MAN Truck & Bus


The MAN lion: evolution of a trademark


The lion in the MAN logo is over 100 years old and has many fans worldwide. It has been roaring from the radiator grille of MAN vehicles since MAN took over Büssing AG in 1971. We reflect on the development of this famous logo.

Buessing advertisement with a Loewen logo from the 1920s
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The lion Heinrich Büssing developed his company logo early in the 20th century. It was inspired by and based on the Braunschweig lion, a monument depicting a larger-than-life lion cast in bronze. That monument is still the best-known landmark in the city of Braunschweig.

Heinrich Büssing made use of the Braunschweig lion for advertising purposes from 1913 onwards – fitting to the location of his automotive company founded in 1903. The Braunschweig emblem already had a long history behind it, since it relates to the heraldic animal of Henry the Lion, who founded the cities of Braunschweig and Munich in the 12th century.

What many people do not know, however, is that an earlier version of the logo showed the lion looking to the left. In the early 1920s, Heinrich Büssing commissioned billboard painter and photographer Hermann Fischer to revise his heraldic animal. The concept was to create a stylised version of the Braunschweig lion in blue and yellow, the colours of the old Duchy of Brunswick.

The new design was protected as a trademark on 10 June 1923. “Hermann Fischer created an abstracted version of the previous naturalistic lion graphic and augmented it with the corporate lettering in expressive typography”, says Holger Koos, head of vehicle design at MAN. Koos has been with the company since 1987 and has witnessed and advanced further development of the logo. The designer knows that “Heinrich Büssing was in many respects ahead of his time and recognised the impact of a powerful, memorable trademark at an early stage.”

Strong word-image trademarks are especially important because they convey a company’s brand promise. At MAN, for instance, the “Diesel” lettering on the radiator grille played a central role for decades. “MAN used the diesel engine to make a name for itself. It was robust, powerful and frugal – in other words, very much associated with the brand promise”, explains Holger Koos.

MAN made a fundamental decision when it came to the takeover of Büssing AG in 1971. It discarded the Diesel lettering so closely interwoven with the company's history in favour of the Büssing lion. The new corporate logo was intended to acknowledge Heinrich Büssing as a visionary in commercial vehicle engineering and reveal the achievements of Büssing AG and its employees. A decision that elicited some protest, but was nevertheless implemented. The redesigned MAN logo saw the lion placed centrally in a square frame beneath the MAN lettering. The lion itself barely changed except for a few small details. It was revised to give it a slightly more abstract form shortly before the takeover.

The lion gets more bite

At the beginning of the new millennium, there were deliberations about making the lion smaller or even removing it entirely from the logo and instead increasing the size of the MAN word mark. The intention was for the vehicles to be recognisable even from a greater distance. Albeit customer surveys clearly revealed that the existing lettering and lion making up the word-image trademark should be retained.

The Büssing lion was nevertheless facing major transformations. How this came about is explained by head of design Koos: “The marketing department asked us to redesign the logo in 2008 when we were developing the new TG vehicles. They were preaching to the converted, because we felt the lion symbol’s potential was far from exhausted.” That was about to change, over the next two years, Koos and his team gave more prominence to the positive attributes associated with the lion's image: “For us that included power, agility, superiority, expressiveness and dynamism, to name but a few.”

The designers dissolved the static elements of the logo, whereby the lion was given teeth and a more distinctly roaring mouth. The erectly pointed ears from the old graphic were removed because they were too reminiscent of a dog. The body proportions in the old logo were largely retained, but softer flowing lines created a powerfully elegant body shape that is a better likeness of a lion.

In the course of the redesign, Koos and his team moved away from a rigid rectangle around the lion by widening the top of the frame. The modernised lion logo was placed at a prominent position in the chrome strip above the MAN logo. This enabled the MAN lettering to be enlarged, whilst at the same time retaining the lion. The result was presented in 2012 at the launch of the MAN TGX Euro 6 series.

“Changing a logo that much has a severe impact on brand perception. Yet the design outcome was so convincing in every respect that we received acclaim across the board – from our management team, the marketing department, MAN employees and the large fan community behind our vehicles”, sums up Holger Koos.

The lion and all the characteristics associated with it still shape and enrich the appearance of MAN vehicles to this day.

Holger Koos
Head of vehicle design at MAN

Design with symbolic power

The experience of the chief designer at MAN dictates that if you have a well-accepted logo you should only modify it in small steps and details. The lion logo was handled with great care as the new MAN truck generation was presented in 2020. One of the major modifications included embedding the lion in a diamond-shaped frame.

The lion symbolism on the MAN TGX was particularly taken up by product design under the direction of Rudolf Kupitza, head of truck design. “They gave the front of the vehicle the appearance of a feline predator”, is how Holger Koos explains his colleagues’ approach. The headlights, for example, look like the eyes of a cat that’s about to pounce and beneath the chrome panel with the lion logo the black radiator trim that continues into the bumper area forms the lion's mouth. The conclusion reached by Koos: “One can say without any doubt that the lion and all the characteristics associated with it still shape and enrich the appearance of MAN vehicles to this day.”

The radiator grille of a yellow MAN truck
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Cautious adaptation The lion logo was handled with great care as the new MAN truck generation was presented in 2020. The lion was embedded in a diamond-shaped frame.

Text   Susanne Theisen
Photos   MAN; Robert Rieger

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