The designer behind the Virgin logo

I’m often asked how the distinctive Virgin logo came to be. When we started Virgin Records we had a complex logo designed by the great English artist and illustrator Roger Dean and, as you can see below, featured a set of twins sitting in front of a psychedelic tree with a dragon by their side. Great for Virgin Records back then – maybe not so much for Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money or dozens of other Virgin brands!

By the time 1977 rolled around, and we’d signed The Sex Pistols, the logo began to feel a little dated, and didn’t overly reflect the direction we were headed, so we went about coming up with a replacement. We wanted something a little less hippy and a little more edgy and punk; plus, we had plans to expand into other industries so we wanted something that was stylishly simple.

I previously wrote how the logo came from a meeting on my houseboat when the logo was scribbled down on a paper napkin.

I found out recently that the person behind the logo was a talented young designer by the name of Ray Kyte. His family got in touch with me to tell me the full backstory behind the iconic red Virgin. 

He said the logo was designed spontaneously and under pressure in the late 1970s. We had given the brief to design company Cooke Key and they had been working on it for around six months and needed fresh ideas – so they gave it to Ray.

They asked Ray to come up with an idea for the logo for a meeting with me the next morning. Ray spent the night sketching and thinking, and finally settled on one singular creative proposal.

His handwritten version of the brand, a distinctive 'V' which for him doubled as a tick, signified the ultimate seal of approval, endorsement and affirmation. The colours, red on white felt the perfect combination for the business. 

Ray continued working with global brands for more than 35 years but we never crossed paths until now.

In 2015 Ray’s business Kyte & Co finally closed its doors. However, his family say his passion for photography and art has never dwindled and he can still be found painting in the small hours or even doodling on a napkin.

Ray said that designing to logo was: “Just another job for an aspiring creative, I had no idea the brand would become what it did.”

Ray said he was very proud of his design – and he should be too. This new, simple logo definitely helped shape Virgin as a brand and helped us grow from a small start-up record company to a business that has gone into and disrupted multiple different sectors.

Ray said that the logo has changed very little from his original design, which proves that good design lies behind every great brand. Virgin is recognisable all over the world and I’m sure much of this is down to Ray’s wonderful skills. I wish him all the best. 

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