Nirvana logo and the history of the band

Let’s get an insight into the Nirvana logo and some history behind the alternative rock band.

Nirvana was an American alternative rock band started in 1987 in Aberdeen, Washington. Its success revolved around three talented musicians. They were Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic. Kurt was a guitarist, while Dave was a drummer and Krist a bassist.

In 1989, under the independent record label of Sub Pop, the band released their debut album—Bleach. Also, they unveiled their maiden logo. It was a yellow wordmark over a neutral background. Then, in 1981, they unveiled their second album—Nevermind.

Nevermind became Nirvana’s best-selling album, selling over ten million copies in the United States alone. Expectedly, the band unveiled a second logo to escort the launching of the album. It depicts a yellow face with crossed-out eyes against a wobbly smile. It looks friendlier.

Despite its simplicity, it’s one of the most recognizable labels across the world. This iconic image sits below its logotype. And you can spot it on pretty everything promotional. For instance, it is illuminating with joy on t-shirts, mugs, caps, billboards, etc.

The origin of this smiling face logo remains a mystery. Until his death, fans credit Kurt Cobain as the creator of the emblem. Legend has it he took inspiration from a similar googly-eyed face. However, others think the logo originated from Lusty Lady Strip Club.

Today, Nirvana’s legal team is battling Marc Jacobs International for copyright infringement.

Nirvana Logo Evolution

Nirvana has had two striking logos: a wordmark and an emblem. Together, they form a potent visual identity, helping the band become one of the most influential and noticeable worldwide. Interestingly, the two logos have remained unchanged since their inception.


The band released its maiden logo in 1989. It comprises a bold yellow wordmark rendered on a white background. The logotype features a serif font with some contour ends in all uppercase letters. Overall, the label is clean, readable, energizing, and memorable.


After almost two years of using the wordmark, the brand unveiled another logo. This trademark comprises the known wordmark and a comic emblem. The elegant emblem is a smiling face, hence the nickname—the smiley face. Funny enough, it has the letter—x depicting its eyes and a tongue sticking out from its line-shaped mouth.

Mostly, this comic symbol is placed below the logotype and dazzles in the monochrome color scheme. You’ll spot it beautifully dressed in yellow, the band’s custom color. It first appeared on a poster for the launch of Nirvana’s album—Nevermind.

Why Does Nirvana Logo Work?

1.      The Logo Is Readable:

Winning logos make it easy for people to identify their brands. And the best way to achieve this is to pick a legible font. Practically, Nirvana’s wordmark is clean, readable, and highly identifiable. So, regardless of the medium, fans can notice and sing out its name. So, it’s prudent to always choose with caution.

2.      The Logo Is Simple:

A wordmark and an emblem hold Nirvana’s logo personality. Yet, it isn’t overwhelming. Yes, you won’t find any distorting design element clouding its charisma. Instead, it’s clean, highly recognizable, and memorable. To ensure your logo excels, never underestimate the power of simplicity.

3.      The Logo Is Unique:

Despite the ongoing legal battle between the band and Marc Jacobs International over copyright bleaches, the Nirvana logo is exceptional. With this, you may wonder what makes it unique then. Well, the remarkable eyes and the wobbly smile set it apart from the pack. With this personality in check, fans can easily identify it from the cloud.

4.      The Logo Is Scalable:

The Nirvana logo is scalable. The logo can sing on several marketing mediums, whether combined or used individually. Its clean layout is the power behind this important attribute. In short, you can find it on both smaller and larger screens. Keep this in mind when crafting your visual ambassador.  

5.      The Logo Is Memorable:

Fans and non-fans alike can quickly recall the Nirvana logo. Why? It has a clean personality that makes it easy for people to encode and decode. Similarly, it’s memorable because it has a funny and friendly personality that’s adorable worldwide. So, the next time you design a logo, factor this quality into your design process.  

Nirvana Logo Design Elements

Though it’s modest, the logo is one of the most impactful labels in the world. It has attained this essential status because of its graphic elements. Yes, we can credit its typeface, colors, and welcoming symbol used. Together, they tell an extraordinary story.

Nirvana Logo Shape And Symbols

A Circle:

A circle is the most outstanding design element that depicts the logo’s head and evokes its global presence. A circle symbolizes community, totality, and wholeness. Also, this geometric icon is used to signify eternity, timelessness, and protection. Finally, as a symbol showcasing a smiling face, it symbolizes friendliness, joy, happiness, and peacefulness.

