An Expert Explains Why Logos Like the Nike Swoosh Have Been So Successful

Designer Michael Bierut dishes on what makes a logo great.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

The power of a well-made logo is undeniable. But what exactly distinguishes a mediocre design from one that is truly great?

To answer this question, Vox tapped graphic designer Michael Bierut, who has helped create visual identities for everyone from Verizon to Saks Fifth Avenue to Guitar Hero.

In under 5 minutes, Bierut breaks down the different types of logos used among companies. There’s the easiest and most familiar kind: the wordmark; then there’s the pictorial logo, followed by abstract iconography, and then finally, the logo system—a type of design that incorporates elements from the previous three.

Bierut goes on to explain that logos don’t have any inherent meaning, as they’re nothing more than words and shapes; however, over a period of time, they begin to represent certain ideas in the minds of consumers. Just look at the Nike Swoosh. Though it’s now one of the most recognizable logos in the world, the design wasn’t a big hit at first. Bierut explains that Nike’s good products, coupled with smart marketing tactics, is what made the Swoosh represent more than just “Nike”—it soon represented “the idea of athletic achievement.”

It just goes to show that a great logo doesn't really matter if the services and goods aren't up to standards.

Check out the full video above.

Latest in Style