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How an iconic logo just keeps on giving

The Rolling Stones’ Tongue and Lips logo is recognised by pretty much everyone, across all generations young and old. But how many people know who designed it or the story behind it?

The final logo was conceived by John Pasche, a student at the Royal College of Art in London at the time. Mick Jagger’s office put a call into the college and asked it to recommend someone who could design a poster for their upcoming tour. The Stones were by then recording on their own label and were also responsible for all the album cover packaging as well as the music. Jagger met with Pasche at his final show and asked him to design a logo and identity for the group’s label, initially showing him a picture of the Goddess Kali by way of inspiration.

Pasche took about a week to produce the logo and it was given its first public airing as a principal design element of the Sticky Fingers LP, released in April 1971. Initially, the logo didn’t even make it on to the front cover – it was tucked away as an image on the inner sleeve. The actual cover, designed by Andy Warhol, featured a man in skin tight jeans with bulging crotch and open zipper, and went on to achieve considerable notoriety in its own right.

Simply put, the design concept behind Tongue and Lips was that it represented the band’s anti-authoritarian attitude, although of course it also referenced Jagger’s mouth and his status as one of the sexiest men in rock and roll at the time. Hugely popular right from the off, and retained by the Stones over the years, the logo has grown into one of the world’s strongest and most instantly recognisable images.

Why so successful? Well, for starters, it answered the brief. But, perhaps more importantly, the logo adroitly captures the slightly subversive spirit of the times in general and the Stones in particular, not to mention perfectly encapsulating the wild and irreverent personality of the band’s front man.

The logo wasn’t just a cute picture or pretty typeface that made a nice shape, but had no meaning or substance to it – like so many of the identities knocking around today. It had a purpose, it stood for something, and it resonated. On a practical note, the fact that the logo could be easily reproduced has aided its longevity and ease of application. Pasche himself thought the logo might well stand the test of time.

He got that right!

In fact, there’s a very strong conviction that the inherently rebellious and non-conformist stance of the logo still bridges the generations and speaks as strongly to the youth of today as it did to those of yesteryear. The image can still be found adorning T-shirts, key rings, even ranges of homeware! Getting on for nearly fifty years after it was first conceived, the Stones’ Tongue and Lips still has a purpose, still stands for something, still resonates.

Surely the sign of a great logo.