With his latest book, ‘Clubbed: A Visual History of UK Club Culture’ just out, designer Rick Banks traces the evolution of the Ministry of Sound logo.
In 1991, James Rudolph Palumbo, along with his school friend Humphrey Waterhouse and DJ Justin Berkmann, founded the Ministry of Sound nightclub in South London.
Legend has it that the club was built in a bus depot but, though there was a bus stand nearby, the space was actually an office car park, converted from a former tubing factory. The club became an instant success, despite opening at midnight and serving no alcohol.
Today, Ministry attracts around 300,000 clubbers per year. As Berkmann put it, “My concept for Ministry was purely this: 100% sound system first, lights second, design third (in that order); the reverse of everyone else’s idea.” At a potential 156 decibels (although it would be dangerous to use it at that level), the multi-award-winning sound system certainly lives up to Berkmann’s promise.
But maybe he’s got it slightly wrong about MoS’s design, which in my opinion never played third fiddle. As a brand, its cheekily familiar portcullis became almost as recognisable as its inspiration, the Houses of Parliament themselves.
The original logo was designed by hand by Third Planet back in 1990.
Ministry also had a penchant for big PR stunts. In the early 1990s, MoS reminded a disinterested mainstream that clubland was still raging, by projecting the logo onto the House of Commons, Battersea Power Station, Buckingham Palace and the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool.
In 1994, boxing legend and house music fan Nigel Benn sported the Ministry logo on his shorts in a title fight in return for a session behind the decks in the main room.
The Designers Republic digitised the MoS logo in 1995 for CJ Mackintosh’s ‘Sessions 4’ sleeve design.
Scott Parker, who worked as Ministry’s creative director from 1995 to 2004 recalls: “Many conversations were had about how hard the logo was to work with, but we all respected it because it was unique and well loved. I was eventually tasked with pitching a redesign out to some of London’s finest branding agencies at the time.”
However, after a lengthy creative process and several months of presentations and discussion, the redesign was taken back in-house. The team decided to tweak rather than change the original to make it more visible on more platforms and a better fit for the creative direction of the brand.
Parker orchestrated the project for six months in 2003, working with marketing director Mark Rodol, designer Peter Sunna and type designers Dalton Maag (see below).
In 2007, Baby evolved the MoS logo even further by dropping the inner lines — making it more suitable at smaller sizes.
And finally in 2016, to celebrate its 25th birthday, Spin was asked to help bring the identity up to date. Spin’s proposal embraced the best of both worlds — to have the old, established marque working together with a new, contemporary identity.
Alongside Cream, the Ministry of Sound logo is one of the most famous in clubland. The naming and pastiche of the House of Commons logo is genius. Arguably, not one of the most sophisticated designs, but as a brand it’s one of the strongest in music. So strong in fact that Sony Music bought up Ministry of Sound’s recording arm for £67m in 2017.