One of the most famous band t-shirts in the world is not a band t-shirt at all. This ubiquitous Helvetica-based Beatles design is, according to its creators, just “a shirt with four random names on it”.

Dutch design studio Experimental Jetset says it with a knowing wink: after all, if you slap ‘John & Paul & Ringo & George’ (in that order), you know exactly which people John, Paul, Ringo and George are likely to remember. Of course it is kind of about the Beatles, but it’s also “a little one iconoclast the gesture as something that goes against the images, against the representations”, explains the studio.

It turns out that Experimental Jetset’s design has a little to do with fandom, but a lot to do with dense theoretical discourse. At the time of its creation in 2001, “we were really obsessed with the situationist thesis against ‘the spectacle’ (and also the whole notion of Imageverbot [translated as the theological ban of images]as explained by the Frankfurt School)”, explains Experimental Jetset. “So we were really trying to turn the popular image of a pop group into something less pictorial, less representative – not a group photo, but just a dry list of names.