This month marks the 35th anniversary of the introduction of the famous ABBA logotype (or logo).
The logo was the inspiration of designer Rune Söderqvist. He was a friend of photographer Ola Lager, who had taken the photos for the covers of ABBA’s Waterloo (1974) and ABBA (1975) albums. Söderqvist suggested to Lager that ABBA needed a proper logo, that what they had been using “looked awful”. Lager mentioned this to ABBA and manager Stig Anderson, who asked Söderqvist to submit his ideas for consideration.
Söderqvist’s design was Swedish style personified. Using the font News Graphic Bold, the idea was simple: to reverse the first B, so that the two Bs faced the As, representing the two couples in ABBA. It also matched the symmetry of the word ABBA.
Compared to logos of other bands in the 1970s (see Bee Gees, Carpenters, Chicago, etc) Söderqvist’s logo was clean and streamlined. Some critics say that it looks cold and industrial. But it is extremely effective and instantly recognisable. Apparently Benny was the only member of ABBA to show any particular interest when Söderqvist first presented the logo.
Söderqvist thus became the art designer for all of ABBA’s subsequent record sleeves, starting with the Polar version of the first Greatest Hits album, released in November 1975. Curiously the text on the back cover was the non-bold version of News Gothic, which hints that his logo design dates from the same period.
The logo first appeared on the ‘Dancing Queen’ single, released in August 1976, and all subsequent official ABBA record releases and merchandise. In 2008 music website Spinner.com listed the ABBA logo as number 13 in a list of the 25 best band logos.
Over the years the logo has been bastardised, with a plethora of other fonts used on merchandise and record covers, perhaps most galling on the original CD of ABBA Gold and signage for the ABBAWORLD touring exhibition. But the logo has endured and today can be seen on all official CD releases and merchandise authorised by Polar Music.
13 thoughts on “The ABBA logo”
Another glaring use of an incorrect ABBA logo: the Mamma Mia! logo, where it says “Based on the Songs of ABBA”. Imagine how many people know ABBA mainly through ABBA Gold and Mamma Mia! — the only ABBA logo these people have seen is an ugly rip-off.
Thanks for this great tribute, Ian! To add a bit of additional info, ABBA did a photo shoot with BRAVO photographer Wolfgang “Bubi” Heilemann in February 1976. One of the sessions had the band standing behind life-size “A”, “B”, “B” and “A” letters; according to Bubi’s recount of the event to the ABBA Intermezzo Fan Club, when Benny inadvertently turned his “B” 180 degrees for a portion of the photos, the spark of the idea was borne. ABBA actually asked the photographer for the seemingly unusable Polaroid shot and took it back to Sweden.
Rune recounted in the 1994 “Thank You ABBA” documentary, “I think I started working with the logo, I knew the photographer, we discussed it and I said they need a logo because they are getting so big all over the world. And I made that, and also in the same time, the first [cover] I made, ABBA – Arrival.”
For anyone interested, issues No. 56 and No. 60 of the ABBA Intermezzo International Fan Club magazine feature in-depth articles on the history of the ABBA logo (and typography in general on ABBA single and album covers), following the story from its 1976 origin through the “fake” versions during the early 90s revival and the present day. The author of this blog contributed to these articles with invaluable corrections, insights and additional info (thanks again, Ian!).
Back issues are available here:
Was the reversed B part of the (original) design by Rune?
This year Bubi Heilemann was present on ABBA Day and if I remember correctly he said the reverse B happened during one of his photo shoots with the band.
It’s true that in that February 1976 photo session with Bubi Heilemann Benny holds the large B upside down, but which came first: that photo session or Rune Söderqvist’s logo design?
In that 1994 interview in the Thank You ABBA documentary Söderqvist would be talking about Ola Lager. In a video interview at the ABBAWORLD exhibition Rune mentions Lager by name when recounting the story of his idea that ABBA needed a “logotype” (his word).
I highly recommentd Maria’s article in Intermezzo magazine for anyone who is interested in the long and varied history of the ABBA logo.
I heard a different Story About the logo layout. Abba were for a Shooting in a Studio. The set were Held of teenage Magazine BRAVO from Germany. For the backround they stood big letters, accidentally one b was reversed. First not realized. But on watching the photographs after they noticed it and liked it. And they kept this design for their logo.. Well, Maybe i am wrong. Who knows. It’s also nice Story anyway
What is the font on the polar logo? The globe version.
WHY was the incorrect logo used on ABBA Gold? to date its their single largest selling officially released album! Couldn’t they or the company review and approve the design before going to market? Why take all the steps to consistently use the correct logo and then make such a terrible mistake! ..and then use the correct logo when releasing ABBA Oro – it just does not make sense?! does anyone know why the logo has not been corrected, at the very least for subsequent releases of ABBA Gold?
@Randall: No idea why the correct logo wasn’t used in the first place, but they switched to the correct logo for re-releases of Gold and Oro starting in 2002, after Universal took over the ABBA catalogue and Polar coordinated a re-packaging of the albums. FYI, see details at http://www.abbaomnibus.net/discs/albums/abbagold.htm and http://www.abbaomnibus.net/discs/albums/abbaoro.htm. Still lots of 1992 and 1999 versions of Gold and Oro floating around, though.
Thanks for your reply. I recognize that they switched to the correct logo for the cd releases. But no vinyl issue has the correct logo. Am I correct in stating that?!
ABBA Gold was created in 1992 by Polydor UK. Whether they intentionally changed the logo or just didn’t care what font they used isn’t known, though some earlier UK merchandise also used a similar logo. The original ABBA logo was restored on ABBA Gold and ABBA Oro in 2002 and More ABBA Gold in 2008.
The recent vinyl rereleases in 2014 and 2017 were exact reproductions of the original 1992 LP. ABBA Oro was newly designed for LP in 2018.
Thank you very much for your reply.
Therefore when you say the original logo was restored in 2002 – you are specifically referencing that it was done only for the CD releases and other merchandise.
Therefore the ABBA GOLD vinyl LP has never been released to date with the correct original logo !?!
Do you believe that there will be a future release with the revision of the logo ??
Was More ABBA Gold ever released on vinyl??
That’s right, ABBA Gold has never been released on LP with the correct logo.
More ABBA Gold was released on vinyl in 1993, alongside the original CD release, but has never been rereleased.
Will there be future vinyl releases with the correct logo? I don’t know.
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I completely understand now. It’s a shame that they have not corrected and released the vinyl LPs of these mega selling records. Fingers crossed for one day that they will. I’ll wait and buy the vinyls at that time!!