Harley-Davidson is an American motorcycle manufacturer. The company was founded in 1903 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson, Walter Davidson, and William A. Davidson. It is one of only two American motorcycle manufacturers that were able to survive the Great Depression in the United States and the company is still going strong today. One reason for this is its clear branding and its logo has played a role in this. Although the logo has changed several times throughout the history of the company, the symbolism of the logo remains the same.
Although Harley-Davidson made motorcycles since 1903, they did not have the company logo until 1910. It was then that the bar and shield logo was introduced, and it is this logo on which all future logos of the company. The design featured only three colors; black, white and orange. These made the company logo distinctive and different from other companies in the motor industry. The logo simply contained the words Harley-Davidson ‘in capital letters in a bar. Behind the bar, there is a shield with the word ‘Motor’ above the shield and the word ‘Cycles’ below the shield, both in capital letters.
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The logo remained the same for many years until Harley-Davidson began introducing new designs to commemorate specific events or to use the logo for different purposes. The first serious change came in 1953 as the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and commemorated it with a new logo. A silver version of the design was created with the bar and shield encased in a circle that also incorporated a protruding “V” symbol. The letter ‘V’ was used to symbolize the type of engine used in Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Harley-Davidson created a medallion version of this logo that appeared on the front fenders of the models they produced in 1954.
In 1965, the company decided to go back to its original design, as it was a classic logo associated with its brand. However, they simplified the design by eliminating orange and producing a black and white only logo.
One of the most famous logos used by Harley-Davidson was the number one logo. Wille G. Davidson first introduced this logo on his motorcycles in 1971 for the FX Super Glide motorcycle. Before that, this version of the logo was associated with the company’s motorcycle racing days, specifically Harley-Davidson dirt track racing. It was then used in various memorabilia and products made by the company.
The next significant change to the Harley-Davidson logo came in 2003, as the company celebrated its centennial. They kept the symbol of the bar and the shield, but placed it between a pair of silver wings that gave the dates 1903 and 2003 on each side and had a large ‘100’ under the shield. The wings represented speed, power, and freedom, which are words associated with riding a motorcycle. In addition to its motorcycles, this record appeared on several products that the company manufactured.
A new logo was developed in 2008 to commemorate the company’s 105th anniversary, drawing from many previous designs. As with all previous logo designs used by Harley-Davidson, they retained the bar and shield element of the design. They also kept the wings, but changed them from horizontal wings to wings that curved upwards. These were surrounded in a circle with the tips of the wings sticking out. On the shield and between the wings, the logo read ‘105 years’. One of the lower edges of the circle was the dates 1903 and 2008.
The most widely used logo today is the classic bar and shield symbol. However, each of the major dealerships in America has its own version of this. Products manufactured by Harley-Davidson feature the classic bar and shield symbol.
Harley-Davidson owners are often part of a group called Harley Owners Groups, also known as HOGS. They have their own symbol that is completely different from the symbol used by the Harley-Davidson company. It has ‘Harley Owners Group’ written on a banner with the letters ‘HOG’ above it and the letter ‘O’ has spokes that look like a wheel. A golden eagle is sitting on top of the letter ‘O’. The group’s logo is in black, white and yellow.