Design & Technology

How to spot Kia from afar: The evolution of the Kia face July 26th, 2016


Kia Motors has experienced significant movement and growth in the automobile industry, and along the way, Kia cars have adopted some noteworthy changes. Starting from a look that Chief Design Officer Mr. Peter Schreyer described as “neutral,” Kia has since made substantial modifications that have made our vehicles stand out in the eyes of the world’s consumers.



Behold the unique face of the Kia Niro.


With the goal of making a powerful and dynamic statement, Kia has since created a distinct face and bold logo that can be identified from afar and that translate across all models. The final product and Kia’s current visual symbol – the signature grille, headlamps, and brand logo – gives all of our vehicles a bold personality and a familial identity that is strikingly recognizable and eye-catching.


The Kia emblem through the years

Over time, the Kia logo has gone through many design and color changes. The earliest known Kia logo appeared around the 1960s when Kia first started manufacturing licensed cars. Resembling an upside-down letter ‘Q’, the logo was made up of a circle with a line crossing through the upper right of the circle.



The 1960s Kia logo can be found on the center of the Kia E-3800 commercial truck.


In the 1980s, when Kia started exporting to overseas markets, the brand adopted a new logo based on its English corporate name. The extended upper stroke of the letter ‘K’ symbolized the Kia flag with waves representing Kia’s a bright and innovative future as it entered the global markets.





Kia’s ‘three waves’ logo placed on the 1990s Kia Pride (first generaton Rio)


In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 1994, Kia developed the simple red and white logo that is widely recognized today. Simultaneously, Kia also developed an alternate circular logo for the domestic Korean market. Referred to as the ‘K’ logo, this emblem made very few appearances outside Asia and was eventually rendered obsolete when Kia opted for the more simplistic current-day logo.





The Kia ‘K’ logo as seen on the 2004 Sorento


The current Kia emblem features the company name ‘KIA’ in custom font, embedded into a silver oval. The sleek oval sought to represent the earth or the global marketplace while the letters ‘KIA’ in deep red were associated with the sun and passion to convey Kia’s dedication to its fans and consumers.

The stylized ‘A’ missing its strikethrough makes the logo particularly recognizable and further stresses Kia’s design philosophy: ‘the simplicity of the straight line.’ Featuring the corporate colors of red and white, the emblem also appears in a black and chrome version on cars to give them a sleeker and more stylish look.






Hello Tiger!





Kia did not have a unified front grille prior to 2006.


Kia’s signature grille first appeared in 2006 when Peter Schreyer joined Kia Motors as the Chief Design Officer. The appropriately named tiger-nose grille made its grand debut on the Kee concept car that was unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA).



Kia Kee concept introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show


From then on, our stellar design teams applied this striking visual identifier to all Kia models, modifying the face ever so slightly to fit the image of the vehicle while maintaining a unified family look. Despite the common face, the grille is found to be rounded on some models while sharper and edgier on others.



The grille for each model is unique but identifiable under one family


But why the tiger nose? Feeling the need to give Kia cars a strong, distinctive face, Peter contemplated many different possibilities until the “powerful, yet kind of friendly” face of a tiger emerged as an inspiration. As a result, Kia’s signature grille and sharp headlights closely resemble the dimensional face and alert eyes of a tiger, appearing at once strong, sharp, and unique.



Similar but unique to every model, the Kia face is one of the most distinctive identifiers for Kia models distributed all over the world. Now that you have learned a little more about the Kia logo and grille, will you be able to identify a Kia from afar?