PROTON's chief designer breaks down the creative process behind its new logo

PROTON has been the pride and joy of many Malaysians since the 1980s, with most consumers owning a Proton Saga at least once in their life. The automotive manufacturer recently ushered in a new era two years after its partnership with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, with the launch of a new and sixth brand identity.

PROTON's logo has morphed from the iconic shield coupled with the crescent moon and stars representing the Malaysian flag in 1985 and 1993, to the tiger head in 2000, the national animal of Malaysia. The tiger represents agility, courage and pride, values that PROTON aimed to uphold more than 10 years after its founding. The shield has always been an iconic aspect of PROTON's logo despite its evolution, but the new logo features an "uncaged" design with the tiger’s head held high.

Meanwhile, PROTON's tagline also evolved with the times from "Pride of the Nation" to "Spirit of Achievement", "Committed to be Better", "It's in the Drive!" and "Inspiring Connections".

While some consumers might think of it as just a logo, the team at PROTON begs to defer. In a statement to A+M, Azlan Othman, chief designer, Proton Design said the new logo has been in the works for approximately two years from first brief to its official launch recently. According to Azlan, the logo design itself was finalised about six months ago, except for a few ongoing updates to improve the overall definition.

"The development of the physical aspect also had to proceed in anticipation of upcoming new models. It was imperative for all the initiatives that would be using the new logo to be resolved in time," Azlan said, adding that the new logo is a marker for the company's next chapter.

"The new branding and logo signify this new ethos and our commitment to always putting our customers first," he said.

It was time to signal PROTON’s refreshed vigour in a graphical form that will grace all our products and corporate imagery.

According to Azlan, the design team knew from the onset that it had to be bold and as such, explored many tangents during the creative process of the logo creation. The team "investigated" several shapes and sizes to figure out how they would fit into every facet of the logo application, from cars to merchandise and even PROTON's outlets.

"We benchmarked our competitors to understand their approaches. Every step of the way, we syndicated very closely with our top management, every week in fact we had to have progress reports," he said. Azlan added, "We looked at every angle; positive and negative directions, forward versus side profile implications, natural versus stylised versions, and also colour variations."

During the process, it also tapped on Shanghai design chief Guy Burgoyne from Geely Design China to share his ideas on what the new logo could be. Even shareholders Li Shifu and Syed Mokhtar chipped in. While it was a tedious process, Azlan said it was necessary "due to the significance and gravity of the matter".

"Quite early during the development process we also realised that colours would play a critical role in exemplifying the logo, so in tandem that activity was also pursued," Azlan said, adding that the logo was designed by the in-house team. After several rounds of shortlists, the team finally landed on the basic concept for the logo, which placed focus on the tiger. The shield was also removed to symbolise the tiger being uncaged. Also, the space surrounding the tiger had to be a well-defined shape that portrayed continuous movement.

"The next complicated phase centred around realising the tiger in 3D form. This meant using mathematical computer-aided design data to validate our assumptions and to prove out samples. It’s safe to say that the creative process was guided and informed with the conscious decisions made over the significance of every single detail," Azlan said. He added:

A logo shouldn’t just be designed for design’s sake but needs to tell a story.

Once the team had the design down pat, it also had to ensure that the logo is applicable across multiple platforms and across markets. In short, it has to have an international appeal. Additionally, it also has to encapsulate the brand essence, values and slogan, as well as contain elements that are intrinsically Malaysian.

"'Inspiring Connections' as a tagline is a nod to the future of where we are heading – a world that though global, is increasingly connected because of technology, and this captures our ethos and three core values perfectly: innovative technology, reliability and international," Azlan said. He added that the automotive industry is moving beyond just manufacturing cars. Instead, the space is now about mobility and enabling connections between human beings.

"PROTON’s intent is to create cars that have high technology, are reliable and international. This means creating cars that consumers want. It means using the best available technology and systems within the segment. This needs to be reflected in our products and in the way we communicate. The brand must now be able to carry this ethos and it needs to be felt by our customers," he explained.

Which logo do you like the most?


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(Photo courtesy: PROTON website)