2020 hasn’t been totally terrible—among other things, it marked the 100th anniversary of founding of the Toyo Cork Kogyo Company, which we now know as Mazda.
Jujiro Matsuda was an engineer in Osaka, and in 1920 he came home to Hiroshima to open a new company that manufactured cork. His first logo was a red circle with a broken horizontal line, which Matsuda intended to indicate his desire to contribute to the world.
Toyo Kyogo transitioned to manufacture of heavy machinery in 1927, and in 1931 they produced their first vehicle, the Mazda-Go three-wheel truck. The vehicle was named for Ahura Mazda, a Zoroastrian deity whose name literally translates to “god of wisdom,” and whose name had a happy similarity to Matsuda’s own. In 1934, Toyo Kyogo developed a new Mazda logo, though the company did not officially change its name until 1984.
In 1936, Mazda developed a new logo based on that of its home city. Hiroshima’s logo was three wavy lines against a green background, representing the three flows of the Ota River delta. Mazda took the three lines and reformed them to show a stylized M, and the logo was used right until the late 1950s.
Meanwhile, a new simple “MAZDA” badge was needed for export vehicles, and Mazda developed a block-printed version in 1954. Back in the home market, Mazda was developing its first passenger car, the R360. Mazda developed yet another logo, returning to the 1920 circular motif with an M in the middle, elongated at both ends to meet the circle. For the 1964 Cosmo prototype (as well as the 1967 production Cosmo Sport), Mazda embedded this logo in a rounded triangle, a shape familiar to all Mazda rotary-engine fans.
In the mid-70s, Mazda returned to a name logo using block letters and a stylized Z. It remained in use until 1997 and is perhaps the best known of Mazda’s logos.
But then the whimsical 1990s rolled around, and Mazda decided it needed something more symbolic. The diamond-in-a-rounded-square logo of 1991 was supposed to recall wings and the sun, but what it really recalled was the Renault logo. Mazda rounded its edges in 1992, and this emblem adorned the first-generation Miata, among other cars.
The current Mazda badge was developed in 1997, employing a wing-like V that meets a squared circle to form an M shape. It’s often paired with the block-style lettering that Mazda developed in the 1970s.
What’s next? The current logo is now nearly 25 years old, which means it’s time for something new. We think Mazda should return to a logo that uses the rotary-engine motif… and maybe, just maybe, a rotary-engine car to put underneath it.