Rock-and-roll logos: Lesson in branding from your favorite bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s

In addition to stoned washed jeans and plain ol’ getting stoned, band logos were a huge part of ‘60s and ’70s culture. Printed on posters, t-shirts, and even tattooed on people’s skin, fans loved to sport the logos of their favorite musicians. An emblematic design was vital to establish a band’s image. We’ve analyzed our favorites to figure out how adopting the same elements of typography, iconography and graphic design can help your logos rock on.

The Doors

The Doors logo
Designer unknown

Considering Jim Morrison’s prophetic appreciation of words, it is no wonder The Doors’ logo depends on typography. The absence of an image brings all attention to the word “doors,” a name which philosophically alludes to Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception. The simple, bold geometric shapes, the reflective double o’s—which are also a clever allusion to literal doors—and solid white coloration add to the word mark’s loadedness. Lastly, the swirly font of “the” pays homage to the era’s psychedelia and is a telltale marker of the ‘60s. This small but important change in typeface serves to associate the band with a distinct style and time period, ensuring they don’t get lost in the expansive history of sound that we call music.

A typographic logo is great if you want the focus to be on the name of your brand. Be wary of font choice—a typeface should be memorable and also speak to the elements of your brand personality. Is your target audience the parents of small children? If so, perhaps stay away from a font that is heavy and loud. Sell subwoofers? Make it heavier and louder!

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
Designed by Storm Thorgerson

One of the most iconic images in the history of rock and roll, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album cover has become synonymous with the band’s image. Storm Thorgerson was given the difficult task of putting a face to one of the best albums Pink Floyd put out. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Thorgerson admitted Pink Floyd told him, “Do not harm our song. Do not murder our tune.” Luckily, Thorgerson’s abstract image was a success. It’s like a simplistic interpretation of one of Roger Dean’s or Salvador Dali’s otherworldly landscapes, which nicely compliments the galactic guitar solos and vibey ethereal lyrics of the album. The triangle can stand in for a myriad of spiritual meanings, and the rainbow spectrum creates depth within simplicity. The black background prevents the cover from being too overpowering. Overall I cannot think of a logo that is more emblematic of a band’s sound.

An artistic logo associates your company name with its values in a very refined, subtle way. But, just like with painting, it has to be done right. Find an artist whose style you respond to, and spend time making sure sure they understand your company vision. A thorough design brief is necessary to prevent your artistic logo from becoming a Picass-oh-no!

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones tongue logo
Designed by John Pasche

You’d be lying if you said you never owned a t-shirt, sticker, bag, or any other accessory with the infamous Rolling Stones’ tongue printed on it. This is the quintessential graphic band emblem and is probably more recognizable to today’s youth than the band’s actual music is. The best part about this logo is that it is easily adapted, like the versions with the British flag printed on the tongue. The malleability prevents the logo from getting stale and also gives the Stones more leeway to print different merchandise (which means more money for them).

An iconic logo like this definitely has the ability to increase marketability and visibility for your brand. Think about all the cool branded swag you could hand out at trade shows and events! The struggle is choosing an image. Legend has it designer John Pasche was inspired by Mick Jagger’s uncannily huge mouth when creating the Stones’ rebellious logo. Don’t want to flip off society? No worries—there are plenty of other icons that can work for your company. Find your version of the Jagger tongue by writing down all the words that represent your brand. After you choose the most evocative one, enlist the help of a kick-ass designer to make it your own. Maybe you can always get what you want…

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix face logo
Designer unknown

I bet you couldn’t pick out Brian Johnson or Syd Barrett in a crowd, but chances are if you know one face of the 1960s it’s that of Jimi Hendrix. His face was used on every single one of his album covers, and his pop art portrait has become one of the most reproduced images of a musician. Jimi stood for unique otherness, psychedelia, and unapologetic flamboyancy, which is captured perfectly through the designer’s treatment of his wild afro. Similar to the Stones’ rebellious tongue, Jimi’s unkempt afro breaks the unwritten rules and celebrates his identity, while his confident straight-forward gaze asserts his status as a major rock-and-roll icon.

Variations of this pop art-esque image were used in several of Jimi Hendrix’s album covers and concert posters. However, it seems nearly impossible to adapt this style for your business unless you have steez like Jimi, so maybe we should just keep this glorified in the archives for now.

Which rock and roll style will you adapt for your business? Let me know in the comments below!

The author

Brea Weinreb
Brea Weinreb

Brea is the Marketing Coordinator at 99designs. When she's not working you can find her painting in her art studio, reading a good poetry book, or drinking boba tea while dancing around in suede fringe culottes and pretending she is Jimi Hendrix (actually though).

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