Music

The Symbol Life

What's the deal with band logos? -- EW talks to two graphic designers about their take on logos from Him, Black Flag, and others

Etched on high school notebooks or inked onto a bicep, band logos achieve a kind of alchemy, transforming an aural experience into a visual shorthand. We collected a handful of logos — by Finnish metalheads HIM, hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics, punk legends Black Flag, and the Rolling Stones — and asked two accomplished graphic designers to chime in. So, Vaughan Oliver of pioneering U.K. label 4AD (Pixies) and David Carson of the ground-breaking '90s music magazine Ray Gun, do these logos rock?

ROLLING STONES

Vaughan Oliver
It's just too comical — it has nothing to do with the grit and dirt I associate with them. It stops me from listening to the Stones. They should change it.
David Carson
It has attitude, an obvious sexiness, and it's certainly identifiable. I like that it's fun and a little off-the-wall, though there's a disconnect with their music.

HIM

VO
The logo is coming from somewhere — it might be Celtic or occult — but there's no real imagination, there's no wit. It seems naive, like it's the first stage.
DC
It would make a very good T-shirt or sticker, which is one of the criteria of a good logo. I can see kids wanting this on their shirts. I'm curious to hear the music, but I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't like it.

HIEROGLYPHICS

VO
It looks like where I'd start, but it needs developing. But maybe that's where I go wrong — over-sophisticating things.
DC
I'd give it a B+ — real recognizable, real simple, and easy to reproduce. Though it's a little too polite; it might be a tiny bit too perfect. Is it more representative of the era than of the music?

BLACK FLAG

VO
There's always been something nihillstic about Black Flag, and what they've done looks like a local construction company. I love Black Flag.... It's the anti-logo; it's a no-logo logo.
DC I think it's wonderful. It was almost revolutionary at the time, back in the precomputer era. Talk about identifiable and simple. I'd say it's the most effective one.

Originally posted Feb 14, 2005 Published in issue #807 Feb 18, 2005 Order article reprints
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