The impala, a gentle, fleet-hoofed grazing animal from eastern Africa, has historically been associated with Chevrolet’s large, upper-level models. In the pantheon of instantly recognizable mammalian automotive badges, it sits with Ford’s Mustang and Jaguar’s leapers and growlers.
The latest embodiment of the beast, found on the 2014 Impala that is scheduled to have its debut this week at the New York auto show, is grafted on the sail, the rearmost roof pillar. The new badge was designed at General Motors’ brand identity and badging studio, headed by Anne-Marie LaVerge-Webb.
Joann Kallio, who is credited with the latest badge, has been a graphic designer at G.M. for more than 25 years and is the lead creative designer on Chevrolet global badging. Like many a bird or beast, the creature caught in midflight was intended to embody speed and grace in movement, Ms. Kallio said in a telephone interview.
“The 2014 leaping Impala emblem is an evolution,” she said. We took what was beautiful in the previous badge, and built on it.”
The impala was first used in 1958, appearing above crossed flags on the rear quarter panel. From 1962 to1967, Chevrolet positioned it on either the front fender or rear quarter panel, surrounded by a circle. From 1968 to 1985, the mammal disappeared from the car’sexterior in favor of script, although the silhouetted creature appeared on interior trim items like the horn button.
The Impala was dropped from Chevrolet’s line in the mid-’80s and did not return until the 1994 Impala SS, a hotted-up version of the bulbous Caprice fitted with an engine borrowed from the Corvette. The 1994-96 Impala SS displayed the animal over an oval. Recent Impalas display an evolution of this design.
John Cafaro, the design director for the 2014 car, requested a badge that would complement the new car’s exterior. “He wanted the emblem to be elegant, muscular and have crispness,” Ms. Kallio said. “We kept the stylized, rather than literal, interpretation of the animal, and made the Impala more muscular.” She said the musculature was most evident in the shoulder and lower body, as well as in the front leg and rear knee.
The design began with a flat outline, which defined the angles of the badge. Working in the design application Alias, Richard Stafford, a sculptor, produced the digital model. It was rendered by stereolithography into a physical model, which was then chrome-plated to demonstrate how the light would play on it — a critical factor, Ms. Kallio said.
Finally, the team had the logo milled out of aluminum and polished.
The emblem appears on both the left and right sides of the vehicle. A version of the impala is also stamped on the car’s aluminum doorsill plates, and its form appears on owner’s manuals, embroidered badges and floor mats. An impala-shaped air freshener seems to be the only application not yet explored, at least officially, by G.M.
In a chronological lineup of the entire herd, the evolution is clear. The earliest one had a rough, almost petroglyph quality to it, while the animal of the ’90s was fuller and appeared to bear the influence of Art Deco-era sculptors like Paul Manship. Compared with its immediate predecessor, the new badge appears more rounded, the breast given a dramatic curve and the bends of knees and hocks made more angular.
The result may strike some eyes as being closer to art than nature, with the representation in danger of suggesting a jackrabbit. Its rear end vaguely evokes a greyhound, with a doglike, stubby tail. The head and horn, rendered as a single piece, suggest a pen stroke of silver, whereas the original design is closer to raw calligraphy.