The South Korean brand Kia hasn’t always been automotive. Its creator, Kim Chul Ho, started by making nuts. A few years later, in 1944, he founded a bicycle parts company. The production of metal pipes has become an important part of the business. In 1952, the company presented its first bicycle, and a year later, it received a new name: Kia Industries. In 1960, the plant produced the truck under the Mazda license. As for the first line of Kia Brisa passenger cars, it appeared much later – in 1974.
Meaning and History
The modern brand name is simple but full of meaning. It was created based on two hieroglyphs: “ki” (indicates upward movement, the beginning of a continuous action) and “a” (house, Asia). In one of the meanings, it can be deciphered as “native of Asia.”
Before the company saw the automotive industry’s potential, it used many different logos that varied in color and design. Significant changes to the identity came in 1994 when Kia acquired the famous lettering symbol inside the oval. Over time, it was modified and then disappeared altogether, giving way to a minimalistic and abstract word sign.
1953 – 1964
In 1953, Kyungsung Precision Industry became Kia Industries. This almost did not affect its range: it continued to produce bicycle parts and only four years later switched to Honda’s motorcycles production. But the rebranding was reflected in the logo. It contained a complex geometric composition that consisted of many polygons, including squares, rectangles, triangles, and diamond shapes. The centerpiece – a circle with rectangular jaggies – looked like a cogwheel. Inside it was the word “KIA.”
1964 – 1986
In 1964, the inscription disappeared, and the emblem acquired a simplified form. It was a green circle with an angled ledge at the top right, like an inverted Q. It resembled the stylized “K” badge that was used on vehicles sold only in South Korea.
1986 – 1994
In 1986 the firm returned to the automotive industry. This happened after a forced hiatus because the dictator Chun Doo-hwan banned passenger car production in 1981. The first car of the new era was the Kia Pride, commissioned by Ford and Mazda. The Kia Motors enterprise was little-known and was considered cheap labor, but received the right to export Pride under its brand. However, due to the contractor’s status, the company used a logo representing it as a steel pipe factory. The inscription was stylized as a factory: the letter “K” was shaped like a chimney, and above the “ia,” there was a wavy blue line in the form of puffs of smoke.
1994 – 2012
In 1994, the company expanded its lineup with the Sportage SUV and the Mentor family car. The emblem with the factory’s image appeared briefly in the center of the red oval, but then it was replaced by the inscription “KIA.” Notably, the “A” lacked a crossbar, so the letter looked like an unfinished delta symbol. On cars, the word and frame around the oval were chrome, and the interior was burgundy. The white background was used in documents and promotional materials, and the company name and outline were red.
2012 – 2021
After Hyundai saved Kia from bankruptcy, the logo changed slightly again. The badge on the Sorento 4×4 and Picanto vehicles has acquired a dark gray background. The official emblem remains the same as before, but the red color has become noticeably brighter.
2021 – present
In anticipation of the flagship electric vehicle due in 2021, the company has adopted a German agency’s new logo. This became known back in late 2019, when Kia patented the symbol in the form of the connected letters “K,” “I,” and “A.” A similarly styled badge was previously featured on the Imagined concept car in Spring 2019.
The logo’s official presentation took place in January 2021 in the sky over the city of Incheon. The company held a grand celebration on this occasion and set a new world record by using the maximum number of drones in a pyrotechnic show, which simultaneously released fireworks. Many lights formed into the inscription “KIA” and then into the new motto, “Movement that inspires.”
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The latest symbol change is timed to coincide with the adoption of the Plan S business strategy. Its essence lies in the fact that Kia is gradually switching to the production of electric vehicles. Therefore, the brand’s emblem looks ambitious and modern: upward lines represent growth, and symmetry shows decisiveness. A wordmark has a specific rhythm: it looks like a heart rate graph or a wave, which corresponds to the idea of movement.
The company’s name is stylized as a hand-written signature, for which the designers used the font of their design. All three letters are connected, with most of the lines running in parallel. “A” is in italics. She, as before, has no crossbar. New typography makes the lettering resemble the iconic NASA worm of the 1980s. But Kia has an emphasis on sharp angles and no curves, unlike the old NASA logo.
After the redesign, the traditional red color changed to black. According to the documents, on a dark background, the word “KIA” maybe white. A simple palette is another manifestation of minimalism along with a two-dimensional form.