The ubiquitous OSCA logo, fully matured by late 1949, allows a rare and important glimpse into the design and brand language of OSCA. Throughout their active years at OSCA, the three Maserati bothers did not pay much attention to branding and marketing efforts, deciding to focus entirely on designing and building cars. The company’s logo, however, was a fully developed and well thought out brand and design language effort. The end result was that a round logo representing the brand was a consistent feature on all OSCA products from inception.
The OSCA logo represents a fairly common period design language for European sports related car brands. There are specific features and details of the logo which help us understand the thinking behind the OSCA brand. Below we shall analyze the logo’s features.
The round circular shape, speaks of practical simplicity - the engineer’s attitude, and echoes a “down to earth” brand language. Unlike the period Ferrari or Porsche elaborate crest-shaped logos, the “nobility” crest shape was forgone for a much more “plain” round contour. One could interpret this as a political statement of “no pretention branding”, or new world simplicity.
Four colors are part of the logo. Blue (dark- royal), red (Bologna – red), white and silver. Aside from the silver the three colors are an echo of the Bologna Coat of Arms (COA), and have been chosen by virtue of using the COA in the logo as a dominating feature. The silver is used for lettering and separation propose, and in a way is a “technical” color vs. the “lively” colors of the COA. The general impression of the logo color layout is a dark outside over a slightly more colorful and light center. The logo is unusually sparse in color, and compared to most sport brands, feels almost as if the designers eschewed posterity for simplicity and propose, keeping consistent with the choice of shape.
The Topography of the emblem, setting a very simple design language: information on the outer section, a clean break and the heart of the enterprise, the city of Bologna in the center. The three main sections: The outer circle, a thin separation line and the inner section dominated by the Coat of Arms, all work to create a practical yet easy to decipher logo. Technical in nature, the outer circle contains only written components (in the very early emblem it contained a representation of a Gear Sprocket). This is the information section containing brand name, location and association. Next, the separation circle line, stands to break the contrast of the dark outer section with the silver inner section, easing the transition to the eye. The inner COA section contains color and mystic it is a silver filled circle with an embossed Bologna Coat of Arms (see below).
The OSCA logo is echoes the minimalist design of the original 1926 Maserati logo (designed by Mario Maserati. Like in the OSCA design, In the original Maserati logo a city of Bologna symbol (the Trident) was placed in the center of the emblem in a highly functional (square in this case) design. The inner COA section contains colour and mystery, it is a silver filled circle with an embossed Bologna Coat of Arms (see below).
Designed by Heinz Keune and released by Schelter & Giesecke in 1903, the logo used is the Gallico family of fonts (as Serie Mercurio). Looking slightly aged, and definitely not “industrial” the logo font remains a mystery why it was chosen. Not entirely conflicting with the feel of the logo overall, the font remains somewhat inconsistent, with a no-frills logo. In fact, the Gallico font was not a popular choice at the time, probably pointing out to a personal choice by the brothers rather than a “brand language” messaging.
The OSCA acronym (O.S.C.A. to be exact) is clearly largest font in the logo representing the importance of the brand name, above all.
A slightly smaller font is used for the MASERATI name. Prominently displayed and the pride of the family, the name is displayed centrally and opposite the brand name, as if to say, we are OSCA-Maserati! The Maserati name- by this time world famous – is used to establish a linkage between the otherwise generic-sounding brand name OSCA with the tradition and prestige of the Maserati family.
Smallest font in the logo is used for noting that the enterprise is an effort of the three brothers by using the Italian word “FRATELLI” (meaning “brothers”). The location of the OSCA factory is proudly displayed as “BOLOGNA”. Bologna represents pride of place and association, it is clear that the Maserati bothers were truly proud Bologense. This could be also a slight rub at the Maserati car company which although was established in Bologna by the four Maserati brothers, the factory moved to neighboring Modena in 1937, an almost offensive act in the eyes of the brothers. Thus they made a point of establishing OSCA back in their hometown of Bologna, and were immensely proud of that fact. The City’s name (and COA) features prominently in the logo as if to say: True Maserati race cars are made only in Bologna!
The coat of arms of the Italian city of Bologona (Emilia-Romagna) consists of an oval shield divided into four parts, two containing a red cross on a white background (the city's arms), surmounted by a 'Capo d'Angiò' and two containing 'LIBERTAS' (liberty) in gold letters on a blue background (the people's arms). A simplified version of the COA was used in the OSCA logo centre negating the Libertas writing - Gold being the colour of nobility and wealth, was not used by the Maserati brothers - ever. The otherwise simple OSCA logo gains in complexity when using the COA in its centre, creating a need for delicate and minimalist graphics particularly when drafting the Capo d’Angio. This complexity adds to the mythical qualities of the OSCA logo.
This logo was briefly used at outset of the enterprise until sometime in late 1949, mounted on OSCA cars (MT4 chassis 1101-1110). By late 1949, this logo was replaced by the design that has become the most commonly associated OSCA logo. The early design did not use the name Maserati, instead creating a slightly more elaborate logo with the sprocket graphics, replacing instead of the placement of the racing winner laurels.
The apparent Logic behind using the Sprocket in a such prominent role could be many folds but summarized as:
This emblem ceased to be used once the MT4 model became a true winner at the circuits and was replaced with the Maserati themed emblem below.
Oddly, the early logo continues to sporadically appear in some OSCA letterhead and other official documents well into 1957. It remains a mystery as to why would the outdated logo be used in official correspondence almost a decade after its obsolescence.
Beginning in late 1949 and lasting through its halcyon years, this logo design (analyzed above), is considered the most recognized of the logo iterations. In fact, it continued to adorn the nose badge of all OSCA products until the company’s demise, becoming an omnipresent feature everywhere the OSCA cars went.
Oddly enough the terms of the sale contract with Orsi were never clearly disclosed, so the use of the name “Maserati” appearing in such prominence on the emblem, and replacing the early sprocket design, must have necessitated the pre-approval of the Orsi family, or the expiration of terms in the sales contract.
The final version of the logo appears rarely and only in the 1600GT/GTV/GTS series of cars, late in the company’s production life. It features a bold move to position the Maserati name at the top location and by virtue of the font size, it becomes the most prominent feature of the logo. In addition, the direction of the writing “FRATELLI” and “BOLOGNA” changed directions, in a dramatic reworking of the logo. Replacing the white background with silver, created a slightly less visually appealing logo.
This logo was placed inside the interior of the GT series cars, mainly embossed on the gauges and steering wheel horn button. Note that the outside emblem of the 1600GT series still had the standard OSCA logo used since 1949.
Some late official OSCA letterhead contained this logo, starting in early 1961, signaling that this branding shift was firm wide and not only relegated to interior design on the GT cars.