When it comes to denoting the personality of a brand, few things are as important as an automaker’s design language. Take Hyundai, for example: prior to its fluidic sculpture design, few buyers shopped Hyundai on looks alone.

There are plenty of examples throughout history, ranging from Cadillac’s outlandishly oversized tailfins and “rocket exhaust” taillamps to BMW’s “Hofmeister kink” in the C-pillar and kidney grilles. A design language is necessary to define a brand and make it rise above the sea of competitors in its market segment.

Sometimes, that language doesn’t translate well to customers, and a good example is the waterfall grille used by Lincoln on the 2010-2012 MKZ. While the design was certainly bold, the vertical bars of the grille seemed to polarize customers into “love it” and “hate it” camps.

When you’re trying to re-establish a brand’s identity, having customers who hate the design of your highest volume sedan isn’t a good thing. Enter Max Wolff, Lincoln’s newest designer and the architect of the revised grille on the 2013 Lincoln MKZ.

Like the previous “waterfall” grille, Wolff’s new horizontal-bar “eagle wing” grille has its detractors, too. It’s flashy, especially clad in acres of chrome, but it does give the new MKZ a more modern look than its predecessor. That doesn’t mean we can expect to see it on every new Lincoln model.

Automotive News (subscription required) quotes J Mays, Ford’s group vice president of design as saying, “We haven't made an announcement that every single car within the lineup is going to have the same grille bars. We needed with the MKZ to signal a new generation of Lincolns.”

Mays doesn’t want Lincoln to fall into BMW’s or Audi’s trap, where every vehicle must come with a resized grille in the same shape and style. While admitting that there is “nothing wrong with that strategy,” Mays clarified that it isn’t the right strategy for the Lincoln brand.

Where that leaves the design language of Ford’s luxury brand has yet to be determined. In his own words, Mays describes the 2013 Lincoln MKZ as “the first car of what will be a pretty long year journey of Lincolns.” All of which may or may not look like the pioneering MKZ.