So you’ve started a rock band, you’ve mastered a few songs, you’ve got your image down and now the time has come to demonstrate what your group is capable of on tour.
Unless you have a recognisable logo attached to your band’s merchandise and flyers however, you might as well stay at home and go for that perfect score on Guitar Hero because no one is going to remember you the morning after your set!
Sure, you can blame the copious alcoholic beverages at the bar for your audiences’ slippery minds but it makes sense to get the branding side to your musical endeavours correct from the offset.
For some inspiration, check out six of the very best band logos of all time below:
Vocalist Ville Valo for the band HIM – or His Infernal Majesty – has often joked that his group has become better known for its logo (that he designed on his 20th birthday) than the music that they create. For fans of the Finnish ballad-meets-metal rock outfit though, the symbol perfectly connotes the “love metal” sound of the band. For critics, the heart-meets-pentagram symbol is representational of the accessibility of the band for non-heavy metal aficionados.
The logo is etched on many regular and celebrity fans of the band, including LA tattooist Kat Von D, keyboardist for the metal band Bleeding Through (Marta Peterson) and Jackass/professional skateboarder Bam Margera. Valo shares the distribution licence for the heartagram image with his good friend Margera who has released both skate decks and shoes emblazoned with the logo. This often sees the heartagram mistakenly understood as belonging to Margera alone.
Whether you like the band or not, you have to admit that HIM’s logo – whilst simplistic – is genius.
Rolling Stones: Tongue and Lip
Mick Jagger was left wholly unimpressed by the logo suggestions made by the bands’ label Decca Records in 1971 and so headed to the Brighton College of Art to seek a new designer. Art graduate and designer John Pasche is the man responsible for Rolling Stones’ tongue and lip logo which first appeared on the blues-rock bands’ 1971 Sticky Fingers album.
The design has appeared on endless fashion garments over the years and these have been sported by many celebrities who likely wouldn’t know anything about the band beyond their hit song ‘Paint it Black.’ Whilst this fact is a shame, it is indicative of just how classic the pop art design is. So symbolic of rock n’ roll is the logo that Pache’s original artwork is now displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art in London. The museum bid a whopping $92,500 via a phone auction for this privilege.
The Misfits skull logo was inspired by a Stan Lee comic book drawing which accompanied the 1946 film serial The Crimson Ghost. Singer Glenn Danzig used a Xerox machine to create his higher contrast version of the ghost’s face. The skeletal character first appeared on the horror-punks’ single ‘Horror Business’ in 1979 and subsequently became a mascot for the band. Eventually the face alone became the bands’ logo and today it adorns everything from belt buckles, to shoes, to lunchboxes and more.
The Crimson Ghost is not the only comic to have inspired Misfits’ artwork; the cover for their album Die Die My Darling was borrowed from a 1950s horror comic called Chamber of Chills and the skull logo for the singers own, separate band – Danzig - strongly borrows from 1980s toy comic Crystar the Crystal Warrior.
Nine Inch Nails: NIN
The logo for the industrial rock/metal outfit Nine Inch Nails was a design collaboration between (largely solo) band member Trent Reznor and art director/photographer Gary Talpas who also designed the CD inlays for several NIN records before the year of 2007, as well as Marilyn Manson’s Smells like Children EP. The font for the NIN logo was inspired by the Talking Heads album Remain in Light.
This ambigram (also known as an inversion or flipscript) logo makes the list due to its simplicity and the fact that the logo is highly recognisable, despite the fact that Reznor has previously admitted that there is little meaning behind the name chosen for his musical project, other than the fact that Nine Inch Nails “abbreviated easily.”
If you want to connote just how powerful your thrash-metal band is, you could do worse than to design your logo to resemble lightning! Metallica’s logo was first sketched by the bands’ guitarist and lead vocalist James Hetfield years before the band managed to secure worldwide fame. Hetfield is also the man behind the variants of the spiky ended logo which have appeared on numerous Metallica releases and merchandise over the past three decades.
The original logo design first appeared on a set of business cards designed and printed by Hetfield in the early 80s which the singer was using to try and secure gigs for the band. Underneath the logo on these cards were the words “Power Metal”; a description that drummer Lars Ulrich took an instant disliking to. However, it would seem that the logo packed enough of a punch to make this description forgivable in the eyes of club owners and promoters since it wasn’t long before the band had bookings rolling in.