T-shirt Design Through The Ages

Band t-shirt design aren’t just a way for musicians to make an extra few bucks – they turn listeners into walking billboards, promoting albums and concert dates anytime fans slip the cotton over their heads.

A great band tshirt has one common element – the logo. Logos are critically important to a band’s identity. It’s often one of the first things a band develops (after perfecting their sound, of course) and helps make the band instantly identifiable. Here are five of the best band logos in the history of rock-and-roll and how you can integrate design elements into your own band logos.

Guns N Roses

Even if you didn’t notice the band’s name encircled in a gold ring around the outside of the logo, the pair of guns intertwined with red roses lets you know right away who’s getting ready to rock. Designed in 1987, Guns N Roses logo has adorned t-shirts sand merchandise for decades, and is known for it’s use of color and space.

Get Inspired: Sometimes a literal interpretation of a band’s name or music is the best brand identity, especially if the name includes an everyday object (like the rose in Guns N Roses logo.)


Queen member Freddie Mercury, who attended art school, designed their logo. Known as the Queen crest (and resembling the Royal coat of arms for the UK), it combines the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions (Leo), a crab (Cancer) and two fairies (Virgo).  Mercury used a stylized Q to represent the bands’ name and added an enormous phoenix to envelop the whole design.

Inspiring Concept Illustration of Elin Tan

Get Inspired: Bands with a  big sound need big, over -the-top logos. Find elements from each band member and integrate it into your design, add color and interesting font choices – and top it with a giant phoenix, for good measure.

The Beatles

The Beatles didn’t need bright colors, big images or unusual fonts to become music legends – they made it big with a super-simple logo. Instrument designer Ivor Arbiter, who sold Ringo Starr his drums, based the Beatles logo on an impromptu sketch, and it was painted onto the bass drumhead by sign painter Eddie Stokes. The bold lettering is instantly recognizable, but lets the music speak for itself.

Get Inspired: Overwhelmed by the intricate band logos out there while you’re trying to design something new? Less can be more, so take a page from the Beatles playbook and keep it simple.

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 Wu-Tang Clan

DJ Allah Mathematics, a Wu-Tang Clan member adept in the art of graffiti, designed the easily identifiable logo for the Staten Island group. Using the W from the collective’s name, that can be turned into an M, G, K or many other letters depending on which Wu “swordsman” it’s referring to, the Wu Tang symbol has become one of the most iconic logos in hip-hop.

Get Inspired: A great logo is versatile and can be used to represent a variety of things. Take a simple element, like a letter or number appearing in the name of the band, and edit it into an artistic design.

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