Distinctive, graphic, unforgettable – the Grateful Dead’s “Steal Your Face” logo is one of the most legendary images in rock ‘n’ roll iconography. Indelibly marked on America’s pop culture consciousness, this enduring visual – a bolt of lightning contained within a grinning skull – has come to represent not only the band and their music but a lifestyle… and a philosophy.
Originally created by Grateful Dead soundman and artist Owsley Stanley and rendered by designer Bob Thomas, the logo was first utilized as an identifying mark for the Dead’s equipment and gear. In 1976, the image graced the cover of the band’s live double album, Steal Your Face, introducing fans to what would become the most enduring of the Grateful Dead’s vivid graphic symbology.
Now, to pay homage to the band following their 50th anniversary and to re-engage new and future generations with the visual and musical history of the Grateful Dead, designer Darren Romanelli has commissioned select artists and brands to reinvent this classic visual in their own unique way.
Entitled “Stolen Faces,” the series kicks off with Romanelli’s own contribution through his line, DRx. Serving as a visual invitation to the project, his piece features the familiar Steal Your Face skull, but with lightning bolt removed. The result is a blank canvas, a welcoming space for other participants to express their own graphic interpretations.
Next up is a version of the logo created in commemoration of “Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead,” the sold-out shows held this past Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. This whimsical reworking, designed by Frank Caruso, King Features Creative VP, fluidly incorporates another iconic graphic image into the traditional logo – that of pop culture hero, Popeye.
Placed within the circular embrace of the Steal Your Face skull, muscles-flexed, pipe-clenched, the spinach-eating sailor and strongman (and Chicago native) transforms the Dead’s classic icon into a joyful celebration of all things Americana.
“I wanted to invigorate the modern dialogue around the Dead,” explains Romanelli, a longtime and dedicated fan of the band, “and to push that conversation into a new space. The visual history of the Dead is so linked to the legacy of the band and I wanted to allow artists to explore and pay tribute to that history, in a timeless manner.”
ABOUT DARREN ROMANELLI / DRx:
For Darren Romanelli, the process of resurrection is a complex operation in which everything, from beloved media to classic brands and vintage fashion, undergoes a thrilling metamorphosis. Working closely with his clients to find the historical resonance of each brand, Romanelli imbues his projects with a narrative all its own. Focusing his primary connectivity with the difficult-to-penetrate upper-tier influencers, Romanelli aligns brands with specialty boutiques in cities around the globe. Both his clothing line, DRx, and his marketing agency, StreetVirus, allow him to strategically bridge these physical worlds with the virtual. In turn he communicates elements of his creations through the seeding of blogs and influencer exchange at his very own think tank, The Pancake Epidemic. By transforming the familiar into the renewed, Romanelli has gained renown as a savvy reviver of cultural classics. Whether it’s Coca-Cola, Jaeger Le Coultre, Looney Tunes, or Converse – he reinvents these legendary properties, simultaneously building a loyal following – on a global scale.