E1 — East 17
Who doesn’t love a dog? And a cheeky cartoon dog … even better. This was the stroke of genius behind East 17’s canine band logo, executed to perfection by UK design duo Form (aka Paul West and Paula Benson).
The idea was originally mooted by Tom Watkins, East 17’s larger than life manager, who also happened to be a comic book aficionado. Form duly created Bob Dog, a 1990s icon that developed something of a life of his own.
In fact, the boss-eyed dog of indeterminate breed became so loved and familiar that its features could be distilled down to just its eyes and ears, and yet still be instantly recognisable. West says there were two official variants of the circular logo — one a simple black line drawing on white, the other sporting a ‘Kodak’ yellow background (above).
But from this, all kinds of versions, spin-offs and applications were possible. For example, on the back cover of East 17’s debut album, ‘Walthamstow’, there were four versions of Bob, based loosely on each member of the band. Bob’s face also graced the cover of the single ‘House of Love’, an inspired, if somewhat counter-intuitive move for a ‘boy band’. Bob even had an occasional sidekick called Gordon. All in all, he was a merchandiser’s dream, making his way on to duvets, pillowcases, crisps, and much more besides, all scrupulously managed by Form.
Form had spun out of ultra-minimalist, Helvetica-or-die school of Peter Saville Associates. So the East 17 branding was something of a departure. “Surf culture was very big at the time,” recalls West, “And we were really into brands like Stüssy and Mambo. Mambo has this great farting dog logo, which was an influence for Bob.”
Bob was brought to life in typical old-school, pre-Mac fashion. Initial pencil sketches were inked in by hand using Rotring pen and then enlarged on a PMT machine.
Tom Watkins upped the ante by insisting that the band got themselves a real dog. So in a case of life imitating art, Levi the Staffordshire Bull Terrier joined the pack. Everything fitted together. Famously, one of London’s last-remaining dog racing tracks was in Walthamstow E17, the band’s manor (it closed in 2007). And if the lads appeared a little rough around the edges, their association with Bob (and Levi) helped position them as loveable rogues.
So why the name? The boys in East 17 used to call each other ‘Bob’ instead of ‘Mate’ or ‘Bro’ — Walthamstow street banter. Form picked up on this and co-opted the name for their mascot.
And it seems there's life in the old dog yet. Adele was recently spotted sporting a bomber jacket with a Bob patch on the back. West Norwood’s finest is a big East 17 fan apparently.
Many thanks to Paul West @ Form for his time and help in putting this post together. We hope he’ll be contributing some of his own words to BLJB soon. You can see Form's more recent work here.