The Designer of Summerfest’s Iconic Logo Has Died

Noel Spangler died at age 97.

Milwaukee graphic artist Noel Spangler helped create Summerfest’s smile logo, one of Milwaukee’s most memorable and enduring visual images.

But frowns abound as word came of Spangler’s death on Dec. 28 at the age of 97 due to complications of COVID-19.

“Summerfest is forever indebted to Mr. Spangler for his design of the iconic Summerfest smile logo, which has become synonymous with the music festival,” management of Milwaukee World Festival Inc, the parent company of Summerfest, said in a statement.

Spangler and Richard D. Grant designed the logo, which has been synonymous with Summerfest, dubbed “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” for 50 years.

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The statement noted that the design has varied only slightly since its creation a half century ago and “truly embodies Summerfest’s mission of bringing the community together to celebrate music, diversity and summer fun.”

“On behalf of everyone at Milwaukee World Festival Inc., we send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” the statement concluded.

The red smiley face insignia first appeared in 1970, two years after the first Summerfest was held at Downtown’s Red Arrow Park. The festival now draws hundreds of thousands of music fans to the lakefront’s Meier Festival Park every year. In 2019, Summerfest attracted more than 718,000 people.

World Festival Inc. called off Milwaukee’s signature summer event for 2020 amid concerns over large groups gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers pushed Summerfest from its usual late June-early July span to three consecutive weekends in September but eventually decided to call it off altogether after the pandemic failed to subside in time.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.