The Creative Influence produced a really nice interview with Michael Bierut that opens with a lovely tribute to the enduring legacy of Massimo Vignelli before Bierut speaks about logo and identity design and the idea that design is a vessel and can only be truly judged by what we fill it with and how it lasts over time.

When Penguin and Random House merged last year, it wasn’t just two companies coming together—with it they brought 250 publishing imprints under one roof. The question quickly becomes, how do you brand an entity like that, one that is both singular and multiple? That was the question that framed Michael Beirut and his team at Pentagram’s process for designing the brand for the new company. BusinessWeek reports:

Although Pentagram explored different ways to merge the penguin and house—including one of a penguin stepping out from behind a door—the hybrid logo fell flat with the stakeholders. “Instead of satisfying to both sides,” Bierut says, “we found it to be insulting to both sides.”

Bierut’s solution is both smart and beautiful, by combining the parent company’s word mark with each sub-brands unique logo, they can simultaneously communicate both a singular global brand and the diversity of various imprints catering to each market:

The branding system, comprising the wordmark and rotating imprint logos, won out, to the designers’ surprise. “It seemed to solve all the problems,” Bierut says, “but it didn’t appear to be, ‘What’s our new logo going to look like?’—which was the question we were there to answer.”

The wordmark itself is a nuanced statement. Rendered in a lightweight font and stacked three lines high, Penguin Random House softly endorses the imprint logo on its left, creating an association that can be mutually beneficial. “If you put your logo next to Penguin Random House, you become the symbol of Penguin Random House, as opposed to feeling you’re being smothered by some unwanted corporate parent,” Bierut says.

The entire system works great and feels perfectly suited to the company’s unique challenges. Really, really smart.