i was talking with my buddy brandon rike awhile ago and we both expressed our discontent with the current state of band tees. he sent me a link to a blog he posted on virb titled
"design vomit" and i couldn't agree more with some of the points he made.

everything nowadays seems totally thrown together without any design theory whatsoever. i'll admit it, in the short time i've been designing tees (since 2003) i have gotten kind of jaded. it has gotten to the point where i don't even care to work for bands because some fifteen year old can just scribble some lightning bolts and dinosaurs w/ neon colors and it could just as easily get accepted. in the end it kind of seems pointless to design a tee that is going to used for a two month tour anyway. has anyone actually looked at the wall of tees in hot topic within the past year? it looks like a clown puked everywhere.

but all bitching aside, this talk of "design vomit" got me thinking, where are our iconic tees? where are today's misfits skull or ramones seal? what tees by today's designers will be remembered in the next five or ten years? some of the most memorable tees from the past decade have been based off of fairly memorable album art (jane doe, vaya, the ugly organ), but where are the original tees from our generation that will stand out? i think a few labels (jade tree, no idea) still try to keep things simple and iconic while others just go with whatever is hot.

feel free to post whatever recent tee designs you think might actually have a lasting impression.

  • Randomentity

    man whatever happened to
    "they'd rather see me in the pen than me and Lorenzo rollin' in a benzo"?

    and i totally agree with the whole "anti design" movement being bullshit.

    i think this shirt is pretty iconic, only because it's one of my favorite bands
  • miles to go

    im right along with you there. the trends now in wild colors and sketchbook personally isnt my thing. but, im not 16 with flat ironed hair either.

    i dont think bands are as concerned it seems anymore with a solid reusable logo. the most recent great example of a band using it would be alkaline trio with the heart/skull and thats not even very recent. hot water music as had a strong one too.

    minor threat sheep should be tossed into this mix as well as their iconic picture from the first 7" and used on the discography record.
  • dobi

    yeah, i was going to post alk3 / hwm stuff but totally forgot to. the girl that was doing alktrio's merch ages ago did GREAT stuff.
  • miles to go

    the atdi gas mask was another good one. i know so many people with ink of one of those three and i think the black flag bars or misfits skull has to be one of the most inked images ever. too bad the misfits are crap now and would probably license diapers with their logo.
  • Randomentity

    oh i had forgotten about the alk3 logo, yeah that's good.
    oh, and skinny puppy

    but that's a bit old...hmm yeah new bands don't have logo's that rock at all...damn
  • chrisrushing

    yay for brandon, i have talked to the dude in a few months. seems like hes doing well.

    oh and as you can see, i already commented on that blog a long time ago. haha.
  • tylerd1143

    i think bands have made it harder to have one design that will stand out. for example i saw as i lay dying last week and they had like 10 shirts, all different from the last time i saw them. the bands that dobi mentioned along with bands like weezer and mxpx, it seems like they always had that one design available. that icon/logo/character was always visible. the decendents had milo on everything...
  • derekdeal

    its hardly comparable to some of the gems up there, but i just started a branding campaign with one of my clients 'the swellers' they were really into what glassjaw was doing with their GJ icon, so i came up with this play on their album My Everest. So far its only made it onto a hoodie and tee, im encouraging them to take it further.

  • miles to go

    i cant tell you how many times i drew black flag bars on my notebooks and milo, man i think i lved on milo goes to college and somery for a while when i wasnt listening to minor threat. for a while green day had their flower from kerplunk, buy all that was before the huge blow up of dookie.

    mxpx is another good one. that pokinatcha guy has always been on at least one shirt.
  • dobi

    yeah, i think lack of important bands really has something to do with it as well. there are very few bands i see lasting more than 5 years.
  • chrisrushing

    dobi said: yeah, i think lack of important bands really has something to do with it as well. there are very few bands i see lasting more than 5 years.

    no freaking kidding.

    im surprised foo fighters and jimmy eat world don't have some sort of iconic tee.
  • Geoff May

    dobi said: yeah, i think lack of important bands really has something to do with it as well. there are very few bands i see lasting more than 5 years.

    Don't get me started. The music scene is so stale right now. There's a few good bands that I like but there will never be another Zeppelin, Ramones, Beatles or Stones (I could go on and on) and that kills me. Music is a business nowadays. It gets watered down, spit out and force fed down people's throats. Whatever shit gets on MTV or Fuse is what kids buy. It's no better than toy commercials. You just gotta make it seem flashy and cool and people will say "I want!".

