Crafting the Music Experience – Part 2: Symbols

Following straight on from my previous post on cover art (which you probably should read first, just to complete the circle), we’re now gonna take a look at a more direct way artists use to distinguish themselves from the ever-growing crowd of musicians and how one of these trends has, seemingly unintentionally, spread like wildfire.

With such low barriers to entry to become an artist in our modern, highly connected world, unless you’re as powerful as Adele or as polished as Ed Sheeran it often isn’t enough just to rely on your music to find success. Imagery, mystery and exoticism are built around an artist’s stylish identity to spill over into the fashion and culture of their fans. They take ownership of powerful symbols we recognise and play on the theme to make their mark and hook us in. It is an effective strategy to make the artist remain relatable as they build higher up the inevitable and less relatable celestial towers of fame.

The forefront example I want to get off my chest is the pervasive triangle. Yes, the triangle (Δ). It takes my previous introduction of geometry a bit further. I don’t know if I’m the only one to notice but an invasion of triangles has saturated the music industry. They can’t seem to get enough of it. Look at this:

triangle in music
Alt-J, Bastille, MADE IN HEIGHTS, Pink Floyd, Avicii

Every one of these identify with an artist. What’s up with that?! I notice more all the time, including on album covers and in music videos but it came to a head when I saw this:

Palace logo

Now this may just be a lack of me being ‘down with the kids’ but when I saw this on people’s jackets, hoodies and tees I, for some reason or other, instantly assumed it was a band of some sort. That’s how closely I tied friggin’ triangles with musicians in my head. It is, in fact, a skatewear brand. But get this, even this logo has now been absorbed by the music industry – in the form of “hip-hop royalty“. The likes of Jay-Z, Rihanna and even North West have been seen wearing the symbol. They’ve all gone coo-coo for the 3-sided shape.

Honestly, I can’t think of any underlying reason that this has occurred apart from the simplest observation of it being a shape that stands out and holds so many possible interpretations which most of us, including me, are rarely if ever even going to think about when looking at it. It holds so much popularity so it must just be some subconscious attraction to its unconventional shape. On a side note, the Play button is also a triangle which, if you think about it, makes this all very meta.

Before I leave the poor triangles alone I’ll just mention the tangentially fascinating use of the Möbius strip in several other logos outside of the music industry. Go look up Adobe Acrobat, Google Drive and even the recycle logo – they’re all triangles.

Two other runners up in the league table of artist symbols were:

  • The 3 Lines (The new symbol we unwittingly see all the time as menu buttons)
  • The X
  • Any others?
X symbol
Jamie xx, The xx, Ed Sheeran’s X, Kygo

Thanks for reading,

The Man Without A Plan


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