The Y! Music Playlist Blog - Archives

Greatest Punk Rock Band Logos

I went through a serious punk rock phase during the mid 1980s. A time when there was no Internet and punk music could not be heard on the radio -- unless you happened to live in range of a seriously cool college radio station.

All the punk bands I discovered back in the day were via word of mouth, or by seeing an opening act live that was playing with a bigger name. I vividly remember first seeing the DK logo at school on a friend's notebook cover. I asked what it was and he told me it was The Dead Kennedys. So my first insight into the Dead Kennedys was a hand drawn logo, which led to a recommendation, and finally, to my purchase of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

I've always been fascinated with branding, and it's a bit ironic that even punk rock music, which is essentially against commercialism and the status quo, has developed such great brands with simple logos and album art.

For this list I've selected my choices for the top 25 punk rock logos of all time and have provided a song by each band that you can check out if you dig their logo.

What's your favorite punk rock logo?

Greatest Punk Rock Band Logos

1. Black Flag -- Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn's brother Raymond Ginn (AKA Raymond Pettibon) is responsible for the vast majority of Black Flag album covers. His artwork has a very distinctive off-kilter comic book style, and it was Raymond who suggested the name "Black Flag" when the group decided to change their name from "Panic" in 1977. He also designed the simple 4 black bar graphic that would become the band's logo. The image's simplicity made it possible for fans to easily reproduce it freehand or with stencils. The logo quickly spread on clothing, sneakers, school notebooks and as graffiti, eventually becoming one of the most recognizable punk rock images in history.
Nervous Breakdown - Black Flag   

2. Dead Kennedys -- The Dead Kennedys famous "DK" logo was created by Winston Smith from sketches provided by Jello Biafra. When Jello was asked about the  logo in a 2006 interview, he explained, "...I wanted to make sure it was something simple and easy to spray-paint so people would graffiti it all over the place, and then I showed it to Winston Smith. He played around with it, came back with a bunch of designs that had the circle and slightly 3-D looking letters and he had ones with different patterns behind it. I liked the one with bricks, but ultimately I thought simple red behind it was the boldest and the best." Whatever Jello's reasoning, it worked. The "DK" logo became an icon and many would argue that this logo should beat out Black Flag for the number one spot.
Holiday In Cambodia - Dead Kennedys   

3. Misfits -- The Misfits' famous skull logo first appeared on the band's "Horror Business" single. The image was lifted by Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only from a poster for the 1946 film The Crimson Ghost. Although not many people alive today would remember the film, the Misfits helped make this skull image one of the most recognizable in rock & roll, which is rife with skull imagery. What makes the image stand out in my opinion are the eyes. A skull does not contain eyes within the orbits, but this image adds a drug-induced undercurrent by adding lazy eye slits, this brings the image to life and adds an extra layer of creepiness.
Die, Die My Darling - Misfits   

4. The Germs -- The simple, but perfect blue circle that constitutes the Germs logo is said by some to represent a "Germs burn", which is a cigarette burn on the flesh of a fan inflicted by a member of the band. The logo was designed in 1978 by Germs drummer Dan Bolles and it was easily picked up and reproduced by fans. If you dig punk shoe fashion, you can even get yourself a pair of Germs-branded Vans. Darby Crash's attempt at punk immortality by way of a planned heroin overdose was overshadowed by the murder of John Lennon the very next day.
Manimal - The Germs   

5. D.R.I. -- The band D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) are a punk/thrash crossover band whose logo is called the "skanking pedestrian". It was designed by the original drummer for the band, Eric Brecht. Eric actually designed the logo for an art school project that called for students to create a corporate logo. It works as a simple representation of the mosh pit thrashing seen at the shows of D.R.I. and other punk bands.
Thrashard - D.R.I. 

