A Definitive Guide to Creating Legendary Artist Logos

Jakprints takes a look at logos and their history with the help of Lauren E. Drzata,  DrzataDesign.com. 

Logos are graphic marks that promote a brand, message, company, or group. They’ve been in use for centuries as currency markers, trademarks and trade signage.  Dating back to the middle ages, they substituted for writing itself: largely-illiterate populations could ride into town, and locate a tailor or blacksmith simply by the picture on the sign.

Of course, the logo has progressed into the modern era.  And for artists, a logo is more than just fluff, it’s a critical component of your image and success.

Logos that last a lifetime.

It’s important that your logo stands the test of time.  A successful logo is instantly recognizable and memorable while telling your audience something about you.

1. A logo should always be appropriate to your audience.

2. Avoid going too trendy with a standard logo. Being on-trend with your audience is key to looking relevant; however, you still need to stand out from the crowd. Trends also have an expiration date, do you want to look dated and out of touch?

3. Simplicity is key! Simple logos are easy (and cheap!) to reproduce regardless of size or medium: big, small, online, embroidered or screen printed.

Types of Logos

Logos are broadly defined by three categories: TypographicPictographic and Abstract.


Think logotypes, word marks or initials. Logotypes are a name rendered in a unique, memorable way by consistently using the same font, colors and treatments. Target is a great example, they’ve made an entire brand around red Helvetica.

A word mark is a completely customized type treatment and is distinct from a “just a font.” A good example is Coca-Cola. The letterforms are distinct to the company’s name and identity.

Initials could be the first letter of a bands name or even a grouping of letters that would phonetically sound it out in some way — AT&T used to stand for something, you know.


Here, symbols or shapes are the key component for a brand’s identity. Though it’s not required, these often pair with a logotype or word mark. Not to be confused with Abstract Logos, Pictographic logos use identifiable objects or symbols to represent a brand; even if the connection between the brand and symbol are themselves abstract. Confused yet?

Think about Apple: A simple, memorable apple symbol. What does an apple have to do with computers? Well, Steve Jobs wanted something fun and approachable.


Related to Pictographic Logos, but unlike them, Abstract Logos use unique shapes or symbols: the Nike “Swoosh”, Adidas, Master Card or Logitech.

Learn from the Greats…

Van Halen

“power and precision, with an edge…”

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While this was only the band’s official logo on two albums, it continues to be recognized as the main logo. Designed by Dave Bhang in 1978, this typographic logo uses the initials “VH”, with horizontal line elements giving it a distinct shape and feel. The metallic texture and sharp angles definitely evoke the feeling of hard rock.

It could just as easily be a logo for a car company or airline, but the attitude it gives off is the same: power and precision, with an edge, packing a visual punch that any fan would want on a t-shirt. And despite the metallic accents, this logo can work just as well in a solid color.


“a legendary typographic logo…”

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The ABBA logo is the pinnacle of simplicity and was designed by Rune Söderqvist in a typical Swiss style. The reversal of the first “B” gives the look of perfect symmetry. The logo is not only a palindrome but is also an acronym for the first names of each band member — Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. The orientation of the letter “B” is iconic and shows how a little bit of creativity can make a simple logo stand out.

Wu-Tang Clan

“A case study in logo iconography…”

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This is one of the greatest examples of logo iconography, and one component in a long-running rap dynasty. The famous Wu-Tang ‘W’ is plastered on every album cover, and nearly every piece of merchandise. The logo can be easily morphed, varied and employed by each Wu-Tang soldier.

The best part is that this simple, easily-recognized logo fits perfectly into the broader Wu-Tang imagery and legacy. The Wu-Tang logo is much larger than a mere rap group, it is their unifying symbol.

There’s a very interesting article that traces the beginnings of the Wu-Tang dynasty here, one in which the ‘W’ plays an integral role.

Public Enemy

“rebellious, blunt, confrontational…”

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Chuck D was a graphic design student in the early ’80s before Public Enemy. As a youth with activist parents, he was very aware of the civil rights movement and black history. The logo contains bold typography with a pictographic representation of a figure in target crosshairs.

We can gain a distinct definition of what a “public enemy” could be. The logo is rebellious, blunt, confrontational and makes a point. All of this is in line with the group’s image and music: wearing military regalia and the politically-charged lyrics.


Joel Zimmerman is the force known as deadmau5, and his logo matches his identity. He floods the market with his logotype and pictographic mau5head in his live show, hugely-successful merchandise line (including figurines!) and branding — he’s a veritable EDM KISS.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers

“abstract combination…”

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The RHCP logo is a combination logo. It uses a typographic representation of the band’s name circularly enclosing an abstract symbol. An abstract icon at its best, fans over the years have decided it’s not only a good design on merch, but also makes a great tattoo.


“spooky pictography…”

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The Misfits’ logo is yet another pictographic logo. Its imagery was derived from the poster for the 1946 horror film, The Crimson Ghost, and the skull became the band’s official logo. Their horror punk style of music was further embodied by the band’s songwriting, which was increasingly inspired by B horror movies and science fiction, as well as the band’s appearance, with members applying skeletal face makeup that would become part of their typical performance appearance.

The typography in the logo also evokes horror movies through distressed lettering. It’s an aggressive and spooky type treatment. No pop music at these shows, kids.


Brass Tacks

When you sit down to think about your logo, think:

● What is the meaning of your band name?

● Does it fit your audience and fan base?

● What is the simplest way to communicate your message?

A good logo will look just as good in black and white as it does in full color. It is vital that the logo can translate into situations where full color is unavailable, such as on flyers or one-color stickers. It is fine to have a logo design that calls out specific colors as part of a band’s branding, just be sure it will show up nicely in gray-scale, too. When details begin to get lost or a font becomes unreadable in black and white, the branding fails.

Fonts matter. Again, readability is key to recognition. Just because your band name looks cool in a certain fancy font doesn’t mean it’s the one to use. Can you read it from 20 feet away in a dark club?

On the flip side, is that what you want? Think death metal bands – a lot of their font choices may not be easily recognizable – or let’s face it readable – but you can turn that into a plus by creating a custom shape unique to your band through font and layout choices.

You get what you pay for. Consider hiring someone. Your band’s image is an investment, and the logo design will be appearing in many places and in many formats – from websites, to merchandise, your drum set, posters… hell, maybe even billboards. When you consider all of the places it will appear from now until the end of time, a few hundred to a few thousand dollars is a realistic price to pay for a good logo design.

Once you engage a professional, respect your designer and work together. Be clear with what you want, if you have ideas. Any music client should be able to answer simple questions about the band, its music and what the logo is meant to communicate.

Finally, once you have a logo, protect it! It is considered intellectual property and should be trademarked or copy written, depending on its usage. Do the research, be informed, and take the proper action. Once a band’s name or logo is protected, another band cannot copy it without penalty. You will own it, and that’s something to be proud of.



6 Responses

  1. ChristianBandHelp.com

    Designing the logo is a critical step in creating your bands brand. Take your time, experiment and try it out for a while. Make sure it is conveying your bands message and image. It is much easier to change and refine before you have used it on your merchandise and in all your marketing.