How the World’s Most Recognisable Band Logo Got Its Shape

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

The Black Flag logo is sort of like the Coca-Cola script: it’s been subverted and remixed so many times, it’s become bigger than its original intended use. Now, thanks to a mini-documentary produced by Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, we know the fascinating story behind the creation of the iconic mark—which, according to Henry Rollins, “every cop in LA remembers.”

The logo was designed by the artist Raymond Pettibon, brother of Black Flag founder Greg Ginn. According to him, the four thick bars represent the abstracted movement of a waving black flag (he also compares them to pistons, or the members of the band). “But fuck!,” he says in the video, “I didn’t go to design school. 90 per cent of motherfuckers would’ve come up with the same thing.”

Well, kind of. In reality, Pettibon was responsible, at least in part, for making Black Flag famous. Besides the logo, he came up with the name, too, and designed all of Black Flag’s fliers—including the infamous Charles Manson posters that riled up Los Angeles when the band was emerging in the late 1970s.

Black Flag’s message—in the words of the penultimately charming Rollins—was one of “unrest, chaos, and rebellion.” But at the same time, they were also courting fame with a carefully orchestrated visual brand, all led by Pettibon. [MoCA on YouTube, via AnimalNY]

How the World’s Most Recognizable Band Logo Got Its Shape