One need look no further than the sumptuous hand-built luxury coaches of the early 20th century or the exuberant 1950s fantasias that came from Detroit for confirmation of that.
At the moment, however, we’re in a bit of a cookie-cutter episode. Not quite as same-old-same-old as the mid-to-late 1990s, when everything seemed to aspire to the condition of Lexus, or the mid-2000s when Audis were widely visually emulated.
For the most part, however, a compact sedan looks like a compact sedan, a big SUV looks like a big SUV, and all the mid-size crossovers look the same.
This has led to our current moment, with car designers added swoops and cut-ins and vents to jazz up what is effectively a rectangle with wheels at the four corners. Beyond that, there’s the badging.
Badges used to be fairly modest affairs. Even flamboyant brands, such as Cadillac, kept their ornate badges small.
That changed about a decade ago. I’m not sure who the first “big badge” offender was, so I’ll go with the easiest obvious target: Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes used to be OK with a hood ornament, the three-pointed “star badge,” that was about as big as a silver dollar. But then the badge became more prominent on the grille — and became as big as a Frisbee.
Other automakers followed, and a trend was born.
It is a trend that needs to go away.
Behold, the ginormous badge on this Mercedes SL. Mind you, this is true badge overkill, as a smaller, more traditional badge occupies hood space immediately above.
We live in an era of large logos. For example, here's the old Polo logo, from the famous Ralph Lauren shirt, introduced in 1972.
Other stuff is also large. Here's a Panerai watch, based on a diving timepiece once used by the Italian military. Massive!
By contrast, here's the badge from a current Lexus SUV. Big! Bold! Excessive. OK, I know, what are you going to do? A mode modest badge would get lost in that monster grille.
But the trend has, for me, finally gotten out of hand. Here's the badge on an Infiniti QX30, a small crossover. I'm not singling anybody out -- the big badge thing is widespread. But the QX30's reminded me of why designers need to rethink their ideas about proportion.
Let's just go back to fundamentals. BMW's legendary Bavarian-colours badge is juuuuust right. Not to small. And, instructively, not too big.
For quite some time, I mistakenly thought the BMW badge was derived from a spinning propeller. And I gather many folks at BMW did, too. But that mistake was corrected for them, and for me.
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