What makes a great band logo is a topic that's been thrown around in many a music marketing meeting. Is it the font that’s instantly eye catching? Is it the colourway or concept? Or does it boil down to how effective a logo is at truly representing the band or artist in question?
There are a multitude of expertly constructed band logos out there, designed by leading graphic design artists. However, some of the most iconic and recognisable logos in the music industry are the ones that are simple in execution and to-the-point.
When you're coming up with an idea for your band's logo, you'll need to consider how you want to come across. What do you want your band (or artist) image to say about you and your music? Remember, anything visual you put out there is an extension of your identity. So, it might not be the best idea to develop a black metal, chunky typeface for group that sounds like Maroon 5 (unless the tongue is deliberately – and firmly – in cheek).
To get started, have a concept in mind, something that is at the heart of your music that serves as a catalyst for the design. For example, when I designed some t-shirts for Rabea Massaad, premier shredder, social influencer and WaterBear guitar tutor, I ran through themes close to his heart, as well as, his music.
Rabea has a deep love for Japan and Japanese culture, so I started with the idea of having his name in Japanese. He is also born in the Year of the Dragon, so I created my own adaptation of this iconic creature incorporating a traditional style with a modern twist.
Although, these two designs are very different visually – one simple and monochromatic, the other colourful and detailed – both illustrate how looking into your subject can inspire ideas. You can see how they turned out here.
Let’s look at some examples of great band logos that have stood the test of time.
Take the Rolling Stones ‘Hot Lips’ image; probably one of the most famous music logos ever.
Designed in 1969 by art student John Pasche, the idea was to create something that conjured up the spirit of the Hindu Goddess Kali. The artist found inspiration in the feature of the mouth and charisma of band leader, Mick Jagger.
It’s an iconic symbol that represents the band without ever needing their name attached to it. Of course, it also helps that the Stones are pretty much the most famous band on the planet. But, they would have had their name with 'the mouth' to begin with as its synonymous with their on-stage performance. Due to their success and the power of artist imagery, that logo has forever been inked on to the arm of music history.
Another logo favourite is that of 80s hardcore punk band, Black Flag. It is super simple, featuring four black bars in between the font and designed to represent movement of a flag, as well as the four band members. It was created by Raymond Pettibon, brother of the band’s founding member and guitarist Greg Ginn. Pettibon was not an artist, he just drew a simple image for his brother that had meaning and understanding of the band and their music. It's a powerful image and it helped put the band firmly on the map. Consequently, it went on to be copied, parodied and homaged in popular culture from then on.
So, where do you start in terms of creating an impactful logo?
Think about the imagery and logos you like. They don’t have to be music related, just something that speaks to you personally and professionally (or catches your eye). Compile these images on to a mood board so you can get an overview of the kind of aesthetic you are aiming for. Your artist personality should be looking back at you from the page.
PINTEREST is great (and free) platform to create a mood board for this kind of activity.
Look at fonts you like from bands or artists you are inspired by, as well as other sources like brands or film posters. A good resource for visualising typefaces is Google Fonts. Just type in the name of your band, flick through the different types of fonts and see which one 'comes to life'.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Your logo will hopefully be displayed 30 feet high behind you on the Pyramid stage, but it should also work scaled down, like on a smartphone. Keep this in mind when creating the design.
Once you have decided on your image and/or font, experiment with design software. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but these can be pricey so here are some free online alternatives:
Now is the time to finalise your logo concept with a graphic designer. Chances are, you may have reached as far as your skills will allow. Seek out an Illustrator or Graphic Designer to put the finishing touches to your band logo. You have already done most of the hard graft yourself so that should save you some money (and time).
Don’t be daunted by the task of getting your logo perfect on first go. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It may take a few iterations (or more). Your band logo can evolve with your music. Take my band, for example, see how our logo has subtle differences on each album we’ve released. The bones of the concept remain consistent throughout .