6. Flipper -- Flipper guitarist Ted Falconi drew the primitive Flipper logo in 1979 and it became well-known throughout the underground in the punk rock heydays of the 1980s. Hailing from San Francisco, the band's music was really not in sync with the faster and harder style of other punk bands of the era. But the band's image was completely in tune with the punk aesthetic, and the Flipper logo contributed to this fact. The logo was special because its simple freehand style could be scrawled and reproduced by anyone. I don't think I had a single textbook in high school that I didn't adorn with the Flipper logo.
Ha Ha Ha - Flipper   

7. The Ramones -- Like their music, the Ramones logo was a bit more polished and accessible than most of its peers. The logo is a remaking of the official Great Seal of the United States, which was originally created by William Barton and Charles Thomson in 1782. The seal replaced the 13 arrows in the eagle's left talon with a baseball bat and also includes the names of each band member in a circle around the graphic.
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker - The Ramones 

8. The Dead Milkmen -- Dead Milkmen drummer Dean "Clean" Sabatino designed the instantly appealing smiling dead cow logo sometime in the early 1980s. It's a clean, well-drawn, comical drawing that perfectly conveys the band with a cow (Milkmen), X'ed out eyes (Dead) and a big smile, which speaks to the humor the band is so well-known for.
Bitchin' Camaro - The Dead Milkmen

9. Bad Religion -- The Bad Religion logo was designed in 1980 by Bad Religion songwriter and guitarist Brett Gurewitz. I must admit that it's an extremely simple and obvious logo. Considered blasphemous by many Christians, the logo killed two birds with one stone. It provided a simple and reproducible brand that fans could propagate, and it was also a controversial image that attracted a ton of attention from the religious right -- something that turned into priceless free publicity.
Yesterday - Bad Religion  

10. Circle Jerks -- The moshing Circle Jerk punk logo called "Skank Kid" was drawn by Shawn Kerri who produced much punk rock art for posters, albums and magazines in the Southern California punk and hot rod scenes. It was drawn for the band by Shawn without any written contract and the band never provided her any royalties for the iconic image she created for them. She was a hardcore punk rocker and some sources list her as dead from a drug overdose, while others state she is alive and living a low-profile life.
Wasted - Circle Jerks   

11. The Offspring -- I don't really consider The Offspring as a real punk rock band. They are more of a shined-up commerical version of punk rock music. And their simple, but polished "sun skull" logo reflects this. The circle that defines many punk rock logos is here, along with an alien-eyed skull complete with rockabilly-inspired flames. Although I can't put the Offspring on the same level as the other bands featured here, I cannot deny the impact and simplistic beauty of their logo.
Why Don't You Get A Job? - The Offspring 

12. The Sex Pistols -- The Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren had a friend named Helen Wellington-Lloyd who was a fan of the band. She is credited with coming up with the ransom note style of the band's logo. It really was a perfect graphic statement for the notorious anti-establishment band who was scaring parents throughout Europe and America, many of whom did indeed feel that the band had kidnapped their children.
Anarchy In The U.K. - The Sex Pistols   

13. Social Distortion -- Mackie Osborne, wife of Melvins singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne created Social Distortion's cigarette and martini skeleton in 1983. It's a great image of rock & roll excess and the band has used it to great effect throughout their career. You will find it in the band's stage backdrop, on album covers, posters, tattoo parlor walls and on a ton of merchandise that has certainly helped supplement the band's income over the years.
Ball And Chain - Social Distortion  

14. The Adicts -- The Adicts guitarist, Pete "Pee Dee" Davison, designed the A Clockwork Orange-inspired logo for the band sometime in the late 1970s. When performing, the band members wear all white, black boots and black bowler hats which reinforce the image put forward by the logo. Seeing the iconic nature of A Clockwork Orange and its appeal to the punk rock demographic, the adoption of the look for a logo was natural, if not terribly creative.
How Sad - The Adicts  

15.  The Exploited -- The Exploited logo was created by artist Pushead Lamort Schroeder in 1983. It was originally done as an album cover, but had so much impact that it was adopted as the band logo. This Scottish punk band's logo is one of the very best I've seen emblazoned across black leather jackets. The skull with a mohawk has enough detail to provide some depth, but simple black & white execution make it easy enough to reproduce, which is an important element for the propagation of any punk logo.
Sex & Violence - The Exploited   

16. Fear -- Fear front man Lee Ving crafted a Fear logo that consisted of an upside down "F" followed by a right-side up "F". It was so/so as a logo I suppose, but it had the unfortunate characteristic of looking an awful lot like a swastika. Luckily for the band, their stenciled, FEAR logo is what most fans associate with the band. Obviously, the stencil theme is very DIY and made it extremely simple for the band's name to be spray painted on anything that wasn't moving.
Let's Have A War - Fear   