    A big problem is that major labels don't develop talent. They want you to go platinum right out of the gate or you're dropped. The art isn't important to the label. The money is all that matters.
  • miles to go

    funny thing about fugazi/minor threat. i did an interview with ian mackaye for wonka vision magazine maybe a year or two ago about business ethics. and he said that they never had any minor threat shirts they ok'd beyond the ones brian baker printed himself before they left for tour in 82/83. all of the shirts at hot topic, everywhere are all bootlegs, 100%. he said there is one guy who sends a check randomly to him as an act of good faith that he donates to local charities. the only shirt they didnt mind for fugazi was the "this is not a fugazi shirt" if anyone remembers that circa "repeater" because he said it was at least clever. on the back it said "never mind whats been selling, its what your buying"

    as for why fugazi had no merch he mentioned when they got together, before even having a record or having played a note live, kids would come up before the show and ask to buy a shirt. plus, all of the 80s in general being a bit of a killer.

    talk about a true icon of punk rock.

    we all seem to agree that not many bands are making truely great music anymore. i seriously only go see 3 bands live anymore, mewithoutyou, murder by death and circa survive.
  • alrightok

    had they not fallen off (which goes back to the point of the band, or rap crew in this case, having to be iconic themselves) the Hieroglyphics def. had a recognizability with the 3rd eye logo:

    it was on tees, skateboards, all their albums, etc. in the 90s. it's also a good example of something that really isn't designed all that well, but is completely recognizable so in the end it works. the wu-tang bird works the same way:

    both groups are (or were) known all around the world just on their logos alone. I grew up on rap clearly haha.
  • Kyle Crawford

    i think misery signals has some good stuff, this simple 1 color I did for them is my fav shirt ive designed, i wear it all the time and its so damn simple
  • derekdeal

    job for a cowboy is a pretty week example, when there's logos like this.

  • jfinley

    Oliver said: I think it might be one of those instances where if you are trying to do a band tee that will stand the test of time, you can't force yourself. If you sit down and think "I'm gonna make a shirt that people will remember for the next 20 years" you'll probably just end up making a pile. I think those iconic tees just happen.

    It also helps if the band itself is iconic.

    I agree with Oliver, because if the band never becomes anything, then your iconic tee is forgotten and nobody cares. I mean, what makes an iconic tee?

    Is it beauty in simplicity? Is it the imagery you associate with that band every time you hear their name?

    When I got started designing for bands, I wanted to be designing stuff that would be remembered for years. I was inspired by thinking I could be remembered for created the image of some band.

    That changed quickly when that a) you were forced to do work for shitty disposable bands just so you could put food on your plate and b) the idea that graphic design or illustration is just a quick hurry it up and make it cool commodity.

    I found myself just trying to complete jobs because the work needed done. And when I'd put lots of thought and emotion into my work, it stood the same chance of getting turned down because I was up against 8 other designers pitching for the same band.

    The designs for those iconic shirts aren't necessarily jaw dropping pieces of art. They're iconic because those days bands didn't have Spring 2008 Line of merch and retailers asking for more and encouraging the labels to stick to the trends and what kids are buying.

    That probably doesn't make much sense, but I'm rambling.
  • Joshua Stomberg

    why has nobody posted this?!

    that's one of the most iconic shirts I know of!

    and that one :D
  • tylerd1143

    gausman said: what about the thursday dove?

    thats a great one, i forgot about that. or the further seems forever logo (rip)
  • Sam Kaufman

    I originally came across Brandon's post about this a few months back and related instantly. I think what Jeff is getting at is that the world is a very different place than it was in the late 70s - early 80s when those shirts first came on the scene. Like the music scene, design seems to be taking a nosedive in the instant gratification society that we live in. It’s easy to get a bunch of dudes together, make noise, record it, and toss up a myspace page. Just as it’s easy to scribble on paper, scan it, and slap it on a shirt. Designs that are well thought out and well executed are usually tossed to the trash, because the kids at the shows are following trends not good music or good design. They don’t give a shit about composition or typography or intelligent design. Although the best design should speak for itself, but when you’re competing a refined and finished product in a market where using your brainstorming sketches would be better, then it really isn’t fair fight. Bands are following trends, because they want their merch to sell, kids buy shirts because they’re black, trendy AND have the bands name on it, not because the design is great.
  • Ben Danger

    Just found this, def worth checking out. A blog strictly about rock band logos and where they came from and what they mean. LOOK AT IT. its rad

  • dobi

    yeah, i was going to mention against me as well, all their stuff is usually pretty great.
  • Josh Elowsky

    dobi said: yeah, i was going to post alk3 / hwm stuff but totally forgot to. the girl that was doing alktrio's merch ages ago did GREAT stuff.

    Heather still does all of Alki Tri's art. I've been allowed to play around with it but it's still all her. That's the thing about a lot of designs (speaking of competing with 8 other designers for the account) is that the designs they end up going with are usually the ones made by their friends or people in their circle, like all all those Against Me designs up there and Alkaline Trio, and like the Ian Mackaye bit about Brian Baker's shirts, though to be fair that situation has more to do with the band's belief system in regards to music merch and the like. But ultimately it's politics and who you know.

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