Parallel to the music and their image, logos have the ability to define a band and what they stand for. A good, solid logo gives fans something to respond to and allows the band to promote their visual identity. Finding ourselves at the intersection of art and music, we’ve handpicked 10 of the most recognizable band logos from the ’60s right through to the present day. Shedding a light on who designed them, what they symbolize, and what the inspiration behind them was. Our list below is in chronological order of when the artists officially became active.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous of them all, the Stones’ logo was created in 1971 by Royal College of Art student John Pasche. Inspiration behind the logo was none other than Jagger himself, with Pasche claiming that Jagger’s mouth was the first thing you noticed about him. Pasche was also given an image of the Hindu goddess Kali by Jagger before he started sketching. Originally featured on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album, the tongue and lip image “represents the band’s anti-authoritarian attitude and the obvious sexual connotations.” The art student was paid just £50 for his work – followed by another £200 in 1972.
Created by Raymond Pettibon, the brother of the the band’s founder Greg Ginn, in 1978, Black Flag’s trademark logo with its four black bars is poignantly simple and effective. Representing both a waving flag and prison bars, Pettibon has stated that the design stands for anarchy and the cult band’s readiness to build a reputation. Over the years, the iconic design has found itself tattooed on adoring fans, including Dave Grohl who attempted to tattoo the logo on his arm when he was 12 but gave up after three bars due to the pain.
In the early ’90s, Prince dropped his name and started going by an unpronounceable symbol mainly to piss off his label at the time, while verbally and in the press he became The Artist Formerly Known As Prince or TAFKAP. Designed by the artist himself, the “Love Symbol” is a combination of the traditional male (♂) and female (♀) glyphs and is depicted on the 1992 album of the same name. Custom-made guitars also took the symbol’s shape. The symbol represents everything we love about the 5′ 2″-musician: unabashed sex appeal, vigor and confidence.
The solid typography and three-part colorway of Run-D.M.C‘s logo is undeniably one of music’s most prolific. The artists broke barriers that musicians still continue to benefit from today, managing to become one of the only bands to have their design featured on a pair of adidas sneakers. Despite the ubiquity of it, there’s been a lot of confusion regarding its design. Graffiti artist turned designer Cey Adams is often credited accidentally as he was responsible for the hand-lettering on Run-D.M.C’s self-titled debut. The truth is, Stephanie Nash is the brains behind the bold logo. An Ashley Newton, then Head of A&R at Island Records, commissioned Nash, who never actually expected any individual recognition for her work. She’s stated that she was inspired by rap music itself: she found Run-D.M.C’s music “visually typographic.” Realising that rap music consisted of “large, meaningful, hard-hitting words filled with such power,” it was unlike anything she’d ever heard before. Nash chose Franklin Gothic as the font as it was, “tough and forthright without being old-fashion or faddish. It’s a solid, good, no-nonsense font.” Some thirty years later, the timeless design continues to adorn the clothing of fans – and non-fans – worldwide.
2014 marks 20 years since Kurt Cobain’s death, and the conspiracy theories are as alive as ever. No surprises then that there’s various stories behind the inspiration of their logo as well. The most common being that Cobain was inspired by a strip club in Seattle called “Lusty Lady,” the other is that it’s his take on the Acid House logo. Some also claim it’s his drawing of Axl Rose; others believe it’s the singer’s interpretation of the faces in the crowd when he’s on stage – our personal favorite. The logo was realized on the wall of an apartment Cobain was staying in and made its first public appearance on the Nevermind release party flyer in September 1991.
Following the news of Wu-Tang’s “single-sale collector’s item,” it’s as good a time as any to revisit the birth of their iconic W logo. Created by producer DJ Allah Mathematics, the producer recalls wanting “a symbol that people are going to remember.” What was created in a single night after “working construction in the city” has become the most recognizable logo in hip-hop culture. In keeping with the chaotic cohesion of the Staten Island collective, the logo has also proven itself to be alphabetically versatile. We’ve seen GZA switch up the W for a “G”, Method Man and Masta Killa turned it to an “M” and “K” respectively, and it’s even been changed to a rather questionable “INS” and E” for Inspectah Deck and a “U” for U-God.
A kaleidoscope of exceptionally crafted, high-tech helmets and this bold, punk-
patch logo: that pretty much covers the extent of what the French duo have willingly divulged of their visual identity. As Thomas Bangalter has stated, the logo is intrinsic to their enigmatic ethos: “To us, the Daft Punk logo should be the star – the concept is to keep us more low-profile than the music itself.” Designed by band member Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the logo has seen a number of variations in color and design.
For one reason or another, the noughties saw the demise of the band logo: fans didn’t want to plaster band memorabilia on their belongings and bands weren’t delivering anything that was plaster-worthy. For the French electronic duo to then pick a symbol as universal as the cross and simultaneously make the band logo cool again speaks volumes. Inspiration behind the logo, as stated by Gaspard Augé, is “that a music venue is like a church in that everyone is gathering together and focusing on one point.”
Odd Future (OFWGK†Δ)
It might be the young ‘un on our list, but this sticky, colorful logo is instantly recognizable. In terms of branding and band identity, Odd Future has ticked all the right boxes: 1. the long name, which not only lends itself to a number of abbreviations but is also stylized to include those pesky symbols, †Δ, and 2. the cartoon-like designs that epitomize the collective characters in a way that’s almost unprecedented.
Track “Oldie” features Tyler shedding some light on the donut design: “Um, I was 15 when I first drew that donut /5 years later, for our label yea we own it.” A brilliant blur of menace and humor surrounds this notorious rap group, and that’s certainly in part due to the ubiquitous logo that has found itself adorning their first album and everything from socks to skateboards.
Alt-J’s logo catapults this list forward to the present age of the Internet. Naming themselves after the uppercase Latin symbol delta, the band members recognize that their unusual choice of moniker needs a little explaining: the ∆ is achieved by holding the “alt” and “J” keys on a Mac keyboard. The inspiration behind the logo comes from the development of the band, with member Gwil Sainsbury noting, “in mathematical equations it’s used to show change.”
Fans have certainly embraced the logo/band name equation by holding up their fingers in a triangle shape during live shows. The name throws a curveball at Google but in a world where everything is so accessible, there’s undoubtedly power in withholding information.
Written by Ange Suprowicz for Highsnobiety.com