“Branding is Nonsense”

Milton Glaser, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the great graphic designers of our time. He is most noted for the I NY design which has become a pop culture icon as well as one of the most recognizable and reproduced logos in history. If you don’t know his name by now you either slept through class or never went to design school.

Anyways, in a recent video from Offset titled “Milton Glaser in conversation with Steve Heller”, our founding graphic design father gives some very interesting perspectives on many topics. There is one specific point he makes that I think might ruffle the feathers of the “branding experts” out there. Mr. Glaser claims that branding and logo design being considered the highest form of design is “simple minded”. Now, I am paraphrasing so go watch the video and listen for yourself. This topic runs from 14:20 to 15:50. I’m sure you can handle a little over a minute.

Now, what I find interesting is that I agree. Branding is important but not as much as the logo design. And the form of the logo design is less important than its use in the world. Look back in history and you’ll see that some of the most successful logos are the simplest designs. What makes them work so well is that the companies using them have not changed them, or at least not much, over the years. They are legible designs, constantly in front of you through advertising and on all the products. Coca-Cola, IBM, Google, Disney, Marlboro, these logos have simple typeface treatments. Sure, Disney could have used Mickey Mouse or Coke could have used a soda bottle but they don’t need to use gimmicky icons.

A logo only gets a couple of seconds of attention before a viewer moves on. It needs to be simplistic and, if you can get a little creative and unique, that’s great. A logo says who the company is and over time the repetition of seeing the logo over and over and over has “branded” it into your brain. So when you think about it, the use of the logo is much more important than the design of it.