Little did Enzo Ferrari know that his car company and the “prancing horse” logo would become iconic over time. The iconic Ferrari logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.
Apart from its cars, the Ferrari logo can be seen in various merchandise such as jackets, bracelets, and key rings. If you are in doubt about the popularity of the iconic automobile company, traveling to the remotest locations in the world might help you! Well, this is not a dare! You can find the iconic logo in various counterfeit items in regions where modernity has hardly made an entry.
Good read – Branded merchandise: how to create winning merch for your brand.
The prancing horse
The inspiration for the iconic logo came from a World War I combat aircraft. According to Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the iconic automobile company, saw the image of a prancing red horse on the fuselage of an Italian aircraft flown by ace fighter pilot Count Francesco Baracca, a World War I hero. Enzo spoke of the emblem’s provenance only once, and this is what he said:
“In ’23, I met Count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father and then his mother, Countess Paolina, who said to me one day, ‘Ferrari, put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck.’ The horse was, and still is, black. And I added the canary-yellow background, which is the color of Modena.”
Fun fact: Modena, the Italian city, is the birthplace of Enzo.
The red horse from the fuselage was reimagined in black for the iconic logo. The black horse mourns the fall of the great pilot while in action. Baracca’s aircraft was shot by ground troops when it caught fire and crashed with the brave pilot.
Here is a fantastic video by Ferrari on the origin story of its iconic logo.
A brief history of Ferrari
When Enzo Ferrari established Scuderia Ferrari in 1929, he did not want to manufacture automobiles for the road. Scuderia Ferrari, the racing wing of Alfa Romeo, quickly became popular for winning various races. After a successful winning streak, Enzo left Alfa Romeo to form his own company in 1930. Soon after, the new company, Auto Avio Costruzioni, built its first spider-powered 1500 cc 8-cylinder engine and contested it in the 1940 Mille Miglia.
In 1943, Enzo relocated to Maranello due to a bomb explosion at his Modena auto shop. While World War II had gripped the world, Enzo remained focused on developing a new engine. As soon as the war came to an end, Enzo built his 125 S, which was powered by a V12 engine.
On May 11, 1947, the new model entered its debut race at Piacenza Circuit. And just after 14 days, it won its maiden Rome Grand Prix. With its first victory at the Terme di Caracalla, the Italian auto giant became unstoppable and won several races.
The Ferrari logo
A logo is an essential visual asset of a brand. Some companies go to extreme lengths to protect their visual identities. While brand gurus believe that logos are an important aspect of building and fostering brand identity, it is not the only element a brand is defined by. Various elements come together in harmony in establishing brand identity. However, brand gurus and companies do not always agree. Some brands even take extreme legal actions to protect their logos.
While there are many iconic emblems: only a few have become as popular as the Ferrari logo.
Let us now take a closer look at the logo.
Ferrari logo meaning
The Ferrari logo is made up of various distinct elements that come together in harmony. But let us first try to understand the meaning behind the iconic symbol. The top of the yellow shield is designed with the Italian tri-color, and placed below is the famous black prancing horse with the letters ‘S’ and ‘F’ engraved on either side of the horse’s hind leg. The Ferrari wordmark finds its place right below the emblem.
The black prancing horse, as mentioned above, pays tribute to the Italian braveheart who lost his life in an air crash during World War I. But what do the mysterious ‘S’ and ‘F’ stand for? Well, those are the initials of Enzo’s first racing team, “Scuderia Ferrari,” the racing wing of Alfa Romeo.
The Italian term also means a stable.
Apart from paying tribute to Count Francesco Baracca, the horse symbolizes speed and freedom. According to heraldry, this position of the horse is symbolic of victory and power.
Evolution of the Ferrari logo
The auto giant changed its logo five times since its inception in 1929. While the centerpiece of the logo design remained the same, the changes were somewhere between complete overhaul and partial refresh.
1929 – 1931
The iconic black prancing horse first appeared on a yellow shield in 1929. The iconic logo, as mentioned above, took inspiration from a crashed combat aircraft and the Italian national colors. The top of the shield was executed in yellow, black, white, and red colors, with the letters ‘S’ and ‘F’ placed below the prancing horse.
1931 – 1939
In 1931, Ferrari made a partial change to its visual identity, turning the curved lines at the top of the shield into horizontal ones. The Italian flag color palette also became more prominent in the 1931 version of the logo and has remained the same ever since, except for the 1939 version.
The white accents were gone, and the horse appeared cleaner. The thick black outline was done away with, making the new logo look cleaner, fresher, and brighter.
1939 – Present
In 1939, Ferrari introduced a new badge completely different from its predecessors. From the shape to the colors, the 1939 version of the logo looked like an image straight out of a fairytale story. One of the highlights of the new logo was the change made to the horse. The prancing horse now looked like Pegasus from Greek mythology. The horse was turned right with two spread wings. The new badge came with the inscription “Auto-Avio Costruzioni.”
