From The Front Seat of My Car is a series of essays where I share my findings from a trail of research that begins at the logos and graphics I see from... well... the front seat of my car.
When I'm driving on the highway, I'm always on the lookout for great trucking and industrial logos. With so many 18-wheelers driving about, I'm bound to find something good on every trip. The Peterbilt "red oval" is one that I've seen many times, but it never stuck with me... until the other day. I caught of glimpse of this Peterbilt truck (above) while driving from Raleigh to Charlotte. I didn't have time to take a good photo, but that's the truck that I saw. You can sort-of see the red oval on the front of the truck in the zoomed photo.
According to their website, Peterbilt Motors Company "has reigned as America's premium quality truck manufacturer since the company's founding in 1939." (Peterbilt) After browsing their site, it seems like they have an appreciation for their history. Their 75th Year Timeline provided me some information of the red oval came to be and what was before it.
From what I can tell, the red oval began as a simple script identity. The script appeared in advertisements immediately when the company began in 1939. It was used just like any other logo; placed small on the front of trucks, and massive, like on the side of a water tower. It seems like there wasn't any specific designer or creator of the script; a few of the scripts are even slightly different. I'd assume that the in-house production team would used a script "stencil" for as long as possible, and then make a new one. According to their website, the red oval made it's debut in 1953; it looks like the oval idea originated around 1949, but probably wasn't the iconic red.
Since its' debut in 1953, the red oval remains on the front and sides of every Peterbilt truck. From the screenshots above, you can see how the trucks change and evolve as the years progress. In all these photos, that red oval just pops right out at you. You can't even read "Peterbilt" in them, yet, you know it's a Peterbilt truck. I find that really interesting about this logo. Close up, you can easily read the "Peterbilt" script lettering, providing a classic, timeless vibe. And then from far away, you just see that red oval. Once you connect the two, you can recognize Peterbilt trucks from further away than probably any other truck manufacturer.
The Peterbilt red oval is just one of those logos that is going to be around for a long time. Not only does the script give a classic look for the company, but it's truly prominent throughout their history as the brand "signature." And then obviously, the red oval, which creates a visual strand that ties together every truck that they make, regardless of how it looks or what it's hauling.
WORKS CITED / RESOURCES
"Peterbilt Logo." Brands of The World. https://www.brandsoftheworld.com/logo/peterbilt-3.
"75th Year Timeline." Peterbilt Motors Company. https://www.peterbilt.com/resources/75th_Timeline.pdf.
Peterbilt. "About Peterbilt." Peterbilt Motors Company. https://www.peterbilt.com/about/.
Peterbilt. "The Peterbilt Heritage." Peterbilt Motors Company. https://www.peterbilt.com/about/history/.