Graphic designers love great logos. A well-designed logo becomes synonymous with the thing it represents, and to designers, a logo can become synonymous with its creator as well.
IBM = Paul Rand. I ♥ NY = Milton Glaser. AC/DC = Gerard Huerta.
Any respectable shortlist of rock & roll’s most iconic band logos would have to include The Doors’ logo. The simple, bold geometric shapes; the reflective double-O’s; the tiny but essential psychedelic “THE.” That simple one-color logo is by now one of the most recognizable images in rock history.
In honor of Creative Allies’ collaboration with The Doors to let fans re-create an updated version of the iconic Doors logo, we wanted to give our community of graphic designers and illustrators some insight into the story behind the logo. Who originally created the logotype? What inspired its distinctive design and how does it fit into the creator’s overall body of work?
Interestingly, however, we soon realized that no one seems to know. Though we uncovered a bit of conjecture, a few anecdotes and some shreds of evidence, we couldn’t find a definitive answer for who is credited with creating the logo. What we did learn is that the logo’s story intersected with a few great graphic designers and shed some light on the business of rock & roll graphic design over the past 50 years.
An Anonymous Masterpiece
We found one forum thread on TheDoors.com where a poster asked our question for us: Who Designed The Doors’ Logo? “I’m pretty sure it was designed by the Art department at Elektra in New York, which was headed by Bill Harvey at the time,” answered helpful forum-goer mewsical. “Really great guy, very talented. The label generally came up with that sort of thing, with the approval of the artist/management, etc.”
Another poster noted the similarities between the lettering used for “doors” and Elektra Records’s “E” logo from the same time
period. It seems likely that the same creative team, headed by Bill Harvey, developed both logos.
We came across a brief biography of Bill Harvey on Answers.com (a Wikipedia search came up empty). In it, we learned that in the 60s, independent folk/rock label Elektra was highly revered for the inventive, high-quality graphic design of its LP sleeves. (You can cycle through an amazing interactive timeline of Elektra album art from the 50s to the present at elektra60.com.)
According to the biography, “Regardless of whether the photos or the artwork on Elektra’s sleeves were Harvey’s, they were always presented with taste, often boasting striking images, such as The Doors on the first album…” According to our research, the logo appeared for the first time on this album cover, and while Harvey’s hand was certainly present in the final design of the cover, we’re still left to wonder whose hand may have created it. Unfortunately, Bill Harvey died in the early 90s.
A remarkable insight about the story of The Doors logo is found in an article titled “Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design” that appeared in DesignObserver.com in 2005. Buried in the comment section, graphic designer Art Chantry, famous for his posters and album covers for bands like Nirvana and Hole in the 90s, followed a thoughtful response to the article’s main theme with the following assertion: “…i had to re-design the doors logo!! (anything for a buck.) in fact, i figured out that it was originally done with presstype, because the ‘o’s were crooked. i straightened them when i re-drew it by hand. so it goes.”
When pressed by other commenters to elaborate, Chantry continued,
I worked on a “rock calendar” back in the 80’s (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 th[e] 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.
A Collaborative Effort?
Unlike some other iconic logo designs, The Doors logo does not appear to be attributable to one single visionary designer. But perhaps it’s appropriate that the band known for its dark, mercurial frontman would share similarly mysterious origins.
If you have any additional information about The Doors logo, we’d love to hear it. Leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.