1947 – 2002
The shield was removed and replaced by a vertical rectangle with rounded edges in 1947. Other elements of the logo, such as the color palette, Italian flag, and wordmark, remained the same. The horse received a contemporary makeover with white accents, which gave the prancing horse a sense of motion.
2002 – Present
The 2002 redesign retained much of the design elements from its 1947 counterpart. The only visible change was made to the flag: the black lines that separated the green, white and red stripes were removed, which made the logo look cleaner and more sophisticated.
Good read: What makes a great logo?
The black horse in the logo symbolizes power, speed, and movement. Furthermore, the black horse mourns the Italian braveheart. The color yellow represents the birth city of Enzo, Modena. The color also symbolizes warmth, happiness, and innovation.
Ferrari logo typeface
The Ferro Rosso font appears similar to the slab serif used in the Ferrari wordmark. The font used in the logo has not changed much since its creation; however, it definitely has lost weight. The lines have become more subtle and elegant over the years.
What makes the Ferrari logo iconic?
A logo turns iconic not by coincidence but due to several factors. The Ferrari logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, and why? Let us find out.
It is simple
A simple and clean logo garners a lot of attention from customers and potential buyers. Fewer graphic elements mean your logo will not appear cluttered.
The Ferrari logo is a fantastic example of a simple logo. It uses minimum graphic details to attract the audience. The black prancing horse in the yellow background is simple yet powerful: a rare combination. The color combination, together with the symbol and the wordmark, communicates brand personality in the simplest way possible.
The human brain simplifies any complex design to remember it. Simple designs are “pre-approved” by designers to be remembered by the brain.
Tip: Keep it simple. Keep it stylish!
It is relatable
Another key aspect of the Ferrari logo is that it is relevant and relatable. What is a relevant logo? Well, the answer is simple! A relevant logo is one that communicates the key traits of a brand in the most effective way possible. Graphic designers use a variety of tools to make a logo relevant and relatable such as colors, symbols, and fonts.
Another crucial characteristic of a relevant logo is that it is appropriate to the market its brand target. The Ferrari logo uses details such as the color palette and the Italian flag to highlight its patriotic personality.
A relatable logo evokes the right emotions, which helps in aligning the business and the customers. One reason for the Ferrari logo gaining iconic status is that it evokes the right emotions.
Here is a fantastic video on stories behind iconic logos.
It is memorable
Take a look at some of the best logos and you will realize that they are unique and stand out from the crowd. While it is true that logos are like empty vessels when they are first created but with time, they become associated with everything their brands represent. Be it the Apple’s insignia or the Nike ‘Swoosh,’ a logo becomes memorable over time.
The Ferrari logo was inspired by the prancing red horse on a combat airplane’s fuselage. When Enzo adopted the symbol, it did not represent anything except paying tribute to a brave soldier. Today, the logo symbolizes sophistication, grace, victory, and speed—everything Ferrari!
It is timeless
The best logos remain relevant and stylish even after years have passed. Such logos only become more attractive with time. While you may be tempted to incorporate the latest trends into your new logo, it is best to stay away unless they highlight some vital aspect of your brand.
The Ferrari logo stood out from the pack from day one. The logo was unique and did not follow any particular trend. The Ferrari badge only became more stylish with time.
Bonus: 5 surprising facts about Ferrari
Now that you have explored the Ferrari logo in great detail: let us look at some lesser-known facts about the automobile company.
- Ferrari theme park in Abu Dhabi
The Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world’s largest theme park. The theme park opened its gates to the public in 2010 and it has been a rage ever since. The F1-inspired rollercoaster is the fastest in the world, with maximum speed going up to 150mph.
- The first Ferrari car was delayed due to World War II
In 1944, the Allies bombed Enzo’s factory, forcing the automaker to relocate. The carmaker had to wait for World War II to get over before he could show his new car to the world at the Piacenza Racing Circuit.
- Fiat’s stake in Ferrari
The 1960s were defined by financial difficulties and new safety guidelines for Ferrari. Fiat bailed out the company by buying a 50 percent stake, which allowed Ferrari to retain 100 percent control.
- Over 5000 sanctioned races won by Ferrari drivers
Enzo Ferrari wanted to be number one on the racing tracks. The company has won 5000 sanctioned races. Great drivers like Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher were part of the legendary racing team.
- Merchandising, a big business for Ferrari
Ferrari’s immense success has turned the auto company into a brand that symbolizes sophistication, prestige, and wealth. The company’s excellence on the racing tracks has given it a competitive edge over its peers, allowing the brand to create merchandise and marketing strategies that consistently keep them at the top position.
The Ferrari logo did not become iconic in a day: it went through several decades of evolution to attain its timeless status. From a fighter pilot’s aircraft to jackets and key rings, the Ferrari logo’s journey has been an incredible one.
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.