The History of the BMW Roundel

28th October, 1913 – Rapp Motorenwerke, the company that would become BMW in only four short years, is founded by Karl Rapp and Julius Auspitzer. The company’s mission was to build and sell engines of all types, with a focus on internal combustion engines. Karl Rapp would be the sole person behind design and development.

Rapp Motorenwerke used the following roundel to identify itself; “rappe” being the word for black horse, it would be prominently featured in the Rapp Motorenwerke logo.

Rapp Moterenwerke Logo

Rapp Moterenwerke Logo

Around mid-1917, Rapp Motorenwerke found itself to be an essential contributor to Germany’s war effort and now experiencing a monumental windfall, but only due to a designer and engineer named Max Friz, who had been previously working for Daimler (which would later have Mercedes-Benz as a subdivision). Karl Rapp’s contract was terminated and the company would move on to a new logo and a new name on the 21st of July, 1917: Bayerische Motorenwerke – BMW.


Evolution of The BMW Roundel

The first BMW roundel had been created through re-use of the Rapp Motorenwerke roundel, replacing the black horse with the colours of the Bavarian flag, only reversed as it was heavily regulated during that time. This design was in no way related to a white propellor cutting through blue sky, which is still common misconception today due to a design used for the cover of a technical book used for airplanes in 1929.

The BMW roundel superimposed over an airplane propellor

The BMW roundel superimposed over an airplane propellor

The BMW roundel itself would experience many subtle changes in posters, magazines, photographs; it wasn’t until the 1950s that BMW had decided to create a concerted effort to unify and solidify the roundel’s design in all media. The lettering was now white only and it began using a sans-serif font.

BMW experimented with the idea of a different roundel for its Motorsport division, featuring the 1954-onward BMW roundel and adding the Motorsport colors surrounding it. This never took off, but eventually became the basis for the M followed by the three stripes design.

By the year 2000, the BMW roundel had evolved into it’s latest design, using bolder font and gradients to give it a 3D effect in print media. The BMW roundel is now ranked in the top ten of the world’s most recognized commercial logos and is an iconic symbol in its own right. Its original and simplistic design has turned into a dynamic and strong icon – very fitting for it’s current line of dynamic, sporting and luxurious automobiles.

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