The Origin of the “DK” Logo
by Winston Smith
Back in 1980, now over 32 years ago, after working with Biafra on the first Dead Kennedys record, he called me up one evening and asked me if I could come up with some sort of emblem or logo which the band could use as an identifying image. He explained that lots of bands went by their initials (like Millions of Dead Cops was MDC, DOA, DRI, etc.) Therefore Biafra was suggesting I focus on some image that was kind of hard-edged and severe using a D and a K.
That was it. No other specific instructions. All over the telefone. No visual images were ever shown to me by Biafra or anyone else. I was never consulted by, nor did I consult any other members of the band. And just for the record: Any other variations on how the DK logo was conceived and developed are (to put it charitably) in error.
That night I spent several hours on it and came up with several versions of the same image with variations on the backgrounds and shading, etc. A few days later I met up with Biafra at the Mediterranean Café on Telegraph Avenue, where I showed him the finished logo. Straight off Biafra said, “That’s IT!” and he looked at all the versions of them and took the photocopies I’d made for him on the photocopier at the local Rexal drug store in Fairfax. He had to leave to set up for a show so we met him later at the gig and I saw that someone had already liberally decorated the hallway and the men’s bathroom with dozens of quickly scrawled DK logos.
Since “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” I took that as a sign of approval. I was delighted that the band used my design and put it on their records, etc. At some of the following shows I even saw that East Bay Ray had taken some masking tape and applied the same image to the front of his guitar.
Since then I have seen the logo on a multitude of things, from movie backdrops to merchandise, to homemade versions, to graffiti and tattoos (unfortunately artists rarely get compensated for their work appearing on graffiti or tattoos). So I am indeed happy that it was a good idea (one of my very few!) and that it was a successful image and that so many people around the world have reproduced it by hand over the last quarter century (plus). I am delighted at that. It is a real honor to have come up with something that made such an impact on the youth culture and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to contribute what I could.
Spotted: DK graffiti, tattoos…
and other public offerings
Post your pictures of “DK” logos on Winston’s wall and we’ll add them here and on the blog. Be sure to tell us where or who is in the photo.