A Top Nike Designer Rebrands Game Of Thrones
A Top Nike Designer Rebrands Game Of Thrones
GEORGE R.R. MARTIN PAINTS PICTURES WITH WORDS, BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A NIKE DESIGNER TRANSLATES THESE WORDS INTO ACTUAL PICTURES? WONDERFULNESS.
If you’re Nike Brand Design rock star Darrin Crescenzi, and you’ve created everything from the Nike Fuel gauge to the U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball uniforms, what do you do in your spare time?
You, like the rest of us, get hopelessly addicted to George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series Game of Thrones. (Warning: Extreme, esoteric geeking out ahead. If you have no idea what the heck Game of Thrones is, go read the series, then meet me back here in a few months.)
“Like many people, I was introduced by the HBO adaptation—I’m sure to the chagrin of the longtime readers. I began reading the first novel while watching the first season, quickly becoming hopelessly obsessed. I basically disappeared for about five months, devouring all five books in the series, culminating in this borderline-depression when there were no more books to read,” Crescenzi tells Co.Design. “I’m not entirely sure of the full impact the books had on my social life, but there was definitely a span there where friends stopped calling.”
But unlike the rest of us, Crescenzi didn’t end his obsession there. He’s a branding expert, after all. Logo and typographical designs are what we eats, sleeps, and breathes. So while he devoured the books, he also kept a notebook at his side, recording the text descriptions whenever George R.R. Martin introduced a new house sigil. By the third book, Crescenzi stopped taking dictation and began drawing the sigils then and there, eventually compiling the whopping collection of sigils you see here. “I didn’t brand each house—George R.R. Martin did, and whether or not it was intentional, the result is an integral piece in the success the series,” Crescenzi says. “All I wanted to do was give them a sort of unexpected and unified visual language.
“The sigils really do act as branding, in that they give each character formal distinctions—Lannister’s use of crimson and gold, for example, sets that family apart from the rest on a purely visual level. But they also serve to give a vague indication of the values and psychology of the wearer. That same crimson and gold alludes to power and wealth and vitality, and when combined with the symbol of a rearing lion, tells a holistic story about the prominence of that family and their importance within the narrative,” he explains. “Conversely, the white and grey of House Stark is a straightforward representation of them—stoic, bleak, rather depressing. House Bolton’s pink and red ‘flayed man’ sigil pretty much screams psychopath.
“What I find most fascinating, however, is the fact that these ‘brands’ exist only as the written word. A Song of Ice and Fire is devoid of illustrations (other than the maps, of course), and yet when we read a description of, say, a battle between Lannister forces and Stark forces, we immediately create a mental image of screaming gray-clad men rushing into an army of red, despite not being part of the exact verbal description of a battle. These brands become such a key part of the reading experience—Night’s Watch black might as well be Tiffany blue or UPS brown or T-Mobile pink.”
I asked Crescenzi if his work at Nike influenced his work on this sort of visual fan fiction, and surprisingly enough—while most designers tend to distance their professional projects with their geek side projects—he admitted that it absolutely did. “One of our biggest challenges is maintaining a consistent brand voice despite having an incredibly diverse consumer-base. Athletes have very different interests, and sometimes you want basketball to look like basketball, women’s to look like women’s, running to look like running. Other times, you just want it all to look like Nike,” he explains. “Then, you try to maintain brand voice though both Nike and in-direct retail, digital, out-of-home, broadcast, and social media, and do it in incredibly diverse marketplaces around the globe. It’s a daunting task and takes teams of talented and highly organized minds to make it happen. This immense scope of our work makes discipline a core competency for designers here. “That endless pursuit of visual consistency was one of the driving forces behind the look and feel of the poster. I never thought of the project as a series of logos; The approach was much more that of creating an icon set.”
In the end, as true as he remained to the books, Crecenzi did take a few artistic liberties of his own. He ditched all of Martin’s descriptions of physical figures, as he didn’t feel the forms would shrink well to icon-size prints. (He also just found such depictions, like House Umber’s giant breaking out of chains, too literal for his taste.) Other times, he combined a few of Martin’s visuals into one simpler, unique logo.
“House Seaworth, one of the most popular within the texts, is a black ship with an onion on its sail,” he explains. “I decided to create a form that was both simultaneously an onion and a ship—in my opinion, the result is more memorable and was more fun for me to design.”
Now fellow geeks, Crescenzi openly admits that a few houses are missing from his poster, but if you’re a diehard GoT fan, who’d like a print for your wall, they’re available for $35.
Hopworks beer bottle design by Jolby
At Jolby, Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols, recently rolled out this sweet brand identity for Hopworks, a Portland based craft beer company. Meant to evoke the look and feel of Belgian design, their custom designed type feels like black letter but with a crisp, contemporary edge.
I think it’s fun how they decided to orient the type sideways, which lets others see what you’re drinking as you drink. I also love the way the gold looks on the brown bottle, always a winning combination. They mention that this is the first of a series, that as Hopworks makes more types of beers they’ll continue to design more bottles. Really looking forward to seeing more great work like this.
By Bobby Solomon
About the Project
I recently had the pleasure of working with the folks at Brunch Box to create an identity system and truck wrap for their new brunch food truck. It was a great learning experience all around. The clients had never really purchased art before, and I had never designed a food truck wrap. We went through a bunch of ideas and when it came down to it, they wanted to reflect the city as it is, gritty and somewhat debauched. I was excited top go this route as the last few jobs i’ve had worked on, the work was incredibly happy and almost utopian in nature. This time i got to draw rooster pimps, drunk gambling pigs wearing only underwear, and a prostitute chicken getting robbed by swine. In other words, it was fun.
Starting With Character
As with any larger scale project, I jump in to the parts that feel the most comfortable. With this project, I knew I wanted to make a seedy brunch world which meant roosters and pigs doing god knows what. Below are the characters that ended up directing the whole concept.
Pimp Ass Rooster
Gamble’n & Losing
Thievin’ the Ho
Below are the 3 final Brunch box marks. I wanted to nod to the country side of traditional brunch places while having a little more fun with the lettering.
mmm that truck smells good
I was trying to go a bit more clean with this one
Below are some other concept, characters and sketches I was playing with. There is some fun stuff here that i still like and will probably end up informing something else down the line.
Rooster delivering the goods
Sketch: Brunch farmer on the back of the truck
Sketch: concept to illustrate all of the boxes of food that makes up the Brunch Box.
Sketch: brunch city with victorian mansions where chickens lay their eggs.
Concept illustration for one of the houses for chicken city
Thanks for taking a look through everything. I would love to hear what you think so feel free to comment below.
The Fun and Colorful Illustrations of Sami Viljanto
Sami Viljanto is an illustrator based between Helsinki and Berlin. His drawings are just bursting with energy. Each image he makes seems to be cram-packed with fun and playful characters and they jump from the page with bright and lively colors. It’s hard not to feel happy when looking at his work. I could honestly stare at the bottom illustration for an hour and not get bored – those crazy little birds of his are just so cute and crazy! Check out more of his work over on his website Grande Deluxe.