Last Updated on October 9, 2023
Harley-Davidson, Inc., commonly abbreviated as H-D and known simply as Harley, is an American motorcycle manufacturer headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson, William A. Davidson, and Walter Davidson.
Harley is famous for their expertise in motorcycle customization. The company has manufacturing plants spread throughout the world, including in Milwaukee, York in Pennsylvania, Manaus in Brazil, Bawal in India, and Pluak Daeng in Thailand.
Aside from their powerful motorcycles, Harley-Davidson is also famous for its unique logo, popularly known as a ‘Bar and Shield.’ This article will focus on the popular Harley-Davidson logo.
Harley-Davidson Logo Appearance
Harley-Davidson’s logo is popularly known as a ‘Bar and Shield,’ and understandably so. The logo is made primarily of a bar and a shield. The shield sits vertically, with the bar cutting it right across its horizontal midsection.
Geometrically, Harley-Davidson’s shield looks like a modified hexagon while the bar is a simple rectangular frame.
The brand name “HARLEY-DAVIDSON’ appears on the bar section of the logo. The wordmark is in a solid white color. It’s executed in a rather bold and neat font, making it look clean and legible.
On the shield part of the logo is the word “MOTOR CYCLES,” executed in two levels. The word ‘MOTOR’ is on the upper part of the shield and the word ‘CYCLES’ on the lower section, with the rectangular bar separating them. Both words are in a solid orange color.
Unlike the “HARLEY-DAVIDSON” inscription that looks neat and clean, the letterforms in the phrase “MOTOR CYCLES” feature sharp edges. The letters also differ significantly in size.
For instance, the letters ‘M’ and ‘R’ in the word “MOTOR” seem to be of the same size, although each letter appears to incline slightly towards the opposite end. The same is true for the two letters ‘O.’. However, the letter ‘T’ sports a rather unique size and shape. Besides being the longest letter in the word, its cross looks more like an upward-pointed arrow.
The logo designer implemented nearly the same technique for the letters in the word “CYCLES.”
In this word, the first ‘C’ and the letter ‘S’ are nearly the same size. That holds true for ‘Y’ and ‘E.’ The second letter ‘C’ and the letter ‘L’ are stretched lower into the cusp of the shield, which consequently makes them the largest pair of letters in the word.
Another outstanding feature of the Harley-Davidson logo is that both the shield and bar are outlined in two borders of different colors.
Harley-Davidson’s logo commonly appears in three colors – white, black, and orange. White is the color for the company’s wordmark.
Black is used as the background color of the bar and shield, right where the company’s brand name and the “MOTOR CYCLES” inscription are set. Black is also the color for the outer border outlining both the bar and shield.
Lastly, orange is used for the “MOTOR CYCLES” inscription, as well as for the inner border outlining the shield and rectangular frame. The entire logo usually appears on a white or transparent background.
The font used for Harley-Davidson’s logo is Compacta. This is the font that the logo’s inscriptions commonly appear in.
Compacta is a condensed sans-serif typeface created by Fred Lambert in 1963 for the Letraset Font Foundry. The font is noted for its striking similarities with the Haettenschweiler and Impact typefaces, with the main difference being that Compacta sports distinctive squares.
Like most typefaces, Compacta was originally released in a regular weight. However, the font has since been expanded into many other weights and styles. Examples include Compacta Black, Compacta Bold, and Compacta Light, along with oblique styles.
Also, rights to Compacta were acquired by other font foundries, such as the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. This led to the development of digital formats.
Harley-Davidson Logo Symbolism
Symbolism of the Bar and Shield
A shield is a symbol of power, strength, and protection. Harley-Davidson might have used this shape to portray its motorcycles as strong and powerful.
On the other hand, the rectangular bar symbolizes speed and safety. Although Harley-Davidson has never issued a formal statement on why it settled on this geometric shape, it’s easy to imagine that the brand wanted to portray itself as the go-to manufacturer of high-speed, safe motorcycles.
