As an entertainment exec with on-going projects that straddle production, distribution, and branding—I’m always taken by how often entertainment properties (music, film, TV, event) seem to forego basic marketing concepts. This post isn’t going to delve into deep strategy—but it will ‘shine a light’ on some awesome band logos! Here are my 20 favorite band logos—along with a couple honorable mentions. Enjoy.
Iron Maiden: Likely inspired by the movie poster for 1976’s ‘The Man To Fell To Earth’, the classic band logo was supposedly created by bassist Steve Harris and has been used since the band’s 1979 debut. Other reports credit the logo to British artist Derek Riggs who is best known for creating the legendary mascot Eddie—and countless album covers.
Metallica: Guitarist James Hetfield created this piece of rock history in the 80s. It’s simplicity, aggressiveness, and balance make it a near perfect rock n’ roll logo. Plus it’s got lightening bolts, which are basically the “more cowbell” of rock logo design. Hetfield also created the band’s 1996 version as well the band’s ninja star marks. Ninja stars and lightening bolts. Awesome.
ᗅᗺᗷᗅ: The official logo was designed by Rune Söderqvist, and appeared for the first time on ‘Dancing Queen’ in 1976. Since then, it’s appeared on every album and single. There are conflicting reports on the origin of the backwards B but regardless ‘Mama Mia’ fans can happily recreate it by using the bold version of the News Gothic typeface.
The Grateful Dead: The Dead’s logo was designed by Owsley Stanley and rendered by Bob Thomas. Amongst the deadheads, this mark is best known as the ‘Steal your Face’ logo, which is named after the band’s 1976 live album of the same name. That said, the mark it first appeared on the cover of ‘History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One’ from 1973.
Aerosmith: Guitarist Raymond Tabano only played with the band until 1971—but certainly his mark by designing one of the most recognized band logos in rock history. First seen on the 1974 album ‘Get Your Wings’ it continues to represent the band to this day.
Bauhaus: This one may not count. The Bauhaus logo was originally designed by Oskar Schlemmer in 1922 for the Bauhaus school in Germany. Can the band get credit for simply adopting it as their own? This entire list isn’t all that serious—so why not?
Black Flag: This logo was designed by American artist Raymond Pettibon (aka Raymond Ginn) who happens to be the brother of Black Flag guitarist/founder Greg Ginn around 1977. Pettibon also named the band (previously called Panic) which was to represent opposite of a white flag of surrender.
The Cramps: Part punk, part rockabilly, and possibly the creators of Psychobilly—the wackadoos known as The Cramps cemented their place in retro-rock kitsch culture when frontman Lux Interior based the band’s logo from EC Comics’ title ‘Tales From the Crypt.’
The French duo’s logo is as enigmatic as the band itself. Thomas Bangalter (one half the duo) once explained “To us, the Daft Punk logo should be the star – the concept is to keep us more low-profile than the music itself.” We’re unsure of the logo’s origin, but electronic fans will be happy to know a font was created called Daft Font (credit to MatreroG) which is pretty damn close!
The Scissor Sisters’ logo was designed by the band’s guitarist Scott “Babydaddy” Hoffman in 2001 immediately after frontman/singer Jake Shears came up with the band name—which happens to be a slang expression for lesbians. Babydaddy recalls “He told it to me, and I made the logo the next day” by merging the two everyday images.
PRINCE RIP. In the world of merging two familiar images to create a new mark—an honorable mention must be given to Prince for his 1993 unpronounceable logo – known as the “Love Symbol” – which incorporates the images for Mars (male) and Venus (female). Extra points because the Purple one has turned this into some very cool custom guitars
NYC thrash legends Anthrax have stood the test of time—as has their aggressive angular logo. The logo, as well as the band’s first album cover (1983’s ‘Fistful of Metal’) were designed by Kent Joshpe. The band’s creative direction was simple—make it feel like a guy’s face was being punched through from the back of his head. Damn Daniel! Over the years, their pointy logo has been on everything from baseball caps to wristbands to the all important measure of success—painted denim jackets.
The Nine Inch Nails logo was designed in 1989 by Trent Reznor and Gary Talpas, who worked as art director on albums through 1997. The type treatment was inspired by the sleeve of Talking Heads’ ‘Remain In Light’ album which also featured bold type—but flopped the A’s in a similar fashion to the flopped N of the NIN logo. The logo first appeared within the music video for Nine Inch Nails’ debut single, “Down in It.”
In the early 70s everything about this band was split. In fact, in a Creem magazine poll, The New York Dolls were elected both best and worst new group of 1973. They were pre-punk, pre-glam, and 40 years later they are recognized as one of the most influential band’s of all time. Their smudged lipstick logo led the charge first appearing on their self-titled debut.
MTB: It’s been with the band since 1971—and GRAMMY® Magazine featured it as one of the ten most distinctive artist logos that “need no introduction” along with some others from my list here.
Allman Brothers Band While honoring this countrified (or country fried?) type-driven style, it’s hard to completely ignore the also-famous logo for The Allman Brothers Band. But for readability and impact—we went with MTB as our first choice.
Contrary to popular belief, this pop art-inspired logo has actually never appeared on an album by The Who. It was designed by Brian Pike in 1964 for a poster advertising the group’s gig at London’s Marquee club. It subsequently found its way onto thousands of pins, badges, t-shirts, notebooks, and denim jackets becoming a key element of mod iconography.
KISS’ first lead guitarist, Ace Frehley, came up with the famous logo which first appeared on the band’s second album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’ in 1974. What’s the key to the logo success? You got it, lightening bolts! Interestingly, the German version of the KISS logo is differently because the two S lightening bolts too closely resemble the Nazi SS symbol with is illegal to depict in Germany. Kinda hard to have an issue with this modification.
AC/DC’s logo was designed by Atlantic Records creative art director Bob Defrin and the now legendary logo made its debut on the international edition of ‘Let There Be Rock.’ Hmmm… it’s actually one of four logos on this top 20 list to feature lightening bolts. Got that young bands? When in doubt, add lightening bolts. And with this in our #4 spot, Axl sort of made our list. Sort of.
John Lydon came up for the idea for this logo for his post-Sex Pistols band, Public Image Ltd., and wanted it to resemble an aspirin—get it? The artist he commissioned to design the logo was Dennis Morris, who had previously been the Sex Pistols’ official photographer.
Sex Pistols Honorable mention should go to Jamie Reid for designing the Sex Pistols logo in 1977. The Sex Pistols logo didn’t make this list because although I love Lydon—I just couldn’t give him two logos on the same list. Piss off.
The Van Halen mark is probably the most scribbled band logo of all time on school lockers, desks, and notebooks! Designed by Dave Bhang, The stylized VH logo is an example of formal design perfection – although, interestingly, they changed its wings from angular to curvy to announce the arrival of Sammy Hagar on ‘5150’ in 1986. In retrospect… I really like Sammy.
No surprise here. But it’s freaking undeniable. The Rolling Stones’ world-famous logo was designed by art student John Pasche in 1970—and on the ‘Sticky Fingers’ album in 1971. Poor Pasche was paid just £250 over a period of two years for his work. Supposedly, the logo was equally inspired by the mouths of both Mick Jagger and the Hindu goddess Kali. Sorry Miss P, but personally, I’d rather make out with Kali.