The DIG logo. Anyone who has eyeballed the magazine over the years is familiar with it. A chainring and interlocking hands; it’s pretty classic in my opinion.
Out of nowhere, I glanced at the logo one day (after looking at it for many many years) and all these questions popped into my head about it. What did I do next? You guessed it… harassed DIG Magazine’s Editor-in-Cheif Will Smyth about it.
Click below to learn about the history of the DIG logo.
So… the DIG logo. It pretty much says it all doesn’t it? It references BMX and its history along with a “brotherhood” aspect if you will. Who is responsible for designing the logo and how did it come about?
It’s something that I put together back in the mid nineties, but the design process then was slightly different than it would be for most designers today. I was messing about with some clip art that I’d spotted in a book (of the interlinking hands) and a photocopy of a chainring that Ed Docherty (ex DIG photographer) had scanned from an old BMX annual. I just figured they looked good together. It was never a contrived or deliberate idea to create anything. I just put it together though it looked pretty cool. I’ve been a big fan of US hardcore music since the mid-eighties and I’ve always been drawn to anything that signifies unity so I guess that’s why the image of the hands appealed to me. It was definitely more of a subconscious thing than anything though. Unity used to be something I seen a lot of in BMX too. The old school aspect is only relevant now of course as at the time that was just a regular chainring. Lot’s of people today are totally baffled by ‘that massive sprocket’.
Did the logo come from tinkering, or were you guys after an official DIG logo?
No, we definitely weren’t looking for an official logo. We’ve never actually had an official logo but this definitely became the image that people associate with DIG the most. It was definitely just something that happened pretty much by accident. In reality DIG has never really had any type of master plan.
How long has this logo been part of DIG’s imagery? I feel like it’s been ingrained in my psyche forever.
It actually first appeared as a small space filler in DIG issue 6 (Fall’97). But… the chainring part of the logo had appeared earlier in DIG issue 5 (late ’95) as a subscription advert. We didn’t print DIG for a year and a half between issues 5 and 6 as publishers had starting asking about the magazine and I wasn’t really sure where to go with it next. Not long after we sorted our first publishing deal (we sold DIG for £1 – the first of 3 times that’s happened) and printed issue 6 we had a rubber stamp made of the sprocket logo which we used to put on all of the mail that we sent out. I guess that helped to build the association.
Has the logo evolved at all? Or has it been the same since it was designed?
The logo is actually unfinished as it wasn’t really meant to be a anything more than that little space filler. If you look closely you’ll see that the hands aren’t centred and they should really overlap the sprocket holes on the left (the sprocket needs to be rotated slightly so that the hands fit a little better). We also lost the original file years ago so almost every version you see nowadays has been recreated from a 40mm square 72dpi jpeg. I thought about updating it a few times but seeing as so many people have that version tattooed it just didn’t seem right (although some people have tattoos of the lost version also). Some readers have even sent their own updated versions over the years. Those are always cool to see.
Was there a noticeable reaction to the image?
The reaction came from ourselves at first as i kept coming back to it to use in different parts of the magazine without really thinking about it. It just seemed to sum up really well what we were doing with DIG and how BMX felt to us at the time. The big moment though was when Sandy Carson sent me a photo of his tattoo a couple of years after the logo first appeared. That was definitely a very strange feeling.
A sign of any good logo is how many people are willing to get it tattooed on themselves. How many tattoos do you reckon are out there?
It’s always hard to say but it has to be well over 500. I’ve personally seen photos of at least 300-400 and we get new requests for the artwork every 2 or 3 weeks. I’m sure some people who get it tattooed nowadays don’t even really know what it is or where it even comes from. I’ve even heard stories of people going into tattoo parlours and pretending that they came up with the artwork. That doesn’t bother me though. It’s still a positive image that says the right thing and if gets people stoked on bike riding and friendship it’s all good with me.
As I mentioned above though it’s always a very strange/humbling feeling to be around them (even after all these years). There was one point at Interbike last year where I spotted 3 different people with DIG tats within 10 feet of me. There’s some pretty wild variations out there though. I’m not a fan of tattoos in general so maybe I’m not in a position to comment objectively on those, haha. Incidentally Fred Murray has worked alongside me here in Glasgow every day for the past 3 or 4 years and he’s had the tattoo since before we met. I still don’t get used to seeing though.
Thank you for giving us some history on the DIG logo. Anything you would like to add about it before we wrap this up?
A couple of years back Ricky Adam bought me a piece of artwork for the DIG house. He knew I’d always liked old line art of instructional illustrations (i know…) so he picked a piece at random figuring I’d be into it regardless. We put it on the wall and only then realised that right in the middle of the poster was the original interlinking hands from the DIG logo. Weird eh? Until that point I didn’t even know what they actually signified but turns out it was a technique called the ‘4 handed seat’ used to carry injured soldiers from battle during the first world war.
The DIG sprocket logo is by no means a great piece of artwork and some of those tattoos are pretty wild but it is something that I am actually proud of. The subconscious meaning behind it is definitely something that’ll never get old our outdated either. DIG has always been run more like a collective than a regular magazine (‘by riders for riders’ is a given but friendships have always played an equal part for us too) so it’s nice feeling to know that the logo still fits our ethos 17 years later. Maybe BMX in general could do with some unity today more than ever.