• Paul McCabe

Graphic Design, a dropped "T" and The Beatles

Recently, the 'Get Back' documentary, put together by Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson, has put The Beatles back into focus for a new generation of fans. But there is a hidden story around the band which has a surprising Graphic Design element (with credit to scriptwriter Eddie Robson for highlighting this story on his Twitter feed, @eddierobson).


Most people probably recognise the Beatles 'logo' - very simple typography with a distinctive drop "T" in the middle.


It's not seen on any album released by the group in their lifetime though. Many of their albums either didn't feature the group's name at all, or only featured it as part of the album's title.






The records that did feature the group's name used typography specific to that release, typical of albums in the 60s. But there's one place the drop-T logo regularly featured: on Ringo's drum kit. And, in fact, this is exactly what it was designed for.




Website beatlesbible.com has an article about this. But the short version is that in April 1963 Ringo bought a new set of drums from Drum City on Shaftesbury Avenue.


Drum City was the exclusive supplier of Ludwig drums and Brian Epstein persuaded them to give Ringo a new Ludwig kit for free in exchange for his old Premier kit and a lot of exposure from the blossoming Beatles. Ludwig insisted, quite rightly, their logo should be very visible.


So, the Ludwig logo was painted on the drum head along with THE BEATLES. The shop's owner, Ivor Arbiter, sketched the drop-T logo there and then with the larger B and T in place to emphasise the word "Beat", as is the context behind the band's name.


Both logos were painted onto the drum head by sign writer Eddie Stokes. Drum City paid Stokes £5 for this service with Ringo using the kit after picking it up in May 1963.


Ringo bought more equipment from Drum City over the years, each time a drum head was bought he would have the famous logo painted on. Looking at these pictures here, the logo evolved slightly over time with small variations.






Even after the band split, new records with the groups's music kept using new typography for each release, but the drop-T logo was still never used.


But, in 1982 The Beatles' released a 20 Greatest Hits album which was the first to feature the drop-T logo. In a clever piece of marketing, Love Me Do was also reissued with the same logo.




It wasn't until the 1990s that Apple Records trademarked the drop-T logo, unthinkable in the modern age. The logo of the biggest band in the world had been open to abuse and potential theft for around 30 years! After that it appeared on everything Beatles, from new records to sweatshirts, t-shirts, guitar picks, art and all sorts of other merchandise.







Original designer, Ivor Arbiter, had no idea at the time just what he had created. Was he ever paid for designing a logo for the biggest band in history? Probably not! But at least he played a part, of which there aren't many people who can say such a thing.

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