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Branding the band: how iconic logos help shape the visual identities of musicians

In: Web Design, Website Development

A great logo design might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of musicians, but it also shouldn’t be the last. Some of the most iconic bands throughout the ages have something in common—an instantly recognizable and unforgettable logo that has become synonymous with their music and image. In this article, we’ll cover the history of music logos and why a strong mark is important for musicians. We also take a look at some recent creative collaborations between designers from our global community and some up-and-coming musicians to see how these artists came together to create visual representations of their music.

A brief history of music logos

Band logos didn’t always have the clout and importance they do these days. After all, what was important was the music and how the musicians evolved with each new album. Most musicians had to rely solely on their band name or identity and personality to stand out and be remembered by fans. It wasn’t until the 70s when band logos started gaining momentum.

During the 70s came some of the most recognizable and memorable band logos: Led Zeppelin’s offbeat and unique lettering; AC/DC’s thick, geometric sans serif font; and the US presidential seal used on the logo for The Ramones, to name a few. All these logos capture the personality, style and musical identity of the bands. Even to this day these bands and their logos are as iconic as they were in the 70s.

What really took band logos to the next level were metal bands. Metal wasn’t just music, it was an aesthetic and statement, a rejection of the mainstream. This was a whole era of band logos that stood out and captured the musical identity associated with the genre through design. We saw sharp, angled fonts, bold and thick strokes, and dark and underworld imagery.

The momentum continued through the decades, with Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic ‘W’ logo, Grateful Dead’s famous skull with lightning logo, and Prince, who famously replaced his stage name with a symbol at one point during his career.

There’s no denying that even to this day after years have passed, these iconic band’s logos are still memorable to most people. Whether you listen to the bands or not, many recognize and know of the bands simply through their logos and will have an idea of the band’s musical style and identity. Not only that, but many of these logos have transcended beyond the bands and their sound to become a part of pop culture and fashion.

Why recognizable and memorable logos are important for musicians

Logos are often the first thing a business needs to sort out when they launch. It’s important to get a logo sorted first because it’s a way to make a strong visual representation of their business, to resonate with customers and build a strong relationship, and to become a recognizable and memorable symbol that can be used across many brand assets. A logo does and says a lot for a business. And the same goes for musicians.

The style, aesthetic and musical identity all comes together in the logo for musicians. And on top of making great music, musicians also need marketing and promotional materials. That could be artwork, merchandise, or a website. Having a strong logo is a good way to ensure consistency in style and aesthetics across all marketing and promotional materials.

The logo becomes the foundation and starting place to market themselves to a larger audience and to cultivate a strong association with their music. Oftentimes, people have a sense of the musical style or genre of the musician before they have even listened to the music.

What makes a band logo iconic

As with most logos, simplicity, consistency and flexibility are key parts of making a logo memorable and iconic. The Rolling Stones logo has stood the test of time because of its simplicity and flexibility. The logo was able to be scaled large on stage, as well as tiny to fit on a record or even a wristband.

In addition to the basics of good logo design, the relationship and understanding between the designer and musician is what really sets the iconic and memorable logos apart from the rest.

The Rolling Stones was designed by a master’s student at the Royal College of Art in London, John Pasche. Mick Jagger wanted an image that could be independent, something simple, something that could stand on its own. Jagger showed Pasche an illustration of the Hindu deity Kali, and what stood out for Pasche was the mouth and tongue sticking out. Pasche saw it as a protest symbol, something that kids do, but also something that captures the essence and personality of the Rolling Stones themselves.

Pasche and Jagger were able to collaboratively work together bringing together what inspired and stood out for them. Just like other most iconic band logos, it’s a logo that truly showed and represented the musical identity for musicians and bands.

Isol-Aid Homegrown and 99designs by Vista: 5 artists and their brand new logos

Knowing the importance and value of having the right designs, we wanted to help the hottest up-and-coming musicians to create distinct designs that could help bring their music, artistic style and personality to center stage. To do this, we recently partnered with Isol-Aid Festival, an online music festival and community that was created days after the coronavirus pandemic started to help musicians promote and showcase their music to new and devotee fans. Together we launched Isol-Aid Homegrown, a 16-week program providing creative and financial support to some of the up-and-coming musicians and bands from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ).

Most of these musicians were looking to get a logo design that would have a memorable and distinct mark to market themselves and their music and to use that as a basis for their future design needs. The results from the project showcase a harmony in visual and auditory expression. Seeing the power of creative collaborations between designers and musicians has been truly inspirational!

Below we see how designers take cues from the music and turn the logos into visual interpretations and explore what it means to the musicians to have a visual representation of their identity come to life.

Illustration by OrangeCrush

1. Charm of Finches

Like musicians around the world, Angelic-folk sister duo Charm of Finches watched as all international and national tours vanished before their eyes when COVID took hold in 2020. In order to continue sharing their music, Madel and Ivy took to social media and immediately started live streaming every Monday from their home.

The pandemic may have set back our momentum and international touring plans, but it also shaped the trajectory of us making the most of our online opportunities.

The award-winning Melbourne-based duo was able to build a strong online presence that allowed them to connect with new and existing fans around the world and continue to carve out opportunities for themselves. As such, they were in need of a visual identity that was easily recognizable in an increasingly busy space, but that also fit their elegant, vintage, dreamlike aesthetic.

Musician duo Charms of Finches logo design
By EWMDesigns

The pair collaborated with designer EWMDesigns on a new logo to help promote their new album “Wonderful Oblivion.” The brief was to create a wordmark that encapsulated all the elements that describe their music, such as poetry, small details and emotional rawness as well as with things that inspire them such as Greek mythology, art nouveau/art deco, vintage fashion and shakespeare.