17. Stiff Little Fingers -- Stiff Little Fingers bass player, Ali McMordie designed the logo for the band in 1978.  Although it was originally a spoof on the Tom Robinson Band's Power In The Darkness album, the end result works on many levels. The military font of the letters in combination with the backside of what would be a peace sign if turned around, is certainly punk rock, but it's those stubby, stiff little fingers that push it over the top.
Gotta Gettaway - Stiff Little Fingers   

View gallery

18. Adhesive -- Adhesive was a Swedish political punk band whose out of print albums can be hard to find. Their logo was created by drummer Robert Samsonowitz and is akin to many confrontational clenched fist images used by various radical and political groups for decades. The circle, which is a popular frame for the punk rock logo is here, but it's the "I'll knock your teeth out" fist graphic that makes you instantly understand the type of band that the image is meant to represent.
Safe Reality - Adhesive   

19. Minor Threat -- Minor Threat were only active for 3 short years, but in that time they were able to start the straight edge movement in which participants would make a commitment to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs. The band's logo is a simple hand-drawn black sheep created by graphic designer and artist Cynthia Connolly. It's less serious than most punk logos of the time and perfectly represents the band's willingness to go against the grain while keeping the punk rock do-it-yourself aesthetic.
Minor Threat - Minor Threat  

20. 7 Seconds -- 7 Seconds is a band I have not listened to much. Not because I dislike their music, but because I've just not been exposed to them like many of the other punk bands I've discovered. Another "straight edge" pioneer, 7 Seconds' logo was created by founding member Kevin Seconds. Although it's a bit busy for a punk rock logo, it can easily be reproduced with a ruler and compass. There is a lot going on here, which leaves some room for interpretation.
We're Gonna Fight - 7 Seconds  

View gallery

21. D.I. -- D.I. was a Southern California punk band that featured Social Distortion drummer Casey Royer and ex-Adolescents. Their logo was lifted from an American indian button that bassist Frederic Taccone found at a swap meet in Orange, CA.  Originally, the band was not crazy about the idea, but relented. It was chosen in part because it was very different from other band logos. The one thing that it did have, and that is crucial, as you can see reflected in this list, is its simplicity and ability to be easily reproduced.
What Is Life? - D.I.   

22. Reagan Youth -- Reagan Youth were an anarchist and anti-racist punk band from Queens, New York who hijacked Nazi and racist imagery for satirical effect. They were truly one of a kind. The band members looked and dressed like hippies with dreads and tie-dyes, but they played punk music with white supremacist images. The logo was originally painted onto armbands by band member Dave Insurgent.
New Aryans - Reagan Youth   

23. Icons of Filth -- Icons of Filth were an influential anarcho-punk band from Cardiff, Wales, UK. Their logo is a statement against the symbolism that the band felt had become nothing more than fashion statements. You can see a 5-pointed star, anarchy symbol and peace sign being smashed by a club. The band has disbanded since the death of Stiggy Smeg who succumbed to a heart attack in 2004. 
Mentally Murdered - Icons of Filth  

24. Saccharine Trust -- Saccharine Trust was formed in Southern California in 1980 and was on the SST label which enabled them to perform a good deal with Black Flag and The Minutemen. The logo was designed by Black Flag artist Raymond Pettibon. A rattlesnake crucified to a wooden cross forms the band's initials. If I had a full year to come up with a logo for Saccharine Trust, I probably could not think of anything more rock & roll than this.
The Worm's Quest - Saccharine Trust   

25. Pennywise -- The Pennywise logo was designed in 1991 by American photographer and artist Fred Hidalgo who has done multiple album covers for the band, as well as covers for The Offspring, NOFX and Bad Religion. This logo takes the standard circle seen so often in punk music and places the band's initials in the middle. The logo has rough edges which distinguish it a bit, and although it's the last logo in my list, it makes the cut by sheer force of being so easily identifiable.
Fight Till You Die - Pennywise   

Follow what Robert is listening to on Twitter

View Comments