As you will probably know, the new series of Game of Thrones hits our screens again later this week. Fans of the HBO show are drooling in anticipation for the next chapter of this multifaceted mythical story of struggle to unfold.
Seeing as the series has struck a particular chord with the design community, we thought it only right to cast an aesthetic eye over each of the Houses’ sigils to see who’s doing things right in the seven kingdoms when it comes to brand design and communication.
The equivalent of modern day brand marks – sigils were commonly used to give a visual representation to a particular group – in this case, the different Houses feuding for the iron throne.
As well as incest, dwarfism and king slaying, the Lannisters, the family everyone loves to hate, are known for having hefty amounts of cash thanks to the gold mines that lie under their stronghold at Casterly Rock.
As the saying goes, when you’ve got it – flaunt it, and that’s exactly what the Lannisters do with their house sigil – a gold lion on a crimson background.
The opulent colour combination, the intricate illustration, the textured background and the combative stance of the lion – everything about this design says wealth, prestige and position. An appropriate comms piece if ever there was one.
An interesting example of sub-branding and potential creative copyright infringements going on here.
The original sigil of House Baratheon is a black stag on gold background. The abstract stag design is remnant of European medieval artistry, while the wood grain finish harks back to the harsh natural elements of the Stormlands – the Baratheons’ ancestral seat.
When Robert Baratheon became king, he added a crown round the stag’s neck, but this was by no means the last alteration that the sigil received.
After Robert’s death, the brilliantly despicable Joffrey became king and created a new design to represent both his Lannister (Lion) and Baratheon (Stag) ancestry. A real-life practice known as ‘marshall arms’, the combination of the two opposing houses’ sigils interestingly has the two animals fighting each other, while the lion’s tail encroaches into the stag’s half. Coincidence? We think not.
The second derivative of the original House Baratheon sigil comes from Robert’s younger brother Stannis, who came up with the sigil for House Baratheon of Dragonstone – Dragonstone being the isolated castle (and former Targaryen ancestral home) where Stannis found himself after his brother took the throne. A nod to his new surroundings, his new sigil featured just the head of the stag, inside a burning heart – symbolic or what!
Finally, the youngest Baratheon brother Renly also made his own sigil after the family fall out. Renly’s version has a gold stag sitting on a green background. Why green? Because that’s the colour of the House Tyrell with whom he hooked up with through his (inactive) marriage alliance with the alluring Margaery Tyrell.
Undoubtedly the coolest house of the seven kingdoms, the Targaryens’ brief for their sigil was obviously simple – make it scary and make it have a dragon with three heads. Bearing similarities to Celtic/Norse designs due to its spherical layout and illustrative styling seen in small details, including the dragons’ flickering serpentine tongues, this is one sigil you wouldn’t want to see coming over the hill lead by Khaleesi, her dragons and three thousand unsullied.
Another house, another scary looking animal on the sigil. This time it’s the Starks’ and their ferocious but kind of loveable direwolves. The size of a small horse and able to rip a man’s arm from his socket – the reasons behind branding their sigil with such a beast is not hard to guess. The greys and white used in the design echo the bleak wintery lands of the north that the Starks call home. Interestingly, their motto ‘Winter is Coming’ is the only one of all the houses that is not a boast or a war cry.
Probably the most unique and certainly the most confronting of the house sigils in Game of Thrones is that of the house of Bolton. Because of their love for flaying – the ancient and gruesome method of torture where a blade is used to remove layers of a person’s skin, thus exposing their bare flesh, nerves and all, to the elements, before they are left to die in pain – House Bolton decided to use it on their sigil.
The red background, the blood red body hanging upside down, the bright white cross – this design is the thing of nightmares and a perfect example of how a brand can speak volumes about who you are and what you stand for – which in this case is ruthless masochists with a love for spilling blood, preferable from their enemies as they hang upside down.