Designing a Band Logo


Essential Question

What is a logo, what are the elements of effective logo design, and how have musicians and bands used logos to brand themselves?


In 1969, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones contacted the London Royal College of Art in search of a student who might design the poster for the band’s upcoming tour. Graduate student John Pasche took the job. Pasche’s design so impressed the band that Jagger enlisted him to create a logo for the record label they were preparing to launch.

In 1970, Pasche spent a week developing the Rolling Stones logo, considering what image might best reflect the band’s status as the “bad boys” of Rock and Roll. While designing the logo, Jagger showed Pasche an image of the open-mouthed, red-tongued goddess Kali, a Hindu deity associated with sexuality and violence. While this might have played a part in inspiring the logo, Pasche later recalled feeling equally transfixed by the facial features of Mick Jagger himself. “Face to face with him,” said Pasche in a 2008 Rolling Stone magazine interview, “the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth.”

A preliminary, one-inch version of Pasche’s design was sent to Craig Braun, who was developing the cover to the band’s upcoming release, Sticky Fingers. Braun and his associate designers took Pasche’s initial design and made some modifications, before enlarging the logo to cover the entire inside cover of the album.

Whether inspired more by the rictus of Kali or Jagger, Pasche and Braun’s design, “The Tongue,” was a success. It is still used by the Rolling Stones almost fifty years later.

“The Tongue,” wild though it may be, followed certain basic principles of design. Pasche wanted the logo to represent the spirit of the band in a manner that could be, “easily reproduced and…stand the test of time.” A representative of the London Victoria and Albert Museum, who purchased the original “Tongue” artwork for $92,500 in 2008, described the logo as “one of the first examples of a group using branding and…arguably the world’s most famous rock logo.”

During the pre-internet era of print, logos such as “The Tongue” served several important purposes. Most fans discovered music through the radio, from which they received no images. Until MTV launched in 1981, listeners either saw a band in person, or on the pages of print media, where space was limited. A clear, memorable logo could leap from the page and lodge itself in a fan’s psyche. A well designed logo often could be easily reproduced by fans–on notebooks, desks, lockers, clothing, even human skin. In the era before the internet and one-click sharing, a good logo “went viral” via a pen and the closest canvas, exposing bands to new audiences in a way paid advertising never could.

In this lesson, students explore band logos as examples of graphic design, and consider how logos derive meaning through association with the bands they symbolize. Guided by a handout that introduces Five Principles of Effective Logo Design, students study images of band logos and analyze their effectiveness. Armed with a new sense of what might make logos effective, students then design logos for their own fictitious, or real, bands.

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Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • What the meaning and function of a logo is
    • Basic principles of semiotics and associations
    • Principles of effective logo design
  2. Mastery Objective:
    • Through the analysis of images and through group discussion, students will be able to identify and understand principles of effective logo design, and apply their knowledge by designing their own logos.


Motivational Activity:

  1. Ask students:
    • What is a logo?
    • Can you picture any logos in your mind?
  2. Ask for volunteers to come to the board and draw a logo they know, and see if the rest of the class can guess what the logo represents.


  1. Tell students that we identify with logos through the associations that our brains subconsciously make when we see them.
  2. Show Image 1 – Swoosh, and ask students:
    • What brand does this logo represent?
    • Does this logo make you think of anything beyond the brand? (Encourage students to think of what else this might represent: “sports,” slogans such as “just do it,” “fitness,” etc.)
  3. Show Image 2 – Superhero, and ask:
    • What does this logo represent?
    • Where might you see it?
    • Does Batman appear in just one place, or many? Does his logo change? (Students will likely note that Batman is in comics, TV shows, movies, and elsewhere, but his logo remains largely the same throughout.)
    • Why do you think the Batman logo stays roughly the same regardless of the medium in which the character appears, or the actor who plays the character?
  4. Display the Gallery Walk 1 images around the classroom (if desired, teachers may also display logos from the Supplemental Handout – Additional Logos). Break students into groups and distribute one copy of Handout 1 –  Gallery Walk 1 Questions to each group. Have students study each of the images, and then record their group’s answers on the handout. Discuss their answers as a class.
  5. Distribute Handout 2 – 5 Principles of Effective Logo Design and read it aloud as a class.
  6. Have students return to their groups. Display the Gallery Walk 2 images throughout the classroom, while keeping on display the images from Gallery Walk 1. Distribute Handout 3 – Gallery Walk 2 Questions to each group, and have students analyze the logos using the 5 Principles of Effective Logo Design. Then, allow each group to share their answer to one of the questions.
  7. Pass out one copy of Handout 4 – Design Your Own Logo to each student. Upon completion, have students share with the class their band’s identity and their custom logo.

Summary Activity:

  1. Ask students:
    • In what way are logos helpful in developing a group’s image?
    • In your own life, can you recall a time when a logo made you interested in looking into a brand or band that you otherwise wouldn’t have? What was the logo, and why did it appeal to you?
    • What band/product logo do you find works especially well in representing the product it is selling? Does that logo adhere to the principles of effective logo design?


National Core Arts Standards


  • Anchor Standard #1-Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2-Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3- Refine and complete artistic work.


  • Anchor Standard #4-Analyze, interpret, and select artistic work for presentation.
  • Anchor Standard #5-Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.


  • Anchor Standard #7-Perceive and analyze artist work.
  • Anchor Standard #8-Interpret intent and meaning in work.
  • Anchor Standard #9-Apply criteria to evaluate work.


  • Anchor Standard #10-Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • Anchor Standard #11-Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.