Music and design go hand in hand. Both are powerful tools of self-expression that influence moods, define styles, incite mass movements, teach us about ourselves, our culture, and give birth to subcultures. Historically, designers and musicians have always come together to amplify messages in their music—from album cover art, logo identity, tour posters, merch design and more.
Whether you’re a music artist or a small business looking to put yourself out there and share your unique offering with the world, the right design can make all the difference. But how do you choose which music logo design style is right for your brand? Let’s take a closer look at these seven definitive design styles commonly used in the music industry.
The top 7 music logo design styles
- Punk rebellious
- Retro nostalgic
- Urban street graffiti
- Sound and instrument icons
- Wordmark and custom typefaces
From metal-heads, grunge-rockers, “outlaw” country, mosh pits and crowd surfing, the music industry will always have a place for protest and rebellion. Over time, designers have found a variety of techniques to illustrate this anarchistic energy. This can include the use of worn and distressed textures juxtaposed against bright colors, suitable for conveying bold impressions and nonconformity. Other techniques include the use of edgy symbolism such as skulls and bones. This style pairs well with punk rock, metalcore or hardcore punk music genres.
Retro designs bring together artistic styles from past decades like Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus and Mid-century modern for example. Visual characteristics include badges, crests, muted or bright colors, geometric shapes, grainy textures and hand-drawn lettering. Retro designs are popular among musicians because they can evoke nostalgia for a certain era or time period. For example, retro designs can be used to channel ‘50s rockabilly, ‘60s psychedelic rock music or Southern bluegrass.
The urban street design style is all about graffiti lettering and character illustration, bold colors and hand-drawn fonts aka “handstyles” or “tagging.” This style is most commonly associated with hip-hop culture. Street graffiti designs often feature abstract shapes with lots of movement that visually tell a story. Custom lettering is a cross between calligraphy and cursive, often having the texture of a brush marker or spray paint. This style can be used on everything street culture-esque from t-shirts, hats, skateboard decks or even album covers if you want something truly unique and eye-catching.
Like all industries, the music world has its fair share of traditional companies and organizations that need to present a sense of professionalism in their branding. One common technique is to combine a musical element with formal typography. Even better if you can use a common industry image—like a guitar or vinyl record—and transform it into something clever or unique.
Sound and instruments are the very foundation of all music. Instantly recognizable shapes like the piano, speakers or turntables capture the essence of musical genres such as rock, hip-hop, jazz or country. When used strategically in logos, instruments can convey expertise and trustworthiness. This style is perfect for music schools, festivals, record shops or instrumentation and equipment retail stores.
A wordmark is simply a text-based logo that does not contain a separate icon or mascot. Wordmarks are the most popular choice for music artists because of their versatility. This style pairs well with any genre of music. Wordmark logos are memorable and powerful, relying heavily on typography and minimalism for effectiveness. The chosen font and colors for a wordmark logo can communicate a myriad of different impressions—playful, futuristic, avant-garde, cultural, soulful and energetic for example. Since these logos contain only text, they can be easily scaled up or down without losing legibility—making them perfect for use across all kinds of media platforms.
Music is intrinsically tied to math and geometry, making the two a perfect pairing. Additionally, the digital age has brought a new face to the world of music. Electronic sounds fill our world more than ever and it’s come with a particular design aesthetic as well. Futuristic designs draw inspiration from science fiction and space exploration in order to create something truly unique. This type of style features sharp lines combined with clean shapes in order to evoke feelings of modernity and it works best when paired with electronic dance music or ambient soundscapes.
Last but not least we have mascot styles; these types of logos use cartoonish illustrations based on animals or symbols in order to represent certain concepts or feelings associated with the brand being represented by the logo. Mascot logos work best when paired with upbeat musical styles like pop music or EDM but can also be used successfully with other genres depending on their execution.
Now get out there and jam
When choosing a look for your brand, you need to ask yourself what type of design style mirrors your personality and sound. No matter what type of music you create or what kind of project you’re working on, there’s sure to be a design style that fits your vision perfectly. From retro to street graffiti to punk, each music logo design style brings its own unique energy that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Whether you’re a music artist looking for something fresh for your next gig or album cover, or a small business wanting something fun for your storefront, exploring these seven design styles can help take your career or business to the next level. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find just the right fit!
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This article was originally published in 2016. It has been updated with new examples and information.