Skip to main content

With millions of Toyota vehicles on American roads, you likely see the famous automotive logo several times a day. Did you ever wonder what it’s supposed to be? We took a look at the current Toyota emblem/logo and what it stands for. Here’s what we found out:

A brief history of the Toyota Motor Corporation

The Toyota logo on a dealership sign in South Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The Toyota logo | Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Founded in 1924 by Sakichi Toyoda, the company now known as Toyota was originally a maker of textile looms. Nine years later, Toyoda’s son, Kiichiro Toyoda, began designing passenger cars. Four years after that, the younger Toyoda launched an independent automotive production company under the Toyoda name, and executives at the nascent car company held a public competition to create a logo, explains Liftow.

Working from the premise that the name Toyoda translates to “fertile rice paddies” in English, the winning contestant arranged the Japanese symbols for the family name in a circular shape. Risaburo Toyoda, Sakichi’s son-in-law, who adopted the last name after marrying into the family, suggested the spelling be slightly changed to Toyota, which required a “lucky” eight brush strokes to write in Japanese. The newly created name was trademarked in 1937.

The first cars to roll off the production line were emblazoned with the winning logo modified to a diamond shape with red and blue colors. The company logo remained the same until 1989 when the now-famous three-oval logo was put in place to commemorate the car company’s 50th anniversary.

What the Toyota logo looks like and means today

The modern Toyota logo comprises two perpendicular ovals held within a larger oval shape. Look closely, and you will notice that the width of the ovals varies as a nod to traditional Japanese brushstrokes. According to LogoMyWay, the logo’s symbolism represents mutual trust between the hearts of the company and its customers. Toyota customer service adds that the empty space in the logo’s background represents the company’s technological advancements and boundless future.

Turbologo explains that the overlapping ovals of the Toyota logo represent the letter T and may also be a stylized representation of a threaded needle that pays homage to the company’s history as a loom maker. Remarkably, the three interlocking ovals of the modern Toyota logo are easily recognized whether viewing the logo straight-on or in a rearview mirror, says Toyota UK magazine.

In July 2020, Toyota debuted a revamped logo at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Designed by The&Partnership, the reworked logo removes the wordmark “Toyota” from the emblem and will be featured on vehicles sold in Europe, explains Design Week.

Logos have been around a long time

Humans have used symbolic designs for thousands of years, as evidenced by cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and other antiquities. Logos, as we know them today, more or less originated in medieval Europe with heraldic crests that combined specific shapes and colors that represented a noble family. When emblazoned on shields, these unique “coats of arms” helped warriors identify sides during a battle.

As populations grew and businesses opened in cities during the High Middle Ages, shops began hanging signs to indicate what goods or services they sold. In 1389, the king decreed that English pubs were required to provide outdoor signage. Not as stylized or specific as modern logos, these signs nonetheless built brand loyalty.

After the invention of the printing press, printers put logos on their works, but the Coca-Cola company devised the first easily recognized brand logo in 1885, explains 99 Designs. Today, logos, including the instantly-recognizable Toyota emblem, are everywhere.


Will Toyota Kill the Prius Hybrid?