Arturo Vega, the Ramone’s creative director died two weeks ago, and while music isn’t normally a topic we cover at Trifunk, Vega’s death reminds us of something we do cover: the power of a logo.
You see, Vega designed that iconic presidential seal logo for Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy, which is arguably one of the most recognizable band logos in history. Its black and white take on the seal with arrows replaced by a baseball bat and the members’ names circling around the eagle still appears on everything from t-shirts to tattoos.
I looked it up. People have Ramones tattoos. In fact, a ton of people have the Ramones’ logo forever inked onto their body.
It’s very un-rock-and-roll of me to say that a band is like a product, but when we’re talking about things like logos, there are some obvious similarities. A logo needs to be a visual representation of that band, just like a business’ logo needs to be a visual representation of that company.
“I saw them as the ultimate all-American band. To me, they reflected the American character in general – an almost childish innocent aggression… I thought the great seal of the president of the United States would be perfect for the Ramones, with the eagle holding arrows – to symbolise strength and the aggression that would be used against whoever dares to attack us – and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly. But we decided to change it a little bit. Instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the arrows.” – Arturo Vega
Michal Hann of The Guardian reported on Vega’s death and the famous logo:
“It’s one of the great pieces of rock iconography, something that appeared not just on T-shirts but which hung behind the band on stage, causing a ripple of excitement even before they walked on. And Vega’s explanation shows that a great logo isn’t just a case of stumbling on an image that looks right: it takes thought to come up with something that sums up the band as appropriately as Vega’s seal did.”
As logo designers, we contemplate the same things that Vega did when designing, knowing that this one image will become synonymous with the brand, so it had better be right. We should all be so lucky that years from now, people want to tattoo our seal on their chest!