Five decades of design trends used in new General Motors logo

Five decades of trends in General Motors logo

The new General Motors logo is very curious. It employs design trends from each of the past five decades. Perhaps General Motors wanted a logo that was timeless? If you use trends branching across a wide spread of time, that makes the logo timeless, right?

Actually, it makes for one Frankenstein-hideous logo.

New 2021 General Motors logo

Whoaaaaaa. Check that out. In one logo we got 70s lower case letters, 80s gradients, 90s bevels, 2000s rounded corners, and a 2010s look that is curiously like Adobe’s icons.

Let’s take a look at how General Motors used each of these trends from a different decade.

1970s: lower case letters

In the 1970s sports teams would often use lower case lettering for their logos

1980s: gradients

The gradients of the 1980s. Logos like Tron and Back to the Future used gradients

Even the background to this poster uses a gradient.

Gradients in the past decade have come back to full force. When used carefully, gradients can be really nice. But the General Motors logo uses some really INTENSE blues in the gradient. Sorry GM, but your gradients are a bit garish. A bit like the great blue to white gradient in the 1987 Fleer baseball cards

Speaking of blue, GM gets bonus points for using some 80s powder blue in the logo. Uni-watch tweeted:

Powder blue fun fact: The high-water mark for powder blue road uniforms came in 1980 and ’81, when 11 teams wore the blues.

80s powder blue baseball uniforms

All that glorious powder blue!

We see a bit of this powder blue in the GM logo. But we also see all sorts of tints and shades of blue. It’s almost like the GM designers couldn’t make up their mind which blue to use. Just use them all!

If they wanted to amp up the 80s effect, they could put a little patterned texture inside the logo too.

1990s: bevel

Oooh, the Photoshop “Bevel and Emboss” feature. Back in the late 90s it seemed like every logo could not escape the Bevel and Emboss feature. So tempting to bust out that effect to give a little realism to your letters. If you had a really boring logo, you could just add a bevel—and BOOM—now the logo “pops”!

Example of bevel and emboss

When Google launched in 1998, they embossed the Google logo.

Google logo embossed with drop shadow at launch in 1998

I’m a little disappointed GM didn’t put a drop shadow under their logo.

2000s: rounded corners

Rounded corners aren’t bad at all, if used in the right situations. In the early 2000s to give your print design a little more POW, we would round the corners of any square and rectangle.

Then Web 2.0 came along for web design in the mid 2000s and rounded corners appeared everywhere—along with a glossy, shiny look.

Glossy Web 2.0 buttons

The GM logo doesn’t entirely employ the glossy look, but that gradient is somewhat close.

More gloss please! GM just needs to throw on a nice white reflection at the top of the logo, and it’ll be all attractive and shiny.

2010s: Adobe icons

General Motors also released a version of their logo on a dark background.

When this logo is set on a dark background, I immediately think of the Adobe icons. Almost ALL designers will think this, because we have these icons sitting in our dock all day long. Here’s what those icons look like:

The colors and shape of the GM logo look a lot like the Photoshop icon, right?

But how long did Adobe have these icons? Well, for all of the 2010 decade. In April 2007, Adobe started using a two-letter logo, one upper case, one lower case. Then in May 2012, CS6 released with a thick border.

Adobe Photoshop logo history

Thus, GM is picking up on the Adobe icon trend in the 2010s to have a square logo, rounded corners, two letters, blue color. Seriously. Most professional designers have Photoshop in their dock. Most likely the people who designed this GM logo have Photoshop sitting right there on their screen while they designed this logo.

Five decades of trends

Design trends from five decades all employed in one logo. Perhaps the GM branding team wanted to appeal to a wide variety of demographics. “Yes! We need to appeal to every decade! Use a trend from every decade! That will widen our appeal!”

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3 years ago

This is an interesting post! That is a terrible logo.

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