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JukeBox is a blog for lovers of design and music in equal measure. All posts are written by experts who've been there and got the (band) t-shirt.

G1 — Groove Armada

G1 — Groove Armada

Sleek, streamlined and modernist, Groove Armada’s logo looks more like a marque for a ’70s space agency or freight company than a ’90s band. But it sure works.

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The best band logos need to look the part on a T-shirt. “From the off, you know [the logo] is probably going to end up on merchandise,” says Neil Bowen, creative director of Zip. “So it has to look great in any situ, and honestly portray who or what it represents.”

Now two decades old, the sleek, curvaceous Groove Armada symbol has certainly graced all manner of ephemera since it first appeared on the band’s debut single ‘At the River’ in 1997. T-shirts, hoodies, leggings, pencil cases, notebooks, phone cases, stickers, tote bags, beanies, caps … “You name it, there’s something with that logo on it,” observes Bowen.

If the cap fits: infused with retro cool, the Groove Armada logo proved to be a merchandiser’s dream.

If the cap fits: infused with retro cool, the Groove Armada logo proved to be a merchandiser’s dream.

The original logo design was by Malcolm Buick (now plying his trade as creative director of New York agency Athletics). Back in the late 1990s, when Buick was part of the Zip team, one of the studio’s main clients New State Entertainment, who managed a portfolio of artists, among them an electronic duo emerging from the London club scene called Groove Armada. Zip duly won the pitch to create the full branding caboodle for the band.

Bowen describes the logo as “stylishly efficient, with a retro nod to classic icons from the 1970s”. And he’s spot on — the flowing lines, curved edges and stripped-down modernist look recall logos like the NASA redesign from 1975, and the Norbert Dentressangle (a French haulage company) marque from 1979.

Space face: Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn’s 1975 logo design for NASA, familiarly known as ‘The Worm’.

Space face: Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn’s 1975 logo design for NASA, familiarly known as ‘The Worm’.

Transport of delight: until its recent takeover by XPO, the free-flowing lines of the Norbert Dentressangle logo were a familiar sight on French autoroutes. Designer unknown.

Transport of delight: until its recent takeover by XPO, the free-flowing lines of the Norbert Dentressangle logo were a familiar sight on French autoroutes. Designer unknown.

Both these designs evoke a sense of effortless forward movement, and there’s a similarly streamlined feel to the Groove Armada logo. The oblique star, acting as the crossbar of the A of Armada, adds to this sense of motion and progress. Eschewing the predictable visual cues of the rock logo was a smart move, keeping the Groove Armada logo fresh and timeless. In fact, it probably looks just as cool now as it did back in 1997.

Sofa so good: Groove Armada’s second album, Vertigo, went gold in 1999, sporting a green variant of the logo. Zip’s Neil Bowen provided the illustration.

Sofa so good: Groove Armada’s second album, Vertigo, went gold in 1999, sporting a green variant of the logo. Zip’s Neil Bowen provided the illustration.

It’s proved pretty versatile over the years too. The logo has been used large, small, in a variety of colourways, as a central image or paired with illustration or photography as a peripheral graphic. And, memorably, a 3D version. Neil Bowen takes up the story …

Mind the GA: 2004’s 'Best of’ album. Concept David Bowden, photography by Jonathan Knowles.

Mind the GA: 2004’s 'Best of’ album. Concept David Bowden, photography by Jonathan Knowles.

“I always loved the images created for a ‘best of’ album … a scale perspex model of the GA was made and then comped into different environments. David Bowden came up with the concept and worked with photographer Jonathan Knowles on these images.

“But a fond memory of this, and a real Spinal Tap moment, was when the band requested the logo model for their upcoming tour. We had to explain that the characters were only about 100mm in height and might look a little small on stage ... ”

And action: the scale perspex model of the Groove Armada logo gets ready for its close up.

And action: the scale perspex model of the Groove Armada logo gets ready for its close up.

Many thanks to the good people at Zip for their help with this post, particularly Mary Patel for organising, and Neil Bowen for sharing his recollections. You can catch the studio’s more current work here.  

H1 — The Heavy

H1 — The Heavy

Oh no, Yes

Oh no, Yes