"These brands become such a key part of the reading experience," says Crescenzi. "Night’s Watch black might as well be Tiffany blue or UPS brown or T-Mobile pink."

"The Lannister use of crimson and gold sets that family apart. But they also serve to give a vague indications to 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," says Crescenzi.

“All I wanted to do was give them a sort of unexpected and unified visual language."

“I’m not entirely sure of the full impact the books had my social life, but there was definitely a span there where friends stopped calling.”

“I’m not entirely sure of the full impact the books had my social life, but there was definitely a span there where friends stopped calling.”

"House Bolton’s pink and red ‘flayed man’ sigil pretty much screams psychopath."

"I never thought of the project as a series of logos; The approach was much more that of creating an icon set.”

"I never thought of the project as a series of logos; The approach was much more that of creating an icon set.”

"I never thought of the project as a series of logos; The approach was much more that of creating an icon set.”

Co.Design

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.

Buy it here.

Add New Comment

21 Comments

  • Diego Schouten

    I wouldn't mind some clothing with these logo's on there. Would be cool.

  • Scott Daris

    Hmmm. Wrong font choice - too art deco. Also, too over-designy and cold. Individually, a few of the icons are good, but they're too confounding to interpret. Overall the concept is too lateral there's a disconnection to GOT. They get stuck in the men's cologne or golf world. Very corporate. I suggest the designer steps away from Illustrator and iOS icons for a while and takes a sketchbook out to the woods for a weekend. Don't forget some ole timey Belgian beer :)

  • PD

    These are lovely, and I find them that much more interesting by virtue of their not sticking strictly to the show's look or the midieval style of the genre. This kind of artistic re-interpretation shows the wide appeal of these books beyond the genre.

    I assume there are copyright issues at play selling this sort of fan art, do we know if these posters needed to be licensed, or is it not necessary?

  • derekdj

    Looks like a fun project and a good exercise in logo design, after all during medieval times (real and imagined) families were the corporations and their crests were their logo marks. The craft of creating heraldry is a fascinating one, visit the College of Arms in London if you ever have some time. 

    This would be a great side project for my students. It would be fascinating to see how some of these ancient family crest would look like, reinterpreted under contemporary design aesthetics.

  • Essgoss

    Very nice clean work. I understand where you were coming from, and applaud the artistry and effort. I don't have an issue with the modern take, or whether or not this set would fit in the world that is GoT- we've made movie revisionist posters popular, why can't the sigils be re-imagined? I have an issue with the consistency of elements from house to house, even considering the designer's admission that this was never a "series of logos" rather an "icon set". A sigil is the symbol of a great house, and I don't think all the houses, especially as contentious as they are with one another, would have agreed to consistent design elements(field shape, color compatibility, rendering style). They look like they are icons under an entity(iconography for an electronic device, squadron insignia under a single military) rather than distinctly different entities in culture, values, origin and tradition inhabiting the same world. I still like and appreciate it- just would have approached it differently.

  • Ayshford

    Hmmm, so you took some time to "design" something already described in such detail by the author, George R. R. Martin, as to be "visual" to anyone who can read and executed visually by the incredible production department behind GAME OF THRONES at HBO -- what was your contribution again?

  • Steel Swift

    More than snarky responses. This is all about passion, personal passion! Does anyone remember passion?

  • It's too clean!

    Its nice, but very "now" ie what's trending among designers and far too clean for such a bloody, scary, chaotic, disease and incest filled story.

  • nmcc

    Agreed. They're very nice, but would be more appropriate as modern bank logos, or some such. They don't convey anything resembling the grim world of GOT.

  • Spirulina

    The look amazing, beautiful and minimilistic. But do they look too modern for the show?

  • Geoff

    The book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book is called A Game of Thrones.

  • joel rosado

    I had this idea while i was reading the book but there are so many houses and by the time i had thought of it there was so much to go back on (i wonder if there is a resource that lists ALL of the houses not just the majors? westeros.org?)

  • NR

    I'd love a poster of these!
    Not sure if the Bolton family one is quite correct as I'm pretty sure it is described as depicting a 'flailed man' and I'm not sure that comes across here. That's nit picking though!