Signs of the Times

While digging through old photos in our archive for a presentation I was giving, I stumbled upon some scans of Bumble and bumble’s logos throughout the years. Even though I’m no longer involved with Bb., I enjoyed reminiscing about the journey from our salon in South Africa to the brand we built in New York. I thought it might be interesting to travel down memory lane with you and tell the story of each logo. I hope you’ll find it interesting, as well.


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When we first opened in Johannesburg, I cut the hair of the creative director at Grey Advertising, the most renowned advertising agency in South Africa. One day, as I was cutting his hair, he offered to do our logo. Nowadays that might cost $50,000, so it might seem strange that he did in exchange for the occasional haircut, but people used to do things like that. I loved the curvaceousness of this logo; so 70’s. The window of the salon was painted over with a very rich blue with the logo in silver, because we didn’t want people looking in the window. This was for a few reasons. The first was because we had, in my opinion, the most unique and beautifully designed salon maybe ever, and I preferred people come in the front door and see it for themselves as opposed to just peeking in from outside. A few of my clients at the time were the best interior decorators in Johannesburg, and they also redesigned the entire salon in exchange for haircuts. It was beautiful, structured as an octagonal maze, and it was by far the best salon design I had ever seen. The second reason was we usually stayed open much later than was officially allowed, and needed privacy to continue doing that. So, we just had this big, curvy logo on the window. It was lighthearted, flippant, and funny, and reflected the playfulness of the name and the atmosphere of our salon.


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When I relocated to New York, I didn’t have enough money to redo our logo. I quickly became so nervous about our name, our look. I thought, “What the hell am I doing coming to New York with a name like Bumble and Bumble?” I worried I’d become a laughing stock, and that I would fail even worse than I had imagined. It really was such a stupid name in comparison to the rest of Hairdresser’s Row, which was very, very French. Luckily, I met a fabulous graphic designer called Mike Quon. And what do you know? He did our new logo for free. It was very cool and everyone absolutely loved it; it actually won a few awards. For me, I always knew it was great, but had a feeling that it was too rigid for us, at least compared to our first logo.  Regardless, people loved it, and we kept it for about five years. Looking back, I suppose we were the only salon that could afford to have a bit of fun with our logo, because everyone else was so buttoned up. We could afford to morph and play around and change, and I think this logo reflects that.


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After about eight years of real success, we decided we needed to move. Our lease was up and we had to find a new place to go. We found a fantastic building in the design district that used to be a carriage house, about 12,000 sq. ft. It was the mid 80’s and everything had an air of Miami Vice. This era unfortunately influenced the salon design, which was pretty hideous. I don’t think I had grown into good taste at that point. I made Mike Quon change the logo again, against his wishes. I regret it to this day. Whenever I think about how the salon looked and how I looked, I groan. Looking back, I was this logo’s worst critic, but I still think it was pretty bad, even now. But we really had to recreate this entire new space from scratch, and this was the result. It was certainly a sign of the times. I only wish I would’ve met Ross Anderson sooner, who ended up making the space incredibly beautiful.


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So we had this massive space, and it quickly filled up with new business. This is when I first met Tibor Kalman and Alexander Brebner, who were working for the famous design firm, M&Co. Tibor was a charismatic, verbally gifted guy, that had this very cool agency with great clients. He was the best salesman I ever met. Alexander was working for him when he got his first haircut with Howard [McClaren] at Bumble and bumble. I wanted to change the logo again, and Alexander had actually already started designing t-shirts for us, so we figured who better for the job than M&Co? Their team wanted to do a complete salon redesign along with a new logo, and of course I was on board. For the interior, I was introduced to Ross Anderson, who did really cool work with industrial aesthetics and materials, which was unusual at the time. He undid everything that was bad and brought out all the good underneath. He found gorgeous steel behind all of the enameled stations, he changed all the ceiling tiles.

For our logo, I asked Alexander if he could do something calligraphy-inspired, with black ink on paper, no computers. And he came up with the logo that Bb. still uses to this day. There was never a “correct” way to write it, and no two products had the exact same logo. The handwritten style complemented the industrial feel of the salon and gave it such a handcrafted look. It really represented the craft of hairdressing and showed just how far we’d come. After that, I convinced Alexander to join us. He was at the height of his creativity and did really great work. He was very hands on, and had done lots of boards and explorations of how to apply the logo. I think his words sum up the journey of the Bumble and bumble logo better than mine could: “As a company evolves, as this one has - and as a designer evolves, as I have - so does visual identity, as ours certainly has. But a brand is much more than a logo - it’s the people, the environment, the total experience you provide that makes it memorable.”

Meeting Alexander and working with him during this time at Bumble I believe we were at the height of our creativity. I think the work he did for Bumble in that period is legendary.