Public Enemy’s Chuck D on Creating One Of The Best Band Logos in History

Do you remember the first time you showed the Public Enemy logo to somebody and what their reaction was?

I used to do flyer designs back in the day on Long Island, so I would do logos for acts that didn’t have one, or make up names for acts that didn’t really exist when I was starting out. So when I made the Public Enemy logo, I was actually making a logo for a group that didn’t exist! When Public Enemy came up as this group option, I just moved it from this other situation on over to us, and it fit perfectly. The thing that impressed me was when I saw it in a big gigantic arena-sized way, when we actually opened up for the Beastie Boys in 1987. We had the large backdrop made, and when the logo went up across the back of the arena, I was really impressed. It went from a sketchpad to a stadium. I was blown back. It stood out.

People say I studied art. I didn’t just study; I graduated with an art degree. There’s a big difference. When it came to be around that potential time of making logos, I wanted to make something that understood what a logo could do, you know? Look at the Rolling Stones. The tongue and the lips say it all without you looking at the font. I wanted to be able to make something that detaches. I don’t think there’s too many logos out there that don’t deal with a font, that you can detach and know what it is. Wu-Tang is still the W, but that kinda comes close. But Public Enemy… no font whatsoever. Circle with a man, you know what it is.