How Tesla Came Up With The Perfect Logo

When it comes to building a brand — be it for a company that makes cars, gadgets, or practically any other consumer-facing product or service — one of the most important keys to success is a great logo. A company logo is often the first visual representation of a brand's identity that a person sees. A good logo is both a guarantee of quality and a perfect encapsulation of the mission of the brand. Some brands accomplish this with a simple and unmistakable mark, like the FedEx logo and the arrow within it. Others take a different approach, appearing bold, authoritative, and perhaps a little mysterious.

One example of the latter sort of logo is the mark used by Tesla. It's clear that the letter T is the first letter in the word Tesla, but its shape evokes the idea that there's more to the picture than is immediately obvious. One example of a widespread rumor — thanks in part to an offhand Twitter reply from Elon Musk — was that the shape was meant to represent the nose of a cat.

That confirmation of a cat nose connection was made in 2019. If we go back a bit further into Musk's Twitter history we see a slightly more serious (and likely true) account of the origin of the current state of the logo.

What is the Tesla Logo

According to Elon Musk on Twitter in 2017, the logo is meant to represent a component of a cross-section of an electric motor. More specifically, the T itself represents one of the poles from the rotor of the motor, and the line on top is meant to be a portion of the stator. Though Tesla is an electric vehicle company, it's unlikely that the vast majority of people who've seen the brand's logo would have guessed it was also meant to look like a part of an electric engine.

This simplified, modern version of the Tesla logo is actually the second iteration of the mark. Both versions were designed by the creative team at RO Studios. The original version had a shield-like layer surrounding the simpler mark we see today. This early version of the logo can be found on some early documentation and printed products for the brand. 

Watch the video above to the very end to see another way the Tesla logo reflects the form of the vehicles the brand produces. Though the logo's design was informed in part by the shape of an electric motor, product designers at Tesla must in turn take into account the shape of the logo as they design products for consumers. And we have yet to see any Tesla vehicle look like the head of a cat, so it's probably safe at this point to assume that the T isn't actually meant to be a kitty nose.