March 05, 2010
We were lucky to get up close and personal with the most recognizable brand in music last night (yes, this one is going on expenses as "research") as American rock legends KISS played a short but exfoliating set in a tiny club on our doorstep in Islington, North London.

KISS were a huge influence in shaping Design For Music. We wanted to create album covers and design for bands ever since we first saw a KISS album cover, and we've always loved their iconic logo and branding. And the strength of that classic double lightning bolt logo that's appeared on thousands of KISS branded products from pinball machines to lunchboxes is no accident—it was designed by original lead guitarist Ace Frehley, himself a graphic designer before joining KISS full-time. The KISS logo has withstood the test of time incredibly well, despite being worked harder than any other logo in the music industry. It features all the hallmarks of a classic rock band logo:

Has clear legibility at any size, from a scaled-down version on the spine of a record or CD cover, to an immense backdrop constructed from 1000 gigawatt lightbulbs.
Is easy for fans to replicate on schoolbooks, leather jackets, and tattoos.
Is timeless and unique thanks to its own custom typeface, drawn by original lead guitarist Ace Frehley.
Looks completely and utterly badass. Lightning bolts!

As KISS bassist Gene Simmons himself has stated "KISS isn't a rock & roll band, it's a rock & roll brand." Ain't that the truth. From the get-go, KISS has been about branding, product design and marketing, with fans paying incredible amounts of money for the latest items in a long line of KISS branded merchandise that reaches back to the mid-1970s. The £40 tickets (about $60 USD) for last night's show were going for an extraordinary—wait for it—£500 (that's a wallet emptying $750 USD) hours before the show. Recession? What recession?

We were surprised and delighted that KISS chose to cram a scaled down version of their arena stage into an 800 capacity club for this event. The band were never going to turn up and play in jeans and T-shirts, of course, but we weren't prepared for the sheer spectacle of KISS transforming a nightclub into a 20,000 seater arena. According to the organisers, only 500 of us could be squeezed into the venue due to the size of the stage that KISS installed, and as you can see from our photos, that iconic logo was very much in force and blazed at full, blinding intensity, throughout the show. Witnessing the usually arena-straddling KISS in this uniquely intimate setting was like gawping at Godzilla caged up in a zoo, and we couldn't help but be floored by the sheer level of professionalism, excitement and flat out rock & roll intensity that KISS delivered last night.

See you at Wembley Arena...