D1 — The Doors
Like some precious old master painting attributed to ‘Anon’, the genesis of The Doors logo remains shrouded in mystery.
Wikipedia would have us believe that it was “designed by an Elektra Records’ assistant”, and there could be some truth in this. But the best guess is that the person responsible was Bill Harvey, who headed Elektra’s in-house art department in the 1960s. Unfortunately, Harvey passed away in the early 1990s, so we’ll never know for sure.
The Doors’ career burned short and bright, with the Morrison/Manzarek/Densmore/Krieger line-up completing seven studio albums between 1967 and 1971. Surprisingly perhaps, the seminal ‘cookie-cutter’ logo only appeared on two of their studio albums — their eponymous debut, and 1968’s ‘Waiting for the Sun’. Although it was subsequently dusted off for all manner of live albums, compilations, box sets and ‘Best of’s.
On ‘The Doors’’ cover, the logo is rendered in a bright, almost fluorescent green atop of a dark, moody photographic band montage, with Jim Morrison’s brooding face taking up half the cover.
‘Waiting for the Sun’, sees a more jaunty outdoors shot, the band dappled in evening sunlight, standing in long grass. Here, the logo is white, with the band’s heads obscuring parts of it. The backward slanting, psychedelic typeface used for the ‘The’ of ‘The Doors’, has been co-opted for the album title. In both cases, you can see through the outline of the lettering — perhaps some oblique reference to Aldous Huxley’s ‘doors of perception’.
On closer inspection, the logo is surprisingly rudimentary, the main letters made up of crude, blocky rectangles, half circles and quarter circles. The two o’s, with their mirrored diagonal lines, could possibly be seen to resemble pills. And it wasn’t particularly well drawn either. Witness a comment on the Design Observer blog by US designer Art Chantry (see 'Is This The Worst Rock Logo of all time?').
“I worked on a ‘rock calendar’ back in the 80s (for a small promotions company). One of the calendars was a ‘Jim Morrison and the Doors’ calendar licensed by the estate and featuring a bunch of famous and unfamous photos …
“I needed a Doors logo … nobody had a working copy, so I photostated it off of the old record cover. it was a terrible repro, so I re-drew it. That’s when I found the error. My new version now has both “o’s” resting on the same baseline and I corrected the angles so that they properly mirrored each other. Since then, I’ve found my version of the logo being used as the official logo. They just lifted it and ran.”
Perhaps the Elektra art department were uncertain about the quality of the original logo. They certainly rang the changes over subsequent albums. However, The Doors' debut album (which included ‘Light My Fire’, ‘The End’ and ‘Break on Through’), proved to be their most successful by a country mile, going 4x Platinum in the US and 2x Platinum in the UK. And that’s undoubtedly why the eccentric ‘cookie-cutter’ logo is still revered and remembered.