Nirvana Logo Colors

1.      A Yellow Color:

Nirvana idolizes the color yellow. This primary color evokes the charisma of the wordmark. Yellow, the summer color, represents joy, hope, friendship, and honor. In contrast, it can signify betrayal, jealousy, illness, and cowardice.  

2.      A Black Color:

Black is the next custom color for Nirvana. It’s the color that carries the image of the smiley face. Black, the color of authority, signifies power, strength, and elegance. In contrast, the color of mystery symbolizes fear, evil, death, and aggression.

3.      A White Color:

Both the wordmark and the emblem are rendered on a white background. This neutral color gives an excellent balance to both the yellow and black colors. White, the color of snow, symbolizes purity, peace, goodness, and cleanliness.

Who Designed the Nirvana Logo?

Nirvana’s smiley face logo has long been attributed to Kurt Cobain. However, Robert Fisher, a designer, claimed to have designed the comic label for the band in the summer of 1991. Again, he further claimed he took inspiration from various smiley icons to give Nirvana an influential trademark. This logo appeared with the band’s second album—Nevermind.

What Font Is the Nirvana Logo?

Nirvana’s inscription is executed in a serif typeface called onyx. Gerry Powell created this elegant font in 1937. He published it through the American Type Founders. According to reliable reports, Grant Alden chose the onyx font when Lisa Orth, Art Director, paid him to use any font installed into his typesetter at that moment.   

Is Nirvana Logo Copyrighted?

Two brands are fighting over the ownership of the iconic logo, while a third party watches from a distance. Nirvana, the band, and Marc Jacobs International, a fashion house, are in court. While Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs for copyright infringement, the latter argued the logo was never copyrighted, so they have the right to its usage.

Whereas lawyers of both parties are arguing about their cases, Robert Fisher, a graphic designer, claimed he was the creator and the copyright owner. Interestingly, Nirvana’s legal team has described his claim as factually and legally baseless. This legal battle began in December 2018 and is still ongoing.

What Color Is the Nirvana Logo?

Nirvana has two official colors, yellow and black. The yellow symbolizes joy, happiness, hope, and friendship. On the flip side, black signifies power, mystery, elegance, and wealth.

What Was Nirvana’s Logo?

Nirvana’s logo is called a smiley. It features a funny head with some interesting graphic elements. Here, you’ll find a letter—x, a crooked line, and an oval shape representing the eyes, mouth, and tongue, respectively. This friendly logo mostly dresses in yellow or monochrome colors. Overall, the iconic emblem comes with a readable wordmark above it.

What Does A Dead Smiley Face Mean?

In today’s digital era, the sign—xx has become widely used. It’s highly common to find it among social media users—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Also, the dead smiley face is represented by xx in the cartoon world. So, whenever this icon is used, it can represent a dead person’s face. Similarly, others used it to mean gutted or embarrassed.  

Is Nirvana A Rock Band?

The Nirvana band is an American alternative rock group. Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl created a novel grunge music style. This unique sound gave a voice to the post-baby boomers. This era of children is famously called Generation X.

What Does Nirvana Stand For?

Nirvana aligns with religious enlightenment, particularly in Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s the highest and ultimate state that a person can attain where her desires and sufferings are absent. In short, Nirvana is a state of perfect peace and joy, and it originates from Sanskrit, a classical Indo-European language of India. Finally, Nirvana aligns with heaven or paradise.

What Year Did Nirvana Form?

In 1987, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic started Nirvana in Aberdeen, Washington. Later, they hired several drummers to help with their recordings and performances.

Why Is Nirvana So Famous?

There are several reasons Nirvana is famous and successful. First, the band comprised three talented musicians. They stunned the world with fresh and exciting lyrics that resonated with Generation X. Second, the band’s raw form of rock music rose above several others.

In the late 1980s, fans were fed up with the junk lyrics that filled the airwaves. They needed something unique, and Nirvana lived up to expectations. Nirvana became famous because of their intense marketing campaigns. Finally, they have a strong and electrifying fan base.

Why Did Kurt Cobain Wear Dresses?

