Fairey's Sticky Fingers on Stones' 50th Anniversary

Can anyone believe the Rolling Stones are 50 years old? Now that Shepard Fairey designed the Stones’ official 50th-anniversary logo using their famous tongue, first seen on the Sticky Fingers album sleeve in 1971 (designed by John Pasche, a student from the Royal College of Art in London), we gotta believe. Yesterday I asked him about this incredible milestone:

Are you a Stones fan?

Yes, for over 30 years.

How did you refine the tongue?

I didn’t… it’s perfect.

Did you have to show it to the lads?

Of course. I spoke to Mick often. He has a great design vocabulary and is very decisive.

How many iterations?

I did about 30 versions and they chose one of the most simple.

Are you pleased with the outcome?

I am pleased even though the logo they chose is less “show-offy” from a design perspective. I think the solution they picked celebrates their anniversary and feels true to their vibe, which was my primary goal.

And here is what Shepard has written about the process:

I’ve been a big fan of the Rolling Stones since my dad introduced me to “Satisfaction.” “Tattoo You” is one of the earliest albums I bought with my own money and I studied the album package obsessively… you may notice how its color scheme and iconic art could have inspired me? The Rolling Stones have had a lot of great art over the decades, but nothing can top their tongue logo, originally created by John Pashe in 1971. In my opinion, the Stones’ tongue logo is the most iconic, potent, and enduring logo in rock ‘n’ roll history. I think the logo not only captures Mick Jagger’s signature lips and tongue, but also the essence of rebellion and sexuality that is the allure of all rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.

I first worked with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart on their project Superheavy. Mick and Dave were great to work with and I became at ease with our creative rapport despite their stature as musicians. However, when Mick Jagger reached out to me about designing a logo to mark the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary I was quite overwhelmed. Mick said he was open to any of my ideas . One of the first things I asked Mick was “don’t you think the tongue HAS to be included?”. He responded “yeah I guess it ought to be”. Case closed. I was very humbled and honored to be asked to work on the 50th logo so my objective was to service and showcase the Stones’ legacy rather than try to make my contribution dominant.

I worked on this project as a fan knowing that the Stones’ tongue was the focus and the starting point. With that in mind I set out to integrate the 50 in a creative and memorable way. I think the solution speaks for itself in celebrating the Stones’ trademark icon and historical anniversary. I’d like to thank the Rolling Stones for all their great music that has impacted my life and for allowing me to make a small contribution to their 50th anniversary. Cheers!

For more seminal rock graphics, see Michael Dooley‘s recent look inside the 1960s music revolution. For more Stones history, check out Howard Kramer’s Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Rock, now on sale at MyDesignShop.com.

24 thoughts on “Fairey's Sticky Fingers on Stones' 50th Anniversary

  1. Hopey

    Perhaps Shep shoulda consulted with our fellow RISD alum type guru Toby Frere-Jones on that typography. I do find it a bit odd… But whatever you all say, Fairey’s a nice guy, you can’t please everyone, and at least he’s busy!

  2. Pingback: Timeless Aged Icons | SVA Library Blog

  3. Eric

    If any of you are designers, than you must know the politics and egos involved with any given client. If Jagger was as invloved as Fairey says he was, then equal blame must be laid at his feet. Some of Fairey’s stuff is actually quite good, some of it is just phoned in. But to lay all of the blame for this logo (which I agree, is pretty bad) on him is ridiculous. Fairey could’ve made a dozen amazing logos that were on brief. But if Jagger says he’s not feeling it, are you really gonna tell the man you know the Stones better than him?   

  4. Car Eyes

    Big opportunity lost? Lost how? He was hand-picked by Mick Jagger to design The Rolling Stones’ 50th logo, and no doubt was handsomely paid. That thing will be plastered on more things than you can begin to even dream of. And your accomplishments stack up how?

  5. william neal

    it’s always nice to hear SF bashers…never gets old. well, the next time one of you guys design a logo for the rolling stones, please share. i’m sure it will be PURE genius. in other news, this logo isn’t the greatest but surely isn’t the worst…it’s what the client chose, it’s what the client wants. period. 

    “The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents”
    – Salvador Dali 


  6. chris

    Dignifying a plagiarist like Fairey with an interview suggests that Mr. Heller is really desperate for content. The logo is egregiously bad (which makes it a nice object lesson for student designers) but the perpetuated thievery is even more relevent. 

