July 8, 2020

POSTED BY

Rafael Esquer

CATEGORY

The (Mostly) Unknown Designers Behind Famous Music Bands – Part III

new york branding sports graphic design firm

To continue with a look behind the logos of famous music bands, today we bring the punk attitude of Sex Pistols, the boldness of RUN DMC, the trippy playfulness of Nirvana and the energy of Metallica. Sex Pistols I’ve been fascinated with this logo and the overall aesthetics of the …

new york branding sports graphic design firm

To continue with a look behind the logos of famous music bands, today we bring the punk attitude of Sex Pistols, the boldness of RUN DMC, the trippy playfulness of Nirvana and the energy of Metallica.

Sex Pistols

new york branding sports graphic design firm

I’ve been fascinated with this logo and the overall aesthetics of the Sex Pistols since I first encountered it. I must admit that this kind of graphic design has been a great influence in my work and my approach. It looks fresh, spontaneous, playful, and expressive. What else can one ask of a piece of graphic design?

The designer is Jamie Reid, an English artist who has been creating extraordinary work for more than five decades. His graphic work for the Sex Pistols in the mid to late seventies is what Reid is mostly known for. Legend has it that the band’s late manager Malcolm McClaren had one specific idea in mind, Never Mind the Bullocks had to look ugly. They came up with the ugliest cover they could think of, a cover that in a sense would attack the idea of ‘super-graphics,’ the popular trend in graphic design at the time. His mind was set on making ugliness beautiful.

They found Jaime Read because for a few years prior to this job, he had been running an anarchist printing press. The style of punk came directly from that. The year was 1976, little did he knew that with the cover design for Never Mind the Bullocks, he would visualize the punk movement forever.

new york branding sports graphic design firm

Nirvana

new york branding sports graphic design firm
The iconic band of Kurt Cobain that was at the forefront of the 90s grunge movement created a legacy of music, culture, and fashion. Connecting the dots is a logo that has become part of our visual culture for its disarming charm and simplicity. But the origin of the bright yellow on a black background logo that we see on the front of millions of t-shirts is a mystery to this day.

The logo with the face that playfully sticks out a tongue and uses the letter “X” for each eye made its debut in 1991 on a poster promoting a party to release the band’s breakthrough album Nevermind. The closest we know of the origins of this logo is that it derived from the emblem of a former strip club in Seattle, Washington called The Lusty Lady. The club’s logo had a strong resemblance to Nirvana’s “smiley face.” This could be possible because the band originated in Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, a town just over 100 miles from Seattle.

new york branding sports graphic design firm

Metallica

new york branding sports graphic design firm
Metallica was formed in 1983 after Lars Ulrich placed an ad in a Los Angeles Newspaper looking for musicians to form a band that would compete with legends such as Diamond Head and Iron Maiden. The investment paid off since that’s how Lars Ulrich met James Hetfield and the story of one of the most successful modern bands started.

The band has had four different logos throughout the years, yet the most famous version is the original. Like the logos of many famous bands, the Metallica logo was designed by a member, in this case the guitarist, James Hetfield. The logo is set on an extra-bold sans serif typeface, except for the “T” and “A” that were modified to achieve a tight kerning for bigger visual impact. The first and last letters “M” and “A” were modified by adding a sharp flashlight on each end.

The logo was first introduced in the cover of the Kill ‘Em All album and stayed untouched for over 10 years.

new york branding sports graphic design firm

Run-DMC

new york branding sports graphic design firm
Everybody knows this logo even though very few people know what Run DMC actually means. The group’s name uses Joseph Simmons’s DJ name, DJ Run combined with the initials from Darryl McDaniel’s name. DMC also stands for “Devastating Mic Controller.”

The logo is very simple and has become an iconic visual mark famous around the world. It’s made of six bold letters set in Franklyn Gothic Heavy. It was designed by Stephanie Nash, who at the time was an in-house designer for Island Records. It was commissioned by Ashley Newtown who was the head of A&R at the time. The bold logo was seen for the first time in 1996 on the cover of their singe My Adidas off their album Raising Hell. Curiously, it was used only on a single never as a cover for a full album. Raising Hell planted Run-DMC firmly into the mainstream. It is the first rap album to hit #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart!

“At the time we had a limited number of fonts available, and Franklin Gothic was ‘tough’ and forthright without being old-fashioned or faddish. [It’s a] good, solid, no-nonsense font. Run-DMC’s name helped in having two sets of three letters.” Said the designer in speaking with design writer and strategist Sue Apfelbaum.

new york branding sports graphic design firm

To learn more about the design behind famous rock bands logos, check out Part I and Part II.