Rock logos. They are symbols of rebellion and rock ‘n’ roll. Emblems for hardcore fans to rally around. The best band logos of all time? Let’s take a look..

so-you-think-you-know-logosStumbled on this nifty list of the 25 Best Band Logos and scrolling the featured designs brought back fond memories of my misspent youth. I’ve always been a fan of band logos (as well as album art) and while I question some of their choices (Prince logo number 1? Nuh-uh) some of my faves score quite well. Back in the day, my fascination with band and music logos helped get me an early start into the logo design game and even led to my first ‘professional’ gig – designing the logo for my high school radio station. When I was a teen I loved merch emblazoned with the logos of my rock-n-roll heroes and while there were many over the years, my all time favorites belonged to KISS and the art-rock kings of the time, Yes.

The All-time Classic Rock Emblem: Kiss.

A devoted member of the ‘KISS Army‘ (gawd, I was such a geek) I plastered the KISS logo on everything I owned – drawing it on duotangs, binders and doodling it on scraps of paper while I chatted with pals about weekend plans. Designed by original lead guitarist Ace Frehley, the iconoclastic typography first appeared on KISS’ second album Hotter N’ Hell (I didn’t get into the band until I heard the classic KISS Alive – still one of the best live albums of all time – the cover photo used in the background upstairs) and has been a cornerstone of the KISS legend ever since. Duplicating the logo by hand (this was long before PCs, the internet and desktop publishing software) was no easy feat.kiss-logo-metallicGetting the curves of the K and the angle of the lightning bolt double-‘S’s just so required a lot of practice. Very important too. While it’s claimed that the logo was meant to represent lightning bolts, the similarity to the Sig Rune German Nazi SS logo was just enough to give parents kittens (some religious groups claimed that KISS was an acronym for Kids In Service to Satan) – a prerequisite for any rock and roll band worth their sand. In fact, The band had to redesign their logo for the German market – where use of any Nazi iconology is illegal – and albums sold in Germany bore the alternate design. While I don’t have any hardcore stats, I’d imagine that the KISS logo is among the most reproduced logos of our era having been featured on every type of merchandise imaginable including, most recently, a coffee shop and a fragrance line (No. I’m not kidding).

UK art band Yes.

The Yes logo was just so Roger Dean, my favorite designer/illustrator of the time. The ‘bubble’ logo, as it become known as, first appeared on the band’s 1972 Close to the Edge album where it became a permanent part of the group’s brand.
yes-logo-fan-mashupIt reflected Yes’ musical stylings perfectly and complimented the album art (also designed by Dean) in a way that Fortune 500 companies could only hope to achieve. The way the ‘Y’ tucked into the ‘E’ and went on the graphically form the letter ‘S’ was inspired brilliance. As well as developing the entire Yes brand, Dean was also responsible for the logos of Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant, Asia (nice logo, not so great band) and Pygnosis, a software company that developed games for the now defunct Amiga computer system. You can see a variety of Dean’s highly stylized logos here.

My teenage homage to these icons of rock.

As a sign of my allegence, both of these logos were painted eight foot wide on the ceiling of my teenage bedroom using huge cardboard templates, drawn and cut out by hand from refrigerator boxes. My father and I worked many hours on reproducing the logos as faithfully as possible and they remained intact for many years, even after I had moved out of my parent’s house. Required a dozen coats of paint to cover when my folks finally decided to redecorate my former teenage lair a few years back. In fact, if you’re at the right angle, you can still seen the faint outlines of the KISS lightning bolts where they were originally laid down over 40 years ago.

Homegrown rockers Rush and The Starman.

Being from Canada and all, I’d be remiss if I didn’t a least mention another of my fave band logos – that of Canadian rock legends Rush. Must admit the love affair with the band happened in spite of their original design, not because of it.
rush-original-starman-logoThe first Rush text logo (as it appeared on their 1974 self-titled debut) wasn’t the greatest (above left), but with the release of the classic 2112, the new ‘Starman’ design by Hugh Syme (above right) finally saw a Rush logo that I was proud to wear on a T-shirt. Naturally, parents freaked cause they could only see a pentagram. And a naked bloke. Good times.

The local alternative scene.

nuts-bolts-toronto-nightclub-logoA few years later, I drifted into the alternative music scene (it was referred to by others as New Wave) and it wasn’t hard to notice that save for a few, new generations of bands didn’t embrace the same kind of iconoclastic branding as their predecessors. Bands had become more disposable and with a few exceptions, eschewed logos and branding for a more generic look on albums and 12″ EPS (remember them?). For what it’s worth, here’s the logo of my favorite Toronto nightclub during that time – Victoria Street’s Nuts and Bolts, a trendy (though arguably seedy) dance spot that I hung out at for several years back in the 80’s (I’d love to credit the original designer, so if anyone has a clue, please let me know). Lot’s of cool memories of weekends there, which led to a design gig with CFNY 102.1 – arguably the first alternative radio station in North America. That it launched in my small home town of Brampton, only made me more loyal. But I’ll save that for another post.


Ed Jandrisits, one of the founders of Nuts and Bolts kindly left a comment in which he identifies the original designer of the nightclub logo as cartoonist Ian Carr.