Kawasaki symbol: Speeding through the Kawasaki motorcycle logo history
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Kawasaki symbol: Speeding through the Kawasaki motorcycle logo history

Kawasaki Logo

How much do you know about Kawasaki logo history?

If you’re a fan of the motorcycle landscape, you might know a thing or two about Kawasaki – one of the most iconic brands in the world. First established in 1896, the Kawasaki company and its famous logo have made quite an impact on bike lovers throughout the years.

Currently, fans see the Kawasaki emblem as a badge of honor and a symbol of quality when shopping for fast, efficient, and powerful bikes.

But where exactly did Kawasaki’s logo first come from? How did the designers choose the eye-catching “K” we know today, and were there any previous Kawasaki logos before this one?

Today, we’ll explore the history of Kawasaki motorcycles and its phenomenal logo to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the brand’s evolution.

Kawasaki history: The Kawasaki brand

Before we start our adventure exploring Kawasaki symbols throughout the years, it’s worth giving a quick introduction to the company itself. Kawasaki represents one of the better-known brands in the motorcycle landscape, founded by Shozo Kawasaki, who named the company after himself.

Shozo was involved with the marine industry from a relatively young age and was also associated with two offshore disasters before he ever started his company.

Kawasaki believed he owed his survival to the modern features of the ships, which led to the decision to create technological innovations for the Japanese shipping landscape.

After struggling to find business for some time, Kawasaki eventually got his first order in 1878, and by 1986, Kawasaki moved the company from Tokyo to Hyoka.

The brand’s name also evolved to “Kawasaki Dockyard Co.” After opening a new factory in the 1900s, Kawasaki began diversifying its products, producing for the railroad, airplane, and automotive industries.

It was in the 1960s when Kawasaki first started experimenting with motorcycles.

Today, Kawasaki motorcycles are just one part of the larger “Kawasaki Heavy Industries” company, known for selling everything from aerospace and defense equipment to ships.

Kawasaki’s motorcycles include the phenomenal “Ninja sports bike” and a host of cruisers, dual-purpose and motocross motorcycles, produced over the years to appeal to a wide range of consumers.

The first “vintage Kawasaki logo” to appear on one of the firm’s iconic motorcycles was introduced in 1961. This old Kawasaki logo was a world apart from the emblem we know today, but it offered an insight into the origins of the company’s design choices.

Interestingly, the Kawasaki motorcycle logo has made fewer changes over the years than many leading motorbike and vehicle brands.

The organization’s visual identity has only undergone several significant redesigns. This demonstrates the company’s ability to choose a clear, stable, and confident image.

Let’s look at the first version of the Kawasaki motorcycles logo.


Kawasaki Logo

The first Kawasaki emblem only stayed with the brand for a total of 6 years, between the years 1961 and 1967. This symbol was designed for the company just before the brand’s first motorcycle was introduced, the B8 125 two-stroke. It’s also the “vintage” logo that appeared on this bike.

The logo was simple but effective, compromised of a curved shape with a flag and the Kawasaki wordmark positioned on it in bold sans-serif font.

The shape in the background of the Kawasaki logo was intended to look a little like a curving road but also like the exhaust on the back of a motorcycle, giving it a powerful dual meaning.

The Kawasaki logo flag, depicted in gold and white, included the “River” mark, a Japanese symbol that first appeared on the flags of ships owned by the Kawasaki Shipyard in the 1870s. The last element on the logo was the sans-serif all-capital font, depicted in white.

1967 – 2021

Kawasaki Logo

The second variation of the Kawasaki logo stayed with the company for a long time, all the way up to 2021. The design was a variation of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries logo, which featured a modern wordmark, and a large capital “K,” depicted in a scarlet red shade.

The color red was a good choice for the company, as it helped maintain a solid connection to Japan, where red is a traditional favorite. The bold sans-serif typeface chosen for the image was also a fantastic way to make the company appear more modern and approachable.

The wordmark for “Kawasaki” for the motorcycle company was often depicted in black or red. The black version of this design has been carried over to the new logo.

The new Kawasaki emblem: The Kawasaki badge

In 2021, Kawasaki updated their emblem for the first time in several years, replacing the “K” mark for the previous River sign we saw in the first iteration of the Kawasaki logo.

The symbol is taken from the Japanese character meaning “River,” which helps to connect the company’s image back to its origins when it began as a shipping company.

Kawasaki Logo

According to the Kawasaki company, the world has changed immensely in the 120 years since the Kawasaki brand was first launched. The new corporate identity with the River mark at its core helps to highlight Kawasaki’s heritage while demonstrating a commitment to the future.

The new Kawasaki symbol features a font similar to the previous image, although the letters in this variation appear closer together. The wordmark in the combination logo can either appear below the symbol or next to it (on the right-hand side), depending on the branding asset.

Here are some resources for anyone interested in the Kawasaki logo:

While the previous Kawasaki logo colors were red and black, the current shades chosen for the motorcycle brand are simply black and white. Notably, the Kawasaki color palette can be presented in its inverse form, with white font on a black background or with black font on a white background.

The colors of black and white are extremely strong for a brand with long-lasting history and heritage. The colors are often associated with modernity and sophistication.

What font does the Kawasaki logo use?

The Kawasaki logo font is a beautiful Sans-serif Helvetica style font, carefully designed to fit alongside the Kawasaki emblem in the company’s brand image. Using a bold, impactful, and serif-free font highlights the modernity and accessibility of the brand.

Celebrating the Kawasaki logo today

The Kawasaki logo has only had a few changes to its appearance over the years, but each major update has been a significant step forward for the brand. The image of the Kawasaki many people are familiar with, featuring the red K, helped to highlight the bold and passionate nature of the brand.

Today, the modern Kawasaki logo is eye-catching and meaningful. It draws attention back to the history of the company and its commitment to demonstrating excellence in its field.

At the same time, the refined lines and curves of the logo create a highly modern and contemporary image, perfect for the motorcycle designs of the future.

The Kawasaki logo is an excellent insight into the incredible impact a logo can have and how designs from the past can often inspire the symbols we choose in the future.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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