- The Harley-Davidson bar and shield logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, representing freedom and individuality.
- The logo has evolved throughout the years and has gone through different variations, including the iconic bald eagle artwork and the stars-and-stripes “1”.
- The black-and-orange color scheme represents passion, vibrance, energy, and is an eye-catching safety feature on the road. The eagle logo symbolizes freedom, strength, and courage.
Everyone is aware of the famous Harley-Davidson bar and shield logo. Alongside other major brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Disney, Harley-Davidson is right up there for having one of the most recognizable logos in the world. As one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, it only makes sense that the logo representing the brand is just as iconic, appearing on everything from Harley-Davidson motorcycles, motor clothes like T-shirts, jackets, boots, gloves, hats, and anything else a biker could want like coasters, wall art, Christmas ornaments, and more!
Since its inception in 1910, the logo has gone on to take many other forms, such as the iconic bald eagle artwork, the ’70s retro look, Willie G skull, and the famous stars-and-stripes “1”. In addition, the Harley-Davidson logo is the only brand image bikers will have tattooed on their skin. When was the last time you saw someone with a Honda tattoo? Exactly. The reasoning behind this is that the brand, along with its logo’s many variants, represents absolute freedom and individuality. The freedom to express yourself and take the path you deem fit. Especially without the approval of anyone else. In other words, Harley-Davidson speaks to our own inner-rebel, and the logo acts as the artwork and face of the brand. So let’s take a deeper dive into the origins of this famous bar-and-shield, and the many ways it has evolved throughout the years.
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The following article was based on information sourced from Harley-Davidson, TheLogoCompany.net, and Brandcrowd.com
The Original Bar & Shield
1910 – 1953
While Harley-Davidson first began in 1903, it didn’t debut its official bar-and-shield logo until 1910. Straightforward in its approach, the original logo featured its shield-shaped background with a horizontal bar, all while bearing its early wordmark design with “Harley-Davidson” in all caps and white, and “Motor Cycles” in black. The brand stuck with this form of the logo from 1910 to 1953, going through only a few minor changes in that time. For the first two decades, the artwork remained strictly black-and-white. It wasn’t until 1930 that the company introduced some color by changing the letter “o” to a red and yellow palette. Then in 1933, it leaned into its more dominant color scheme of black and orange.
For those who have studied color theory, warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are generally associated with energy, brightness, and action. Certainly, these are qualities that Harley-Davidson would want its motorcycles to give off to customers in its early days. Specifically, red represents passion and strength, orange represents vibrance and energy, and yellow represents joy and happiness. All the positive traits a company would want its customers to feel when riding its motorcycles. Then, by 1949, Harley-Davidson decided to go for a more macho vibe by redesigning the logo to be full-metal.
The V-Shape Logo
1953 – 1965
The first major redesign to the Harley-Davidson logo occurred in 1953 to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary by swapping out the traditional bar-and-shield in place of a large V-shaped logo, referring to its famous V-Twin engine. However, a version of the bar-and-shield was featured on top of the large V-shape to celebrate the company’s five decades as America’s prominent motorcycle manufacturer with “50 years” and “American made” in the upper and lower parts of the shield.
Meanwhile, the “Harley-Davidson” font was born from a custom-made cursive script with strong lines and clear readability. This off-shoot of the original logo was received well among riders, seeing it as both bold and stylish, like a masculine medallion being embedded onto their motorcycles. However, this logo was also a bit too “busy” when compared to the simplified approach to the standard bar-and-shield, resulting in the company halting the use of this logo after twelve years in 1965.
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The New Standard Logo
1965 – 2003
It wasn’t until 1965 that Harley-Davidson returned to just the bar-and-shield logo. Only this time the company reverted to the monochromatic black-and-white color scheme. It was also this logo that a large majority of riders, both new and old, recognize the brand from. It was a more modernized take on the original, and has since become the most iconic version of the bar-and-shield design in the brand’s history. While the “Harley-Davidson” text in the bar was larger and more eye-catching, the “Motor Cycles” text on the shield was able to stay consistent with the logo’s readability.
These were the times of the Shovelhead, and this was the graphic that many Harley-Davidson and non-Harley-Davidson riders associate with the brand, and can recall seeing it on literally everything that the company produced: its motorcycles, motor clothes, and extended forms of merchandise. This new approach to the bar-and-shield was bigger, bolder, and more attractive to current and newer riders. There was a new generation of riders brewing during the mid-1960s, and they wanted something that would define them as being modern and the new torch-bearers, rather than the riders who preceded them. It had also unofficially marked a new age for Harley-Davidson, as well as the motorcycling journeys of many new riders. Best of all, after nearly sixty years, it is still in use today.
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The Colorized Version
2003 – Present
As its motorcycles evolved, so did Harley’s logo. Keeping up with the same logo design that arrived in 1965, Harley-Davidson introduced an equally recognizable version by bringing its black-and-orange color palette to the forefront. While still following its previous monochromatic black-and-white design, this new version has the “Motor Cycles” and borders of the bar and shield in orange. Meanwhile, the “Harley-Davidson” text remains in white, highlighting itself in the center even more while surrounded by black and orange. Soon, it became the new default logo for the brand for decades, appearing everywhere in both marketing campaigns and merchandise lines.
By introducing the bold orange color into its merchandise and motor clothes, it also doubled as a safety feature by acting as an eye-catching color to other drivers on the road in the same manner as an orange traffic cone. After all, according to color theory, orange is indeed an attention-grabbing color. In addition to being an attractive color, orange is also associated with personality traits like passion, pride, youthfulness, optimism, happiness, warmth, creativity, and energy. Not everyone has the orange color as part of their daily wardrobe. But if you ride a Harley-Davidson, it’s almost mandatory.
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The Eagle Logo
1929 – Present
Because Harley-Davidson is already a brand closely associated with American values such as freedom and independence, it only made sense that the Bald Eagle, the symbol of the USA, be introduced into the mix as well. After all, Harley-Davidson has its own “Screamin’ Eagle” line of performance products many enthusiasts use to upgrade their rides. While Harley-Davidson utilized this majestic bird in their branding because its symbolism of freedom, strength, and courage stays in line with the same all-American values of the company, there was another reason why the eagle design makes frequent appearances.
During the Great Depression (1929 – 1941), Harley-Davidson sales were dropping. So, in an effort to boost sales through patriotism, President/CEO William Davidson decided that adding a Bald Eagle to a new gas tank emblem would help. Sure enough, his plan paid off. That, and the fact that the company helped build power plants tapping on their motorcycle engine manufacturing expertise, got them through the Great Depression. But ever since then, the Bald Eagle has remained a consistent image when it comes to Harley-Davidson’s brand.