Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Logo #21: AC/DC

Despite repeated allegations by a few staunch Christian evangelicals that AC/DC's lightning bolt is a Satanic one, designer Gerard Huerta responds, "It is difficult to understand the controversy of this lettering when you know the origin. I was an album designer at CBS and in 1975 I did some lettering for a Blue Öyster Cult live album called "On Your Feet or On Your Knees." As it featured a church on the cover, I researched Bible lettering, in particular Gutenberg Bible, the first printed book. I designed the lettering based on these religious forms that came from hand-done calligraphy. I rendered them in metal as there was a limousine on the cover and I thought the idea of a car marque would be cool. In 1976 I designed some lettering for an album called "AC/DC High Voltage." They had used the lightning bolt to represent electricity in the Australian version so I was asked to design one into the lettering. In 1977 I was asked to design some lettering for an album called "AC/DC Let There Be Rock," on obvious reference to the bible. I recalled the lettering I used on Blue Öyster Cult and designed this version to be placed in the sky which was shining down on the group on stage. The orange contrasted nicely with the dark blue sky and I added dimension to the lettering as in the Blue Öyster Cult job. In the late '70s there was a rush of typography which seemed to be influenced by this style and was referred to as "Goth." Maybe as a result of the types of groups that AC/DC and Blue Öyster Cult were this typography started to be associated with heavy music. But as you can see from my standpoint it was more "Gutenberg" than "Goth"." This was a calligraphic style that also manifested in barrio murals and gang graffiti throughout the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. Huerta also designed the logos for Nabisco, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Eternity perfume(!). Fortunately, the satanic lightning-bolt crowd has moved on to the evils of Harry Potter and homos and we're all really glad they did.


lucazoid said...

Thanks for this David, very thorough! Do you have any leads on AC/DC's Dirty Deeds album design? It's a totally different feel to the other logos they used on albums. I've had a crack at it here in a rather convoluted post, but its entirely speculative. So it'd be good to get the voice of a logo expert...

ShrallSeb said...

Actually Gutenberg's Bible was using a "gothic" font.

There's a common mismatch regarding that denomination: well-known fonts like Arial or Helvetica are referred to in English as "gothic" fonts (i.e. Century Gothic and so on). I never understood why English-speaking typographers called them "gothic" in the first place.

On the other hand, the "gothic" calligraphy (what you'd call Fraktur, Black Letter or even Old English[!]) was invented in Caen (France) while Guillaume le Conquérant was, well, conquering (he plagued Great Britain if I remember well). Anyways, that French calligraphy called Gothique Textura resembled Gothic architecture (lots of French cathedrals were gothic).

Later on the gothic calligraphy was abandoned in France, Italy and Spain to be replaced by humanistic calligraphy (that looks a lot more like a Times font). But Textura Gothic calligraphy did survive in Germany until the early Renaissance, which explains why the first Occidental typographic font ever created was a re-creation of handwritten gothic Textura.

So yes, Gutenberg did use gothic lettering (this sentence would make perfect sense in French). The thing is (in my opinion) the "gothic" term is misused in English.

But hey, I'm no native speaker so you'll please excuse any mistake I've made ^^'


David Cotner said...

I appreciate your exceptionally well-thought-out response - always glad to get input from professional designers, especially those who use italics as well as you have.

And you say you're no native speaker!