EWMDesigns describes her design style as clean, feminine and simple, which is exactly what Mabel and Ivy were looking for. She even said: “It seemed we had quite a bit in common; I knew right away that I wanted to help them come up with a logo. I think we were a great match!”

Music also features as part of her creative process; “I often find it helpful while brainstorming, sketching, and creating preliminary concepts for clients.”

Charm of Finches put their new logo straight to work across social media and posters as they started promoting live performances once again.

2. Mizuki

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-bending musician Mizuki was planning on releasing her work and taking firm steps to establish her career. Like many other artists, projects came to a halt and she used the time to learn and grow.

With the world timidly opening up again, Mizuki’s plans are also back on. With an EP ready to be shared with the world, the artist needed visual components to accompany her music, such as videos, photoshoots and a logo. The Japanese-Australian artist whose name means Beautiful Moon (美月) knew what she wanted from her logo design: “Something cool, simple and colorful. Something that incorporates my Japanese culture with a modern perspective to reflect me and my music.”

logo design for musician mizuki
By Dewa Setyadji

To fulfill this vision, Mizuki collaborated with designer Dewa Setyadji. What Mizuki was looking for became a jumping-off point for the designer, who went on to research Japanese posters, street art and also studied the artwork of musicians and bands from earlier eras. Knowing that the logo will accompany the artist’s music on a variety of mediums such as merchandise, streaming platforms and flyers, the designer focused on making it “legible, adaptable, and unique.”

Dewa Setyadji’s specialty is identity design, meaning that the design is driven by brand strategy and distinctiveness. This is why Mizuki’s quest for something “blending of Japanese tradition with modernity” was at the center of the logo and color exploration.

Music also served as an inspiration: “Music is a starting point for creating atmospheres. If I am designing a classic brand, I will listen to classical music or something orchestral. If I am designing a modern and futuristic brand, I will listen to electronic music, or something similar.”

3. Alice Skye

Melbourne-based singer/songwriter Alice Skye was looking towards a very different 2020 than the one that ended up unfolding. Her second album was due to be released, she was set to play at SXSW and had an international tour lined up.

When the reality of delays and cancellations settled in, the musician still played shows whenever possible but it hasn’t been easy. Often writing songs about mental health and emotions, she sees the impact of the past few years clearly: “Aside from the financial impact, the mental impact of looking forward to shows that never happen or missed opportunities feels like the most difficult part.”

logo design for musician alice skye
By Kerem Sesen

She shifted her attention on her song-writing and is currently working towards her next album, and having a logo that represents her in the digital realm is all the more welcome. To create one, designer Kerem Sesen got to work. She asked that the logo represent her at 26, young but also timeless, playful but with an edge.

Kerem Sesen was initially drawn to the project because of its connection with music: “The project was focused on music, which was more than enough of a reason to take it on.” The designer himself used to DJ and currently plays the bass guitar. And he says that he listened to music throughout his own creative process.

4. Bumpy

Leading up to the early months of 2020, soul, jazz and pop musician Bumpy was well on her way to a fully-fledged career. Thanks to her active schedule leading up to the pandemic, the artist managed to stay afloat. Finding ways to express her work and connect with her audience online was challenging at first. Before the lockdowns, the First Nations artist’s prior performances were highly intimate experiences, sit-down shows for smaller audiences and casual festival dance floors.

The release that performing/creating/collaborating achieves has always been closely tied to my mental health and expression—COVID has allowed me to explore music in a different setting and find different ways that I connect musically and heal.

Nevertheless, she quickly adapted to new circumstances, by building a home studio and performing digitally. She channeled her struggle into her work and is set to release new tracks soon.  Along with her singles, the musician is also hoping to release a music video, merchandise and a logo to tie it all together. She paired up with designer satunusa to create a logo that would wholly represent her and her music.

logo design for musician bumpy
By satunusa

Bumpy wanted to bring forth her identity and the themes she explores in her music. She said that “this project was created to give power to soft and vulnerable feelings.” Bumpy expressed that she wanted a unique and personalized font that was playful and influenced by the soul. Something that was a true representation of her connective and powerful music.

Satunusa has been a professional designer for eight years but is also a multi-talented artist. The designer felt an instant connection as someone who enjoys writing lyrics, making rap music and listening to music throughout their design process.

Bumpy mentioned being open to bubble or block lettering and seeing lots of movement, a stylistic preference that was harmonious with satunusa’s own style: “I have been in street art for over ten years and have incorporated a bit of a graffiti style on the font of this design.”

5. Yourboymars

The worldwide pandemic turned out to be a defining time for African-Australian rapper Yourboymars’s young career. Over the past couple of years, the artist managed to play live whenever lockdowns permitted, build a strong following on TikTok and receive international recognition.

The last 18 months have been filled with many challenges and blessings for my career.

The inability to tour and travel has been the main challenge for the 20-year-old rapper as he couldn’t form live connections with the larger Australia and the world beyond. This is why it was even more important for him to have a strong symbolic presence in the form of a logo.

Youngboymars said he wanted to use the logo for his upcoming merchandise launch. He wanted something that evoked the 90s vintage, varsity aesthetic. Something “bold and masculine.”

Yourboymars logo
by Kinetec

The music and the icon

A musician has a lot going for them to make them memorable. Their sound, their lyrics, their movements, their appearance, style… The list is seemingly endless. But change is inevitable and growth is welcomed in an artist’s career. This is why it’s undeniably important to take a cue from branding and have a logo that not only represents an artist but also carries their work confidently through time.

When branding a band, we see how the designers take cues from the music and turn the logos into a visual interpretation. A logo that is adaptable, that can go over merchandise and flyers and countless other places are crucial to create an artist’s visual and musical identity, in a world that is still wavering between purely digital and in-person interactions.

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