Get to know the history of the Orbea logo!

18 May 2017

  • road
  • Since 1840

Published by Orbea

The history of our logo is the history of how we have changed. Throughout our 177-year history, each one of our logos marked an important milestone and evolutionary step on our timeline: Would you like to review them with us?

Our logo evolved over three centuries, reflecting the needs of the times and the values that define us: our vocation for innovation, our manufacturing soul, and our firm commitment to testing our designs at the most important competitions in the world, so we can offer you the best bicycles.

It also enabled the public to instantly recognise and be moved by us during some of the most iconic victories by our athletes and teams: Perico's Vuelta in 1985, our stage triumphs in the Tour de France with Euskaltel Euskadi, the double Olympic gold in Peking, the World Championships with Catharine Pendrel or the Ironman records set by Andrew Starykowicz.

Change of cycle

Our early logos, with crossed pistols in the purest Western style, represented our original activity and those who performed it: the Orbea brothers. Of course, when we entered the bicycle sector in the 1930s we needed a new identity to signal our change of activity. This is the significance of our next logos and the word “Cycles”.

But, as with other logos of the period - see those of Ford, Fiat or Coca Cola - they where more factory emblems than logos as we know them today. It was necessary to reduce the logo down to the bare essentials, the brand name. That was where our next logo came from, in Opel style. An emblematic logo on account of it accompanying the mythical advertising caravan that preceded cyclists during the Spanish Vuelta in the 1950s-1960s.

At the end of the 1960s, Orbea experienced a serious crisis that led us to suspend payments in 1969. The workers then took the reins of the company and managed to keep the brand alive by turning the business into a cooperative. This change in direction was reflected in different graphical symbols of the logos that identified us during the 1970s.

The logos of the 1980s

There was a time when the world was not dominated by Marketing Departments; everything was "a bit more casual". At the time - as recounted by Orbea's industrial manager, Miguel Ángel Estandía - our salesman in France, Ángel Soria, would bring back a folder once a year with different design proposals that he presented at Orbea. Adding his ideas to those that emerged in Mallabia, at that time we gradually updated the image of our brand.

The unique esthetic style of the 80s and 90s was reflected in our next three logos. The first was a bit retro, while the lines of the second one were pure eighties style: both call to mind Orbea’s return to elite competition with that Seat Orbea ridden by Txomin Perurena (curiously our logo and that of Seat were very similar), a time when Perico Delgado, Marino Lejarreta and Peio Ruiz Cabestany also made a name for themselves.

The third was very short-lived, but is important nonetheless: near the end of the 80s, the boom in MTB bikes led us to seek a logo directly related to this discipline (whereby the A became a mountain and the O became a fork/suspension). In fact, it was  one of the first logos used by the mythical Orbea Racing Team, a team that dominated the national MTB scene in the 1990s with Jokin Muxika and Roberto Lezaun, and the international scene in the past decade with Julien Absalon, Iñaki Lejarreta and Jean-Christophe Péraud.

However, at a time when we started to glimpse our international expansion, the logo was “condemned to die” due to its legibility issues for non-Spanish speakers who, unless they were familiar with the “Orbea” brand, did not associate the mountain with the letter A, for example.

We wanted our technological leap with the Orca to be accompanied by a similar leap on the international stage, and the time had come to create a logo for the XX1 century.

Emblem of a transformation

That logo - the ‘Orbea’ brand in a new typeface crowned by an elipse - was born in the mid 1990s: its gestation, marking an inflection point in Orbea's trajectory, can be traced to Iñigo Zabala (LKS Diara Design). He helped us depict the innovative spirit present at our Mallabia factory, and in doing so sought inspiration in what we do best: our bikes.

One important aspect to consider when designing is the medium. We needed to find a format that worked well on a frame, to make it more visible during races such as the Tour, Vuelta or Giro, and in that sense I think we hit the nail on the head, we extended the typeface and added dynamism, and managed to notably improve its appearance on frames", he explains.

The combined typeface and symbol designed by Iñigo where effective and powerful; they worked great, to the extent that management at the time had no hesitation in selecting it: “If I am not mistaken, the then manager chose it in the corridor, in just one minute”, he recalls laughing.

The proof of its success was that it remained almost intact for over 15 years, and only underwent subtle changes to the colour of the symbol and the typeface, performed by an American design team. “They lightened the logo colours and added more dynamism to the typeface”, indicates Iñigo.

An emblem that will be forever ingrained in our memories thanks to it being worn by Samuel Sánchez and Julien Absalon in 2008 when they won their gold medals at the Peking Olympic Games.

A logo for the global era

So, if that logo worked, then why change it? The main reason was the emergence of new media and the need to use a typeface that would work on all of them (not easy), from a Twitter profile page to large event tarpaulins such as for Orbea Monegros, and not forgetting of course that diagonal bicycle tubing. A logo for the global era.

Therefore, in 2012 we embarked on our new logo project with the Brandsmith advertising agency and the Tres Tipos Gráficos design agency.

“We redrew the logo from scratch and improved its proportions, typeface, inclination, position, etc. The idea was to arrive at the essence of what is important in the Orbea logo: solidity, strength, dynamism and movement, and apply these to a logo that would work in different formats”, explains Nicolás Reyners, a designer at Tres Tipos Gráficos.

The previous Orbea logo contained two clear distinguishing aspects. On the one hand it had the O, that clearly recalled a wheel, and on the other there was the connection between the ‘e’ and the ‘a’, that highlighted the idea of “moving forwards”. This last aspect has been maintained and prioritised in the new version. However, “we rejected the O to arrive at a more global brand, one that speaks not just of product, and thereby removed an aspect that competed for attention. The new logo has the same character and strength as the previous version, but is more balanced, functional and legible”, states Nico.

On the other hand, and without abandoning the colour blue, that we continue to use with different media, we opted for the contrast of black against white to make the logo more powerful, emphatic and timeless.

By the time we had finished, we knew the logo was good and would serve Orbea for many years to come. For a designer, the privilege of working on a project such as this allows you to step back and consider that ‘Hey, our work is going to be in contact with users in dozens of countries every single day; on bicycles that will travel the entire globe’. And that makes you feel very proud”.


(Epi)logue: for those who are curious.

We’ve all surely had that experience: you start a project, you put your enthusiasm into it, you work hard…but in the end, the right circumstances do not come about for it to succeed as originally planned: in 2013, we started a joint reflection with designers Ronan Bariou, Alex Trueba and Timothee Durand, the goal of which was to create a new symbol that would express our values and roots.

We found inspiration in the form of the sea and the mountains in the Basque Country, in which we saw reflected our tenacity and resistance over more than 175 years. We also drew from the lines of our millenary artistic heritage, created by the brush and chisel of Basque artists Jorge de Oteiza and Eduardo Chillida in works like the Peine de los Vientos (Comb of the Wind), El Bosque Pintado (The Painted Forest), and especially the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu.

These forms blended together in a single piece we christened Leihoa (window): "It was a symbol of union between what Orbea perceived about its market and what the market perceived about Orbea," Ronan tells us. It is a symbol that reflects the place we come from, with the forms that define what we are and what we do, and that represents an open window to the future.

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