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What makes a truly great logo

This is Michael Bierut. “I’m Michael Beirut. I'm a graphic designer” You might be familiar

with is work, but interestingly he thinks that logos are just kind of overrated. "I'm

actually often very ambivalent about them." Let’s back out a second. What is a logo?

Basically a face of a company. "Some are beloved. Some... the swastika is a logo and it's reviled.

You know?" They have to work at tiny sizes, and huge. There are three specific types.

First type is the Wordmark. "the wordmark is the easiest one. And it's the one we're

all the most familiar with. I mean John Hancock's signature is kind of a word mark. It can look

crisp clean and modern like the new Google logo looks. Or it can look somehow that it

has roots in a shared heritage the way the coca cola logo looks. You know?" The second

is PICTORAL. "Pictoral logos often function as a kind of rebus. It's a picture, and it's

identifying the name of the company. Sometimes directly like Target. Sometimes indirectly

like LaCoste." The third kind is kind of the holy grail. Abstract inconography. "The third

type is favorite kind of category because it just seems almost like magic." As a designer

people will come to me and they'll say I want something like the Nike swoosh. They think

the Nike swoosh was the Nike Swoosh the day it was drawn. But it was nothing the day it

was drawn." The company that birthed nike commissioned a design student named Carolyn

to draw some ideas. The Nike founders didn't really like it. "They sort of said awww let’s

use that one." It wasn’t an overnight success. And then

they started putting it on the sides of shoes. The shoes were good and then the genius of

Nike's marketing apparatus made us further associate that product not merely with performance

athletic gear but with the very idea of athletic achievement itself. And that's how over a

long time a little mark means something big. "That’s exactly how religious symbols work

– it’s obviously not just anything inherent in about these shapes, but what these shapes

have come to represent in the minds of the people who are looking at them." But there's

a fourth type of logo that goes beyond these three types, and can use elements of each

of them: The Logo System. A kind of framework, but one that can have endless permutations.

The first huge, popular example of the logo system would be MTV. But google’s daily

“doodles” are another great example the logo system – a familiar mark that also

can point to other ideas and issues. This approach all has to do with technological

change. "It used to be if a company was doing a logo there'd be this military operation

by which it would be inscribed on all their equipment and on their airplanes and their

retail facilities and gold pins and cufflinks would be made for the executive suite and

put on spitoons in ashtrays, the top of the skyscraper, and everyone’s business card.

Right? Nowadays none of that’s important as an email signature or your twitter avatar

or the little thing that sits next to your URL. Those things are much more ubiquitous

and they can be changed at the drop of a hat.” Bierut used this system approach for his Hillary

Clinton logo. "we wanted to have a mark that could reflect the electorate, and reflect

the issues. The simple forms that comprise the H with the arrow in it are actually designed

to hold not just two colors such as red and blue, but any colors you want" The use of

logo systems seems to be continually on the upswing – probably because it allows the

the brand using it to expand the conversation beyond it’s own name. "The logo really reminds

people that’s what our priority is today." But at the end of the day, regardless of the

shape, style or system, it might not matter what the logo is. "It really is about thinking

of these symbols as being empty vessels in a way. And then you pour the meaning into

them. Some vessels are better at holding one kind of meaning." So what’s this all add

up to? Basically, those fights people get in about new logos are pretty misguided. "They

think they’re judging a diving competition, but actually all these organizations are in

swimming competitions. It’s not what kind of splash you make when you hit the water.

It’s about how long you can keep your head above that water." Logos need to have a long

life, not win points in a discussion. 12 years after the birth of the nike logo, Nike came

back to that graphic design student Carolyn with a gift "A Nike ring with her own trademark

on it, the swoosh. Thank you very much it's beautiful." And an undisclosed amount of Nike

stock. "Wow." In 1973 when it was designed, her was $35.