Reinventing a not-so-fab logo


Before I set about to deconstruct one of the most sacred icons known to modern man, let me make one thing clear: I truly, dearly, un-categorically heart the Beatles. To me, no band in the history of civilization comes close. If I had to pick one album to listen to on my desert island, it would be the White Album. Hopefully, this disclaimer will minimize the cries of “sacrilege!,” “blasphemy!” and “burn him at the stake!” that my next sentence may provoke.

The logo sucks.

There, I said it. (Pause for lightning bolt.) The problem is, the world has looked at The Beatles mark for over 40 years, and at this point it’s difficult be objective. But I guarantee you, if this logo were presented to any self-respecting band today, it would be rejected faster than Apple Corp’s lawyers can shut down an illegal music sharing site.

Let’s cut to the chase: the logo is typographically challenged. For instance, why is the stem of the T is so fat compared to the other letters? What the heck is the “the” doing up there floating across the universe? Wouldn’t it look better tucked in closer the B, or at least centered over the T? The S correctly ascends higher than the adjacent E, but does not do so on its bottom curve. But that’s just technical stuff. The bigger issue is the overall lack of style. For a band that invented so many of the sounds we still hear today, the logo is about as ordinary as they come.

While you stew on that, here’s some information on how the “drop-T” logo was created. Details are scarce, but luckily, Russ Lease, who owns one of the seven original Beatles drum heads has done his homework:

“In April 1963, Ringo Starr, along with Brian Epstein, visited Drum City in London. It was here that Ringo purchased his first Ludwig kit…a small 20-inch set in oyster black pearl. The deal for the new drum set was basically promotional. In exchange, Ivor Arbiter, Drum City’s owner, wanted the Ludwig name on the front drum skin. In response, Epstein said he wanted the band’s name on the front, as well. Obviously, the Beatles’ name would have to be larger than the Ludwig sticker that Ivor wanted to use. Arbiter claims that, on the spot, with his only instruction from Epstein being to emphasize the word beat, he pulled out a piece of paper from his desk and designed a couple of crude Beatles logos. On one of them, Arbiter isolated beat by elongating the “B” and lowered the tail of the “T,” leaving the rest of the letters the same height. The soon-to-be world-famous ‘drop-T’ design was chosen and approved by both Epstein and Starr.

This is where a gentleman named Eddie Stokes comes into the picture. Stokes was a London sign painter who worked around the corner from Drum City. On his lunch hour…Stokes…using Arbiter’s scratched out design, hand-painted the new Beatles logo on the 20-inch Ludwig Weather Master drum head. Ringo took possession of his new Ludwig drum kit on May 12, 1963, for the taping of Thank Your Lucky Stars, a U.K. TV talent show.”

Almost five decades have passed since that initial scribble. Few icons go unrefreshed in that period of time. Apple, Nike, IBM, Pepsi and others have updated their iconic logos when things started to get stale. Today The Beatles are arguably more alive than ever, yet their logo remains stuck in the 60s. Anyone have Paul’s email address?