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.
Similar to SpaceX, the T is like a cross section of an electric motor, just as the X is like a rocket trajectory
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 19, 2017
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.