In addition to their deeper symbolism, the bar and shield also make the Harley-Davidson logo look stunning.
Symbolism of the Inscriptions
The Harley-Davidson’s logo features two major inscriptions – the company’s wordmark and the ‘MOTOR CYCLES’ phrase. The wordmark communicates the company behind the logo, whereas the ‘MOTOR CYCLES’ inscription stands for the specific industry the brand is working in.
Symbolism of the Colors
Orange, white, and black have been the primary colors of Harley-Davidson’s logo for years. These colors combine seamlessly to make the emblem look spectacular.
However, each color also represents certain attributes. Orange carries a sense of energy and enthusiasm, while black evokes power, elegance, and sleekness. White stands for purity and balance.
It’s possible to imagine that Harley-Davidson had these qualities in mind while designing its logo.
Harley-Davidson Logo History
Although Harley-Davidson was established in 1903, the motorcycle manufacturer did not have a logo until 1910.
Harley-Davidson’s original logo was the bar and shield design that has since become associated with the brand. The logo was a near-replica of the modern version, except mainly for the color palette.
White was used for the “HARLEY-DAVIDSON” brand name and for the inner boundary of the rectangular bar. Black was used for the “MOTOR CYCLE” inscription as well as for the shield’s outlines. Lastly, the background for both the shield and bar were in varying shades of grey.
Harley-Davidson’s original logo has retained its concept over the years. However, the logo has undergone several minor upgrades, most of which touched on the emblem’s color palette and its overall size.
It’s also worth noting that Harley-Davidson has unveiled several logos to commemorate its various milestones and anniversaries.
The Harley-Davidson 50th Anniversary Logo
Harley-Davidson unveiled a new logo in 1953 to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The logo borrowed from the company’s ‘bar and shield’ design. However, the bar and shield were now encased in a circle.
On the bar section of the logo was the company’s brand name executed in a stylish, calligraphic font. The name was lowercased except for the initials ‘H’ and ‘D.’
The inscriptions “50 YEARS” and “AMERICAN MADE” appeared on the upper and lower sections of the logo, respectively. As with the current logo, these words were separated by the rectangular bar.
The new emblem also incorporated a ‘V’ symbol that protruded from the circle. The ‘V’ symbol stood for the types of engine Harley-Davidson used on its motorcycles. The entire logo was executed in silver and set on a white background.
The Harley-Davidson 80th Anniversary Logo
In 1983, Harley-Davidson introduced a logo that was popularly known as the H.O.G logo. The initials H.O.G stand for the Harley-Davidson Owners Group.
Harley-Davidson’s H.O.G logo featured the image of an eagle sitting on a wheel, accompanied by the iconic bar and shield image. The wheel was a stylized letter ‘O’ from the ‘HOG’ inscription. A yellow ribbon with the inscription “Harley Owners Group” appeared on the bottom part of the logo.
The Harley Davidson 100th Anniversary Logo
Harley-Davidson unveiled a logo in 2003 to coincide with its centenary celebrations. The logo featured the famous bar and shield, which now formed the center of a bird’s wings.
The numbers ‘1903’ and ‘2003’ were placed on either side of the wings, while the number 100 appeared below the bar and shield design. The entire logo was in an array of colors, including black, white, orange, and silvery.
The Harley Davidson 105th Anniversary Logo
Harley-Davidson’s latest anniversary logo was unveiled in 2008. This emblem also featured a bird’s wing and the iconic bar and shield design. However, the bird’s wing was no longer horizontally-placed but curved upwards, with the bar and shield design executed lower.
A circular frame was also introduced, making the logo look more rounded than the 100th-anniversary one. The inscription “105 years” and the pattern “1903 * 2008” appeared on the upper and lower sections of the ‘bar and shield’ design, respectively.
Lastly, the new color palette was black, white, and orange.
Harley-Davidson’s logo has undergone an interesting evolution since its unveiling more than a century ago. Although it has maintained its original concept, it has appeared in different color palettes. They still produce some of the most nostalgic – and smoothing riding – motorcycles in history as well.