A striking representative of the Korean musical Olympus is the South Korean-Chinese music band Exo, based in Seoul. It first announced itself in 2011, when the full lineup was formed. The boy band’s founder is SM Entertainment, which began forming the group back in 2006 as part of a selection process through auditions followed by internships and additional training. It consists of nine male members. They perform music in three languages – Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. The style is quite diverse – pop, hip-hop, R&B, house, rap. On Dec. 29, 2011, the group made their first television appearance on the SBS Gayo Daejeon program. Two groups were formed to reach as many audiences as possible – Exo-K and Exo-M. This allowed them to participate in events held simultaneously in different places and perform Korean and Mandarin works.
One of the features of the band is the creative attitude of the founder of SM Entertainment towards the musical brand he created. Serious attention is paid to developing an image and decorating each album with a special, memorable Exo logo.
Meaning and History
The first member was the future leader of Exo-K, who auditioned in 2006 – Suho. The selection process ended in 2011 when both teams were recruited. The official announcement of the creation of the male musical lineup in May 2011 was made by SM Entertainment founder Lee Suman at a regular seminar held at Stanford University. It was here that the company’s strategy to form two musical subgroups under a common name was announced. Approved the official name Exo was already in December of the same year before its performance at the SBS Gayo Daejeon ceremony.
Apr. 8, 2012, both bands debuted with the single “Mama,” which was followed by the recording of a mini-album and its subsequent release.
Commercial success came already in 2013 after the release of the joint bilingual album XOXO in June. The album was updated with three new releases in August, ranking third on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 and second on Gaon.
Spring 2014 marked the release of the band’s third album, Overdose, which became the album with the highest number of pre-orders in the history of not only Korean-Chinese music.
In 2015, the band was already at No. 95 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and No. 98 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. No other Korean music group has ever achieved such success.
The third tour on Jul. 22, 2016 already took place without Chris and Luhan.
On May 28, 2017, the team gave their historic concert at Seoul Olympic Stadium, completing another tour. This period is characterized by the beginning of the performers’ solo concerts.
Since 2018, the band has continued its successful march through the international musical Olympus, earning gold certification behind their album Countdown on Feb. 9. A historic event for Exo was its performance at the closing of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Starting in May 2019, the band members begin to be drafted into the military. At this time, the remaining team members release their solo albums. At the same time, new subgroups, CBX and SC, are created based on the remaining ones. In November, they recorded an album called Obsession, which was the first album created by a smaller line-up, marking another milestone in the band’s history.
Each new stage, another tour captures the album they recorded in the original design while maintaining the style developed and adopted at the time of the release of the first single, “Mama.” Its originality lies in the possibility of creating a unique design and, at the same time, the formation of visual recognition.
The cover of the first “Mama” album was a black rectangle with a white hexagon inscribed inside. Its sides and the lines dividing the space formed a stylized image of text – the band’s name. This symbol becomes the distinctive emblem of the brand. It will be repeated in this or that form on all the following albums, “hiding” in the outlines, contours of compositions, figures, and images.
This year’s first album, HOHO, had two marks. The first was in the form of a stylized “angular” heart. The second was located to its right, made in the form of a circle. In each of them were hidden stylized letters of the name. In this way, it was claimed that it was recorded simultaneously by both Exo bands.
An extended Miracles album was released at the end of the same year. Its cover was occupied by a symbol made in red lines, which was represented by the middle line of the letter “E,” connected to the place of intersection of the lines forming the letter “X.” Its top and bottom elements were connected to symmetrically mirrored lines, forming a stylized letter “O,” the third of the band’s name.
The extended version of the album Overdose was slightly different in composition from the previous ones. It consisted of a hexagonal figure resembling a schematic representation of a labyrinth.
The studio work of EXODUS appeared before the fans in the version of hexagon, the outlines of which were made in black, and the intersection of lines inside it allowed “to see all the letters of the band’s name. At the same time, the intersection of the elements of the letter “X” was represented in the form of a rhombus.
In the same year, the admirers of the boy band’s music also heard the new album Sing for You, in which a black-rimmed plate was used as a design, with the album name on the inner margin, typed in black capital letters. Above it, across the slash, in small black letters was the text – 2015/WINTER/EXO.
The release of the Ex’Act album was accompanied by an original rendition of its cover, which featured the traditional hexagon. It was formed by the letters of the band and album name, each marking the tops of the figure. They were connected by short black dashes, repeating the slope of the sides of the geometric element. Some of the dashes had an arrow at the end to indicate the direction from letter to letter. If one followed the pointers, one would get the right words for the names. At the very center was the letter “X.” At the same time, these dashes themselves formed the EXO inscription when looking at the composition from a certain angle.
The album, whose title speaks for itself, The War, has become the owner of an image reminiscent of an explosion. The rays diverging from the center create the effect of perceiving a geometric figure and the letters of the band’s name in the blank black sectors.
This year, two albums are released, Don’t Mess Up My Tempo and Love Shot. The first features an image of a speedometer, with the letters of the band name in an arc in the right sector. At the bottom, the artist’s name is in thick red font with a gradient transition, as is the execution of the arrow. Everything is on a black background. The second album is in the form of a cut diamond, the front sides of which form a hexagon with a slightly extended part from the middle. Traditionally, it also encapsulates the name of the band.
The first album was created with a scaled-down team. The emblem is two crossed flags in black. Their crossed flagpoles form their visual perception as the letter “X,” the middle letter of the artist’s name. The top and side edges of the flags create the boundary outlines of the hexagon and simultaneously the first and last letters of the band name. The left flag has a band separating it diagonally, not filled with any color to comply with this correspondence. It visually makes up the middle element of the letter “E,” the other sides of which represent the flag’s two faces.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The main emblem of the musical group, the theme of which is elaborated in the design of each new album, is a geometric equilateral hexagon, whose sides and the intersection of the inner lines form the visual perception of the letters that make up the name of the brand. The image uses only two contrasting colors – white and black (an interpretation of the variant will be used in the future). The execution is based on the contour construction of the composition and the need to look at it from a certain angle. The name of the group “EXO” is conceived as components of the hollow image of a hexagon inscribed 2/3 of the space above the black rectangle.
Under the figure, on the remaining part of the rectangle, the name EXO is repeated in large letters in the style of the ancient Greek alphabet. The brevity of the emblem, while using the hidden visualization, is not only attractive. This method makes one “turn on” the imagination, which provides the maximum impact on the viewer, forcing him to look closely and spontaneously solve the problem of finding the hidden letters—a unique and effective method of increasing memorability, guaranteeing compulsory brand recognition.