Who Designed the Original Kiss Logo?
“KISSTORY - FIFTY YEARS AGO I hand drew the poster on the left for our Aug. 10 show at the Hotel Diplomat,” Stanley wrote on X. “The one on the right was then done by Ace [Frehley] for a show three weeks later at the Coventry club. Incredibly proud to know the iconic logo I created that day remains unchanged.”
It was a sweet nod to Kiss’ formative years before they became one of the biggest rock bands in history. Read on to see how one of music's most iconic logos came to fruition.
Who Designed the Original Kiss Logo?
All four original members of Kiss — Stanley, Frehley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss — have credited Frehley for coming up with the original concept for the Kiss logo in various books. The consensus seems to be that Frehley crafted the initial sketch, and Stanley later perfected it.
In the band biography Kiss: Behind the Mask, Simmons remembered Frehley coming up with the Kiss logo ahead of the band’s debut show at the Coventry, formerly the Popcorn Pub, on Jan. 30, 1973. “We started handing out little leaflets. ‘Come see Kiss on Jan. 30,’” Simmons said. “We also had this picture of us in which we looked like the Sons of the Dolls. One of Peter’s friends blew it up into a big 5-foot picture. We wanted to put it in the window at Popcorn, but I said to Ace, ‘We can’t do that. Nobody will know what it is. They’ll think it’s a drag show. Put the name of the group on it and make it look fancy.’ And Ace did it, just created our logo.”
Frehley also said he created the logo immediately after Kiss decided to change their name from Wicked Lester. “The week we decided to call ourselves Kiss, I went home and made a button,” he recalled. “I created a logo on it, and the only difference between that button and the logo as it is today is that I had a dot on the ‘i’ like a diamond. Despite what people say, I wasn’t thinking of the [Nazi] SS when I designed it. I was thinking more of lightning bolts. In fact, my first boots had lightning bolts down the side.”
The guitarist also acknowledged Stanley’s contributions to the logo in his memoir, No Regrets. “Designing one of the most recognizable rock logos in history wasn’t really that difficult,” Frehley wrote. “Everyone loved it. Paul was a trained artist, so when things got really serious he polished my design, making everything nice and neat. (Thanks, Paul!)”
Criss corroborated this account in his autobiography, Makeup to Breakup. “When Ace came in a week later with his sketch for a Kiss logo, the name was confirmed in heaven,” the drummer wrote. “Ace is a great artist, and his Kiss rendition, with the last two letters as lightning bolts, was totally bitching. … Then Paul refined the logo, made the K a little straighter, and we had a name and logo.”
Finally, Stanley credited Frehley for the original Kiss design in his memoir, Face the Music, while also detailing how he brought it across the finish line. “Ace had jotted down a logo for the flyer for our Bleecker Street Loft shows,” he wrote. (These shows took place several months later, in May and June 1973.) “He was a pretty decent artist. I took his sketch and used it as the basis for a series of Kiss logos I designed, ultimately arriving at the one that has adorned all things Kiss for the past 40 years.”
Yet even Stanley’s updated logo contained some imperfections. “I vividly remember sitting on my parents’ sofa while they were out of town and drawing up the final version on thick white stock using a straightedge and a drafting pen,” he wrote. “The SS in the logo actually consists of one S that is thicker than the other, with different proportions, and they aren’t exactly parallel — because I just eyeballed it. Ace’s concept was closer to the Nazi SS.”
Banned in Germany
Regardless of the band members’ intentions, Kiss’ logo stoked controversy for its perceived similarity to the SS Bolts, the symbol of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel paramilitary organization. Stanley learned this the hard way when he discovered the logo was banned in Germany.
“As a Jew, I was sensitive about the SS, and Gene’s family had survived the Holocaust,” he wrote in Face the Music. “My father never liked our logo because he thought my version was still too close to the Nazi lightning bolts, but for me, it didn’t hit home until years later, when I learned our logo was banned in Germany because Nazi imagery was illegal there. When I drafted the logo, I certainly never intended to court controversy at the expense of victims of history. I didn’t want that on my conscience.”
To this day, Kiss merchandise looks different in Germany, with the lightning bolt-shaped letters being flattened into straight horizontal lines.