Heavy Metal Logo

Tonio Fraga writes:

I’d like to ask you if you have any idea about who designed one of my favorite logos in comics: Heavy Metal Magazine. And also, what do you think about it? Isn’t it one of the best logos around?

I agree with you, Tonio, it’s a very fine logo. Let’s take a look at several versions.
Heavy Metal Logos
Images © Heavy Metal.

At the top is the original solid version, then a double-outline version and a single-outline version, followed by a shiny metallic treatment.

I like the heavy, easily readable letters, and I think the design of “HEAVY,” having it sinking into the word “METAL” below is a brilliant example of a logo that expresses what it says. This doesn’t always work, but here it’s perfect. The logo is distinctive, original, and could probably be read at a great distance, helpful on a newsstand.

As for the origin of it, I had no idea, so I asked my friend, letterer/artist John Workman, who was the art director of the magazine for a number of its early years. Here’s what John says:

I might be wrong, but I always thought that the logo was designed by Peter Kleinman. I took the basic one (a solid) and did it as both single- and double-outline versions so that it could be better used with more linear artwork and in order to offer more variety for the different types of paintings that we used for cover art. Peter later somehow acquired a truly weird, overly-ornate and nearly unreadable version that was used on a cover illustrated by Corben. I toned it down a bit, but it was still way too busy. After that, I handled all the cover chores.

I’m going to assume that Kleinman was the original art director or cover designer for the magazine, as I don’t have any old issues to check for his credit. I’m sure someone will tell me if that’s not right. So, the outline versions seen above were done by John. I don’t think the metallic version is the “ornate” one he is talking about, I believe that came later. It’s actually, once again, a perfect match-up of style and content, as it helps express what the logo says. I like it, though I’m sure it wouldn’t work on every cover.

Good, we tracked that one down. I always enjoy finding out who created logos.

Other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

6 thoughts on “Heavy Metal Logo

  1. Tonio Fraga

    Thank you very much, gentlemen!
    Regarding the “truly weird, overly-ornate and nearly unreadable version” used on a Corben cover, could it be this one?
    Every single of the 275 HM covers so far can be seen here
    and it’s the only one that seems to fit that description.
    The shiny metallic version was used on the poster of the famous 1981 movie, but seing that page, it first appeared in the Nov. 1980 issue:
    and much later in a bunch of consecutive issues, from March 1996 to March 1997.

  2. Todd Post author

    Your first link didn’t work for me, Tonio, but if you mean the July 1979 cover, I’d say that’s the one John was talking about.

  3. Dave The Mave

    Yes the logo was designed by Peter Kleinman. I took a class he was teaching years ago at SVA. What a great experience. He told us the story of the origin. The publishers came to him and asked him to art direct another magazine in addition to the National Lampoon which he was doing at the time. He agreed, thinking it would be a piece of cake. The first thing he did was start working on the logo. He set the name in Kabel Black and cut the letters apart and tried to get the effect of weight. The publisher, Len Mogel, saw it on his drafting table and grabbed it and said, “That’s the new Logo!”

  4. Peter Kleinman

    Peter Kleinman here. yes I designed the Heavy Metal logo. The story above is close to the truth. I don’t remember Len grabbing it off my drafting table. I was assigned to be the creative director of the new Heavy Metal magazine while also doing my fulltime job as Creative Director of the National Lampoon. I set the type in the heaviest font I could find. ….. Coated the back of The repro with 1 coat rubber cement, sliced the characters apart with my trusty exacto, and fashioned a pretty cool little visual pun. Then I traced over the design and comped it up to see how it would work over various illustrations, and how it would look with cover lines, dates, UPC codes, etc. I presented the pencil sketch, which I still have, to the editorial board and the publishers. They loved it. ……. to date I have yet to receive one penny in royalties though it has been used on countless covers, tee shirts, web pages, posters, movies, etc. It is one of the most recognizable icons of the fantasy universe….. And it took me about ten minutes to create. I also designed the Animal House logo and the ad campaign, for which I was paid 350$ for by Universal Studios……. ahhhhhh, the good old days. its been 40 years since i was hired by Doug Kenney and Michael Gross to take on the best job in the world with the smartest, funniest, most incredible people ever assembled. I’m still at it and I love going to work every day. Creating great communication is still the same challenge…. except for the fact that its all electronic and we get more done with less. I wouldnt change a thing, wouldn’t do one thing differently….. All is as it was meant to be…… And as they say, now, you know the rest of the story. – Thanks to all – Peter

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