August 13, 2010

The Magic of a Golden Jazz Logo

Its been a busy offseason for NBA rebranding, as 3 clubs have introduced new identities for the upcoming 2010-11 season. The Association must think its followers forget exactly what sport they're watching, as 19 of the 30 clubs feature a ball in some way in their primary logo (compared to 11 of 30 in baseball and just 1 of 32 in the NFL). When viewed as a group, the NBA logos don't stand much apart from one another, especially considering at least 9 of the logos don't even display any connection to the team nickname.

The most dramatic of the rebrands is the Golden State Warriors. The only good decision to come from the process was to get rid of the blue warrior (in front of a basketball, naturally) the team had featured since 1997. The new logo is an homage to 'The City' logo and uniforms from the late 60s/early 70s that have regained popularity in recent years. While the idea of paying tribute to the past era is valid, the execution is nothing short of a debacle. There is not a single redeeming quality about any part of the new logo. The bridge is poorly drawn, the outer strokes are unexplainably uneven and bottom-heavy, the type is dreadfully unreadable (Copperplate Gothic? Really?) With an already successful logo in its past, why not just bring it back in its original form? What is the need to change something that people clearly liked and enjoyed?

From the Shaq/Penny era, through the McGrady regime, to the current Howard age, the Orlando Magic have had one of the most recognized brands in basketball. Since the club's inception in 1989, the primary logo has featured a star replacing the 'A' and dotting the 'I' in Magic in two variations. However, for some reason the Magic have decided to abandon their most identifying trait in favor of... a basketball! The swooshing ball accompanies the new wordmark, which has been displayed on the jerseys since 2003. The move is probably meant to unify the entire package, but begs the question why the uniforms didn't match the logo in the first place. The previous mark was memorable and successful in its own way. A better approach would have been to just drop the basketball and put the starry Magic back across the chest, as they did up until 2003.

Luckily, the higher-ups in Utah recognize the value of brand equity. The Jazz are reintroducing the music note logo, marking the return of one of the most unique logos in all of professional sports. The logo remains in its original 1974 glory, with the exception of a faint grey outline and a color shift from purple to navy. The two changes update the logo in a very subtle way without altering the original intention. The only puzzling aspect of this rebrand is why the club is holding on to its mountain logo, which will see its third color scheme of the last 7 years. With such a great logo that has been present since the very beginning, having two logos only damages the brand recognition. Hopefully this will only be a transition period and the mountain logo will be phased out soon.

The move is similar to the 76ers move last year to ditch its overly-complicated late 90's rebrand in favor of the simpler logo the club had been using since day one. While the original logo is guilty of featuring a basketball, it does have uniquely quirkly typography and the ring of 13 revolutionary stars. Other teams would be better-suited to follow the example the Sixers and Jazz have set by reclaiming lost brands that had been abandoned in the past.

February 13, 2010

10 Fun Minor League Logos

Pro sports once featured such festive mascots as a batting bird, a happy native, a deer spinning a basketball, siblings shaking hands, an athletic elephant, Mr. Met, and Brownie the elf. The cheerful symbols depicted the recreational nature of the games they represented.

Somewhere along the line, it became unpopular to be playful and fun, and everything started to look darker, with less color. Once-friendly mascots started to look like they were infected with rabies, and it seemed to be a requirement to have a sleek, mean, cold-feeling logo.

Fortunately, minor league baseball is one area that not only seems to be exempt from this unwritten rule, but actually flourishing with fun. The logos and uniforms are lively and quirky, and the team names themselves are much more creative and unique. Professional sports at the top level seems to be above choosing names that are playful, instead choosing much more neutral, boring, and overused nicknames.

Here are the top 10 most fun minor league identities. We're not necessarily recognizing the most technically brilliant graphic designs. Most of these tend to be illustrative or cartoonish in nature, but that's okay. Its a game after all, and we want to have fun while we wear fruit on our caps.

