Christophe Szpajdel – Lord of the Logos

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I have a secret passion that’s not shared by many of my graphic design brethren: heavy metal. I mean HEAVY metal. So when I first came across Lord of the Logos, a book published in 2010 that contains hundreds of death and black metal logos, I thought “awesome, I definitely want that”, especially since I’d heard several of the bands. But then I noticed something else – All of these logos had been designed by one man.

e3s7oY9cl5cChristophe Szpajdel is a belgium-born artist and designer who got his start doing artwork for the metal underground in 1990, and has since designed more than 7,000 logos (!) for black and death metal bands around the world. “Prolific” is something of an understatement for a number that high, but what’s even more impressive is that his work is almost entirely drawn by hand.

His decorative, visceral style of typography has become a hallmark of black metal, and it’s a form that he actually invented himself. He’s dubbed this calligraphic style “Depressiv’Moderne”, and took inspiration from some surprising sources – namely Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and the artists of the Vienna Secession. The way the letters twist and merge with each other is very carefully planned out, and Szpajdel is very careful to keep his work true to the form.

He may have a meticulous system that he adheres to, but you’ll probably notice when looking at his work that many of these logos aren’t particularly readable. In any other design niche that would be a serious no-no, but this is black metal we’re talking about; you’re sure as hell not meant to understand the lyrics, so it’s strangely fitting that they type style is similarly incomprehensible. It all fits together in the campy, over-the-top fashion that metal is so famous for.

I often look to artists like Szpajdel when I feel like my design work is in a rut, because, as he put it “Logos weren’t meant to be designed by committee, which is why the best logos are drawn by hand…The most timeless logos…They’re the ones that have the most flow.” I read his words and look at his art, and I’m reminded to never put too much stock in my digital programs, and to always start with an ordinary pen and paper, because that’s where the best work comes from.

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