XYZ Type X Rolling Stone: a revamped logo full of legacy
Ever since 1967, the year Jann Wenner published the first issue of Rolling Stone, the iconic magazine has been reinventing itself. Circa 2022, 55 after its premiere, “the bible of pop culture” and arguably one of the world’s most iconic magazine titles gets a revamped logo that recalls Rolling Stone’s impressive legacy. “We’ve been remaking Rolling Stone to be faster, harder-hitting, and more vital” reads the announcement about RS’s new era.
The new RollingStone.com features a “sleeker, simpler” redesign, its pages are “optimized for faster load times” and a revamped logo created by XYZ Type’s typeface and lettering designer Jesse Ragan and famed art director Roger Black who worked with creative director Joseph Hutchinson to restore dimension and depth while modernizing those iconic letterforms.
“Few magazines have a visual presence as iconic as Rolling Stone’s—outlandish, ornate, and memorable” notes Ragan. “Working with Type Network, I got to create my own spin on the three previous iterations—each fantastic in its own way—all designed by the unparalleled Jim Parkinson.”
“Anticipating the wide range of ways the logo would be used, I designed not just one logo, but a suite of them. The system launched today at rollingstone.com and will appear soon on the cover of the magazine, too” he adds.
“The assignment was a paradox. How could we make the logo look like it did in the past, without making it feel dated?” explains Ragan. “My hope is that loyal readers will believe the old logo is back, but on closer inspection will be surprised to notice how much it has been modernized.”
“To approach this challenge, we absorbed as much as we could from all of the previous iterations of the logo, picking and choosing what worked, to synthesize them into a complex solution that meets the wide-ranging modern needs of the publication” explains XYZ Type.
“When it comes to logos, one size doesn’t always fit all. Rolling Stone’s 1981 logo was born to be big, and Jesse knew it would be futile to stand in the way of its complexity when it came to the magazine cover. He recommended a suite of assets to address all the needs Joe identified: a logo with slightly simplified shading for everyday use, a flattened one-color version, a dramatically simplified small-size version, and a set of monograms for use when visual brevity is key.”
Opting for balance and “after experimenting with a variety of new interpretations for the underlying structure of the lettering, Ragan chose to feature several aspects of the previous logotypes to convey the heritage of the brand. He kept the crisp serifs and confident S from 2018, but reinstated 1981’s strong ball terminal on the R, as well as 1977’s simplified e. The letterforms no longer overlap, and he also traded in the freewheeling wobble of the g for a more stable typographic structure.”
“Perhaps most important and visually obvious, Jesse meticulously reconstructed the intricate shading structure from the 1981 logo—which had never been redrafted in digital form. This was a labor of love for the work of Jim Parkinson, dissecting and reverse-engineering his logic for the placement of facets, lines, and transitions.”
“With a great 55-year history, the Rolling Stone visual brand has a lot of equity. The assignment here was to carefully move the logo to better align it with the tradition. Jesse Ragan has done that, bringing back the engraved drop shadow from 1967. And he has truly improved on the basic letterforms, while somehow making it look like it’s always been this way. I think it’s the best logo yet. Certainly good for another 55 years” notes Black.
“While great attention was paid to the legacy and the impact of the visual brand, don’t miss the upbeat grace that Jesse has brought to the logo,” he adds. “The letterforms are refined and elegant, but have a sense of fun, a bit of rock and roll.”
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