Thursday, June 26, 2014

Milwaukee GI: Toyota Emblem

I'm starting another new series for Like-em. Milwaukee GI (Google Investigator) is part of a writing development idea for me to get better at doing online research and sharing my findings. Tonight I'm sitting on my back porch, listening to Wisconsin's next big thing in music, PHOX's debut album, and drinking a Smith and Forge Hard Cider. #HenryDavidThroeaustyle. 

As I'm imbibing (speaking of PHOX, the cider is more like juice) and pondering things to research, Toyota pops into my head. They have one of those logos that looks like it's supposed to mean something - clearly a man in a sombrero - but with some double meaning that the general public will never be able to decipher. 

For any of you who have ever wondered along with me what exactly Toyota is trying to tell us with their cryptic logo, you already know that this is a relatively easy mission for a GI. In less than three quarters of a second Google returned some 13,400,000 results, the first being a collection of amateur answers on rival Yahoo!'s Answer forum. 

That seemed like a natural lead to follow, it was almost too easy. The most "thumbs up-ed" answer indicates that "The current Toyota Mark consists of three ovals: the two perpendicular center ovals represent a relationship of mutual trust between the customer and Toyota. These ovals combine to symbolize the letter "T" for Toyota. The space in the background implies a global expansion of Toyota's technology and unlimited potential for the future."  

Not satisfied with such a quick answer for my first real GI investigation, I dug deeper. On Toyota's official website I learned that Toyota introduced the logo in 1989 to commemorate their 50th anniversary. The site confirmed Yahoo!'s answer and added further symbolism - it's not only a "T", but also a steering wheel. Clearly that was an add on by some high ranking executive who cheered gleefully at the cleverness of the steering wheel being incorporated and, in compliance of some 80s Japanese social rule, was never corrected. On a more serious note, Toyota also indicates that each circle uses a different brushstroke thickness which is a nod to a "brush" art known to Japanese culture. Now that's clever!

That prompted my first spin off GI mission - just seconds after my very first mission! "Brush" art seemed to most closely tie to Sumi-e. It's a form of art practiced all over Asia, but in Japan it's called Sumi-e or Ink Wash Painting. The key to Sumi-e is not to try to closely replicate the physical traits of the object, but the spiritual ones. Now we're learning boys and girls! Several sources noted how artists would spend significant time in mediation to prepare themselves to truly understand an object and its spirit before setting to work.

The rabbit hole goes deeper. Sumi-e uses sumi ink. Naturally! Sumi ink is made by a process that generational wine makers would appreciate. Made from soot of pine branches from select Japanese forests the process often includes a few "secret" steps that make an individual artist's sumi ink its own unique art. It's done at certain times of the year and includes purification and aging before the ink is ready to use. 

The work is fantastic. I'm including only Japanese work here as the style more closely relates to the original GI mission. Knowing the spiritual intent and preparation that goes into this art sucked me into a whirlwind when looking at some of these pieces. 

So there you have it. Toyota is significantly more creative that just throwing a dude in a sombrero on their cars and calling it good.

I learned something there. No I'm going to surf Google images for a while.