The Original 1953 Logo
When Chevrolet was preparing their new Corvette sports car in the early ’50s, the task of designing the emblem (or logo) fell to Chevy interior designer Robert Bartholomew. Bartholomew’s design (above) featured two crossed flags: One, the checkered flag that symbolized race victory, the other, the American Stars ‘n Stripes.
However, using the American flag to promote commercial products was illegal at the time, and Chevy execs reportedly decided at the last minute to nix that part of the design. (It’s not clear why they waited until four days before the car’s unveiling, but you can practically picture Bartholomew sitting at his drafting table saying dammit.) Bartholomew’s last-minute replacement was a flag sporting both the Chevrolet logo and a fleur-de-lis, a French symbol that was reportedly part of Louis Chevrolet’s family crest.
New badges were whipped up based on Bartholomew’s drawings, and the Corvette debuted in 1953 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Sadly, after that story, all mention of specific designers associated with subsequent logos are nil. What we do know is that Bartholomew’s design stuck around until 1957, then underwent multiple tweaks and changes throughout the years. Amassing a photo list has proved trickier than expected, as there were multiple emblems for the hood, tail and fenders, but we’ve tried to put together a visual chronology focused on the nose badges.
The 1956-1957 Logo
In 1956 and ’57, a Chevrolet chevron was added to the design:
The 1958-1961 Logo
In 1958 we see a typographic update that persists until 1961:
The 1962 Logo
In 1962, the letters move outside the circle to the hood of the car:
The 1963 Logo
1963 sees an interesting change: The American flag is sort of snuck back into the logo, though the French would probably see a Tricolor. The circle is also dispensed with, as the logo is now shaped to follow the pointed “nose” of the new ’63 body design.
The 1965 Logo
In ’65 the logo goes minimalist, dropping the fluff and keeping just the flags.
The 1967-1972 Logo
In 1967 the flags get an angle change, and the design remains the same until 1972:
The 1973 Logo
In 1973 we see the first “sunburst” design. Once again typography is added to the periphery.
The 1975-1976 Logo
From 1975 to 1976, the letters are dropped again.
Though they look kind of cool now, these last two “sunburst” designs were an uncharacteristic and somewhat gaudy detour for the Corvette emblem. Perhaps it was a sign of ’70s excess, and it was certainly very different from the minimalism of the logo of just ten years before. But next Chevy would move into more graphic-design-y territory.
The 1977 Logo
In 1977, Chevy ditched the “sunburst” design for their Corvette logo and went with (above) this clean, graphically-stylized update on the original crossed flags. The fleur-de-lis from Louis Chevrolet’s family crest is still up front on the red flag, with the Chevy “bowtie” partially obscured behind it.
The 1978 25th Anniversary Logo
1978 was the Corvette’s 25th Anniversary, and cars released that year got this fancy badge:
Corvette’s from ’79, however, reverted to the design of the ’77.
The 1980 Logo
In 1980 a new decade arrived, bringing with it more angular designs. The ’80 Corvette saw a weird kickback to the 1963 design by arranging the flagpoles in such a way that they formed a “V.” Conspiracy theorists will see a Firebird or Thunderbird logo in their mind’s eye, but I don’t think those cars were truly competitive fears, as the former wasn’t in the same price range and the latter wasn’t in the same performance category. In any case, the logo persisted through ’81.
The 1982 Collector Edition Logo
Buyers of the 1982 “Collector Edition” Corvette had this special badge with the throwback circle from the ’63 or ’73 or ’76. It’s also unusual in that the fleur-de-lis is dispensed with altogether, and for the first time in years we see an unobstructed bowtie.
The 1983-1984 Logo
For 1983 to ’84, the fleur-de-lis again takes a hike, and the bowtie reigns supreme. The graphic treatment of the waving flag is dispensed with and the flags switch sides; I have no idea why, but it screams “focus group.” The circle also makes a comeback.
The 1993 40th Anniversary Logo
Surprisingly that design, much like the Corvette’s body style, would remain in place largely untouched for fourteen years. But in 1993, the car’s 40th Anniversary, it was briefly interrupted by this variant:
The 1997 Logo
But it’s not until 1997 that the ’83 design is retired at last. Its replacement brings back the stylization of the flapping flag, sees the return of the fleur-de-lis, and though that symbol now takes a back seat to the bowtie, they are both left unobstructed:
The 2005 Logo
The early days of the Corvette, where the logo was updated every few years, are over. The logo above is left alone until 2005 when it gets this refinement, seemingly in step with the advancements in computer graphics at the time:
The 2012 Chevy Centennial Edition Logo
The fleur-de-lis only disappears once more, briefly, for the “Centennial Edition” (Chevy’s centennial, not the Corvette’s) for 2012:
The 2014 Logo
Finally we arrive at the most recent redesign, for the 2014 we mentioned earlier.
As a sign of the times, it’s the most graphically-detailed version of the logo yet. The flags are no longer recognizable as such, yet retain the vestigial angles once meant to indicate breeze-flapped fabric. The bowtie is beveled, and both the black checkers and the red surfaces are striated.
If history’s any indication, this logo will be in place for years before we see a redesign. So: Now that you’ve seen virtually every Corvette logo under the sun, which is your favorite, and why?
 hipstomp / Rain Noe, A Visual History of Corvette Logos, Part 1, January 31, 2013, Core77.com, http://www.core77.com/blog/graphic_design/a_visual_history_of_corvette_logos_part_1_24297.asp
 hipstomp / Rain Noe, A Visual History of Corvette Logos, Part 2, January 31, 2013, Core77.com, http://www.core77.com/blog/graphic_design/a_visual_history_of_corvette_logos_part_2_24298.asp
One thought on “DataViz as Art: A History of the Chevrolet Corvette Logos, Emblems and Badges”
waw to design a simple but very elegant logo