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Logo Design Love: Micheal Beirut talking logos


I always expect that people of Michael Beirut's stature have access to more profound material to account for their success than is expressed in this interview. Perhaps Malcolm Gladwell is on the money concerning talent, time and place in his book Outliers. That, or it is Mr Beirut's charisma that is more deserving of attention than how he speaks of logos.

Otherwise, it may well be that Chris Bowden has not been sensitive enough to Michael's answers. Perhaps the nature of his questions conspired to undermine the possibility of uncovering more substantial insights.

What is that rubbish about authority over kerning in the comments on Brand New?! Most comments on Brand New appear to be from over-eager and inexperienced designers, who have, perhaps, ironically, been misled by the likes of Michael Beirut and other similar design-oriented public figures.

As soon as someone dealing in symbols resorts to truth to validate their position a lightweight philosophical process is revealed. Philosophy should never dominate a creative process but meaningful propositions do require at least a basic grasp of philosophy. Truth-dependent propositions are easily eroded. There is no 'truth about logos', there are only ever opinions about logos.

Surely Pentagram doesn't still deal in logos?! Paula Scher also insists on talking about logos. This may be in order to retain a populist appeal for an increasingly design-literate audience and/or their clients haven't woken up to the limits of design and the importance of brand consulting (of which graphic design is only a part). Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that Michael has to deal with cynical corporate clients. I expect that his clients are also confused about the role of design in business. It seems that Pentagram is indeed a design consultancy and not a strategic brand consultancy. Without a strategy a brand isn't worth much. And, in case Pentagram and their clients haven't noticed, design is not enough anymore.

It is not how a logo is used that carries weight. A logo (the primary brand mark) cues the substance of a brand experience. This 'substance' is normally the story of a brand. A brand's story is normally the reason a brand exists, which usually means a definition of the brand's main purpose in the world.

In my view it is a wasted effort to talk of brands in terms of logos. And, also, a wasted effort to design logos. Logos aren't worth much. The relationship to the reason a brand exists is usually obscured by focusing on a single brand mark. Besides forming a name, a brandmark on its own is unlikely ever to contain enough of a reason to exist.

Anyone may be able to design a logo but not everyone can create meaningfully directed brand marks that articulate and add value to meaningfully directed brand experiences.


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