  7. Pingback: I 50 anni dei Rolling Stones « Sbagliando s'impera

  8. deborah sussman

    During the 70’s my office designed the Los Angeles environment for the Stones tour; the very one that the tongue was created for. We had one week to design and install Mick’s expressed concept: “A Chinese New Year in a Rainforest”. That week included the 4 of July. 
    I called on everyone I knew to help design and fabricate big kites and huge streamers  that filled the interior of the Inglewood Forum. Fireproofing was another challenge but we managed.All this was finished just in time for the opening. When Mick appeared, he skirted the entire range of seats to make sure that sitelines were unobstructed.
    Then he came over to our team and said “well, how do you like it ?” I answered, “oh, we love it”. Then he passed his joint to me while everyone on the team almost fainted.I have photographic proof.
    We got invited to the pre-opening reception, and I was given a special badge that enabled me to go anywhere I wanted in this large venue; even, next to the stage, where Annie Liebovitz was furiously shooting.
    And, although a labor of love during the sweltering summer heat, we were very well paid: in bundles of $20 bills.
    Just thought that this story is worth telling.

  9. Kelsey

    Too many different type-treatments going on. It’s hard to look at, and equally hard to read. 
    Do not like the squished “Rolling” Although I understand why it was done. 
    Do not like the “Fifty Years” That is the most difficult part to read. Poor font choice
    I think if the white highlights on the tongue made a loosely-shaped “50” it would read better visually. 

  10. Mitchell Cox

    Such an iconic symbol didn’t need any words. I’d have made a 50 out of the tongue using the highlites as negative parts of the letters. The zero is already there.

  11. Brian Drake

    There is or should be a distinction between a graphic designer and a visual artist. While Shepard Fairey has done wonders at bridging the two idioms blurring the lines and possibly creating a hybrid form of visual communication, it is not lost on me that he lacks certain fundamentals. Good type design takes more than repurposing visual elements in popular culture. There is a subtle and unconscious dance with an audience and type sets the tempo. Someone from his peer group that was far more sensitive to the interplay of type and image in a fine art idiom would be the late Margaret Kilgallen.

  12. James George

    The concept itself was cool, to try to work 50 into the Stones verbage, but the execution is oor. If I didn’t know who the Rolling Stones were, trying to read the name would be impossible. To me, the hierarchy overrides the syntax, and it reads, “The Rolling 5 Tones”. 50 and Years are so far apart, that the viewer cannot make a visual connection between the two. Fifty years should have been done in the calligraphic “The” FOnt and placed together somewhere.
    I am not going to speak negatively and say that Shephard Fairey’s work is atrocious, because I feel that it is unprofessional to bash other’s work, but I think that there are elements in the logo that could have been more refined.
    Remember that he was dealing with a client and sometimes you can’t control the outcome of the design as much. If the client isn’t happy, then you won’t be hired again. If Mick Jagger is pleased, then Shep did his job.

  13. Emily

    Wow.. I don’t mind it as much as others do. He sketched out 30 versions, which I would love to see but ultimately, it’s up to the client, and the client chose to keep it the same (“they chose one of the most simple.”) that’s not SF’s deal. 

  14. Patrick King


    Fairey’s work has never had any typographic flair to it. Quite an opportunity and rare honor squandered.
    They hire him because he’s a rock star himself. And few other designers, or whatever Fairey purports to be, are on the tip of the public’s tongue. Michael Beirut will simply never appear on the Colbert Report. Numerous times, no less. In the 60’s the Stones were far too cool to hire Peter Max. They got Andy. Glaser did Dylan. The Beatles hired Peter Blake. Fairey’s a brand. His “work” should mesh well with their Sprint sponsorship. 


  15. Steve Foster

    Ditto about the typography. I put the Grateful Dead’s logo “collection” right up there with the most recognizable rock ‘n roll logos. Especially “Steal Your Face” and “Skullf*ck”. What other rock logos have a name?

  16. BarbR

    I think some more indepth questioning was needed. Is he paying homage becasue he is unable to generate from a blank piece of paper? Does he consider any of his work original?

  17. Justin Vajko

    I don’t know about Fairey’s lack of talent in general, but I do know that this logo sucks, no pun intended. Ok fine, yes, the pun was intended.
    And 30 versions? How the heck? Were they are with “50” in a different font or something?