In showbiz, uniqueness is a selling weapon. To set himself apart, Kurt Cobain often wore dresses and skirts. You may wonder about the logic behind his female-style preference. Well, he had this to say, “I like to wear dresses because they’re comfortable. There is nothing more comfortable than a cozy flower pattern. It just feels comfortable, sexy, and free wearing a dress. It’s fun. He made these remarks in December 1992 to Melody Maker.

Why Did Kurt Cobain Choose the Name Nirvana?

“I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name like the Angry Samoans.” These were the words of Kurt Cobain, leader of the Nirvana band. Before this catchy name, the band had used a series of names like Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, and Ted Ed Fred. I think these names aren’t as sweet as the name—Nirvana.

Who Owns the Rights to Nirvana?

Courtney Love, the widow of Kurt Cobain, inherited his estate after his death in 1994. This inheritance includes over nine-eight percent of the band’s publishing rights. Then, out of this massive ownership, she sold about twenty-five percent to Larry Mestel.

Larry was a former general manager of Virgin Records. But now, he manages Primary Wave Music Publishing. Courtney gave out that right because she needed a strategic partner to help her manage the massive estate. Also, she described the estate as overwhelming.

How Nirvana Got Started?

Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic met while at Aberdeen College. While Kurt wanted to form a band with Krist, the latter remained aloof. So, it took a demo and three years for Krist to accept to partner with his friend. The demo was entitled—Fecal Matter.

Sellout was their first band. It featured Krist on guitar and vocals, Cobain on drums, and Steve on bass. Sadly, the band folded up within a short period. Then, in 1986, they formed another band. They brought in Bob McFadden to play drums. Like the first, this band failed.

The partners hired Aaron Burckhard to play drums. With content from Cobain’s fecal matter, the band practiced. They also wrote new content to complement what they already had. In January 1988, Nirvana recorded its first demo. During this time period, the band was without a drummer.

They advertised in the Rocket to fix this issue, looking for a drummer. Sadly, the ad caught no attention. Finally, however, through a friend, they had Chad Channing. He played his very first show with the band in May 1988. Six months later, the band released its first single—Shocking Blues.

After this release, the band had its first interview with John Robb in Sounds. From here, they began recording Bleach with a local producer, Jack Endino. Finally, in June 1989, the band released Bleach. Instantly, it became the favorite of college stations.

Sadly, Bleach had an initial sale of 40,000 copies because of lack of promotion and distribution. This angered the band members, especially Kurt Cobain. Nirvana, in 1989, recorded the Blew EP with producer Steve Fisk. In 1990, they began working on their next album with Butch Vig.

With the absence of Chad, the band needed a replacement. Luckily, Buzz Osborne introduced Dave Grohl, a drummer, to them. Kurt and Krist were pleased with Dave’s audition. As a result, Nirvana signed with DGC Records in 1990. After signing, they started recording Nevermind.

Finally, in 1991, the band released Nevermind. And based on a similar project, stakeholders projected a sale of 250,000 copies. However, by December 1991, the album sold 400,000 copies per week in the United States. It was a staggering breakthrough album.

In 1993, Nirvana released its third album, Utero. Though not as successful as Nevermind, it topped the British and American album charts. In 2014, the band was inducted into the Rock-and-roll Hall of Fame. It’s a well-deserved recognition for a band that made history.

My Final Thoughts On Nirvana Logo History

Nirvana was one of the biggest and most influential bands in the world. Then, Kurt Cobain forged a partnership with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic to create an alternative rock genre. They shot the unknown sound into mainstream pop culture, receiving a standing ovation.

In 1987, Nirvana was formed in Aberdeen, Washington. Two years later, they released their debut album—Bleach. It was followed by their second album—Nevermind, in 1991. This album altered the status quo, winning the hearts of Generation X youth.

Then, in 1993, Nirvana released its third album—Utero. It was another success story. Importantly, Kurt Cobain wrote almost all the band’s lyrics. It’s, therefore, no wonder he was their chief songwriter. However, there were very few songs that he co-wrote with his colleagues.

The name Nirvana originates from Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-European language of India. It’s regarded as a state of enlightenment where greed, hatred, and delusion are absent. Initially, the band used names like Skid Row, Fecal Matter, and Ted Ed Fred before Nirvana.

The Nirvana logo is called the smiley face. It appeared in 1991 during the band’s second album launch. Also, it teamed up with the wordmark to give Nirvana a massive brand identity. Since its inception, the smiling face logo has remained loyal and entertaining.