Michael Bierut on Logos, Crowdsourcing

This week, I enjoyed an interview with Pentagram partner Michael Bierut. Interviews like this explain why my first association with Mr. Bierut is not his design work but his persuasive and candid manner of speaking. In this interview, he makes some controversial statements about logo design and crowdsourcing. For example: “The truth about logos is that they are not that hard to do.” Uh, what? I see his point, but it’s strange to hear one of the world’s leading designers veer so close to the “my kid could paint that” argument so popular in fine art. Logo design is so simple, but many of history’s best logos come from designers who spent their lives perfecting the art of visual communication in simple terms. And your kid didn’t paint that.

Bierut elaborates by echoing a sentiment that I’ve heard Paul Rand discuss in the past: the belief that a logo design is far less important than the ‘brand equity’ achieved by successful implementation of the logo over time. In other words, the Nike swoosh was worth very little ($30 in its original sale, according to Bierut) before it was granted meaning in effective advertising for a few decades. “I actually don’t think that brand new logos are worth that much or mean that much in and of themselves,” says Bierut. “The way identity firms earn their money is in guiding a company into making a decision about one of these things and giving them a plan for actually using it so they can start to create value around it.”

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