1. Modesto Nuts
Far and away the most fun and playful, yet cleanly executed identity. Adopted in 2005, the team name was selected to reflect the many different types of nuts grown in the region. Even more fun is the application of the name. The club wears a peanut on their cap at home, and a walnut on the road. All parts of this identity are executed well.
California League
Level: High A
Affiliate: Oakland Athletics

2. Montgomery Biscuits
A staple of southern food, the Biscuits take full advantage of the marketing power of their nickname since 2004. Chants of "Hey, butter, butter, butter..." can be heard in the stands while biscuits are shot from a cannon. Fans can pick up their favorite team gear from the souvenir store: the Biscuit Basket. The logo featuers an open-mouthed, bug-eyed biscuit, complete with a slice of butter as the tongue. While the logo is fun, both the type and the mascot leave a little something to be desired. The wordmark is a little weak, and hard to read, while the drawing of the biscuit could be stronger. Even so, its a great identity program for the fun factor alone.
Southern League
Level: Class AA
Affiliate: Tampa Bay Rays

3. Lansing Lugnuts
Home to the Lugnuts since 1996, Lansing is the home of General Motors. Thus, its fitting that the team would adopt an automobile identity. The mascot here is a disoriented hex screw, who seems to be dizzy from spinning too many times. The type of the wordmark is very quirky, but unique, and adds to the purposefully haphazard look to the identity.
Midwest League
Level: Class A
Affiliate: Toronto Blue Jays

4. Casper Ghosts
Many minor league teams seem to want to establish identities of their own, different from the Major League teams they are affiliated with. In 2008, the Casper (Wyoming) Rockies adopted the Ghosts as their nickname, in honor of Casper the Friendly Ghost. An overly fierce-looking ghost sits top the ghoulish type. Does it need to be so mean looking? I thought our favorite phantom was friendly? The ghost itself is rendered using a dot screen, an interesting application of a printing method. The cap logo actually uses glow-in-the-dark thread, a nice added touch. The club also uses the image of Casper the Friendly Ghost as an alternate logo with permission from Classic Media.
Pioneer League
Level: Advanced Rookie
Affiliate: Colorado Rockies

5. Cedar Rapids Kernels
Another agricultural-based nickname, the Kernels adopted their nickname in 1993. The logo features a hatted baseball bat sprouting from a corn husk. The script is nicely drawn, and the composition of the city, nickname, and mascot come together in one of the more neatly-organized examples. The club also has an alternate cap logo that nicely entangles the C and R initials.
Midwest League
Level: Class A
Affiliate: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

6. Jamestown Jammers
Nothing like an angry (though anything but sleek and macho) bunch of grapes to strike fear into the opposing team. The Jammers' caps sport both the red (home) and white (road) varieties. Adopted in 2006, the mascot was chosen to reflect the strong tradition of grape-growing in Chautauqua County. While the mascot is fun, its interesting that he is just overlaying the bat, instead of interacting with it. The typography is flat out bad, as the letters are poorly drawn, and the blue and green are too close to the same value to be legible.
New York - Penn League
Level: Short-Season A
Affiliate: Florida Marlins

7. Lowell Spinners
Founded in 1996, the Spinners were named from the hometown history as a manufacturing center for textiles. The cap logo is thread wrapped around a bat, but it also forms the letter S as it wraps around. A very clever and nicely-executed idea. Unfortunately, the main wordmark is not so successful. It uses the same thread and bat, but does not include the S. Instead, it uses a very generic and ugly serif font spell out the team nickname. Its a shame that a team with such a neat name and mark should suffer from this. I'm also not sure what is going on with the alternate logo. It looks like it is trying to adopt the previous mascot, which really isn't a good idea. Both look like they were drawn using MicroSoft Paint by an amateur. If using the former mascot was a requirement, the very least they could have done is touch him up a bit.
New York - Penn League
Level: Short-Season A
Affiliate: Boston Red Sox

8. Corpus Christi Hooks
The entire identity of the Nolan Ryan-owned Hooks is based around the marine lifestyle of the popular south Texas fishing town. The dual blue colors are meant to represent the ocean and sky. A pair of hooks doubles nicely the initials CC, while the eyelets become the double O in the wordmark. The full city name and Texas flag are unnecessary clutter, especially since the city is already represented by its initials. The team also features a secondary mascot on its caps, a squirmy capped hook cartoon wielding a baseball bat. All in all, a solid identity top to bottom.
Texas League
Level: Class AA
Affiliate: Texas Rangers

9. Richmond Flying Squirrels
Formerly the Connecticut Defenders, the Flying Squirrels will begin play in 2010. The nickname was chosen from a name-the-team contest late last year, though it doesn't appear to represent anything in particular. The primary logo is acceptable, though it seems to suffer from sleek and mean syndrome and has a superhero look to it that resembles the Akron Aeros logo. The script is tough to look at, as the negative and postive spaces in the letterforms really clash. The 'FLYING' text is set in the terrible Wide Latin system font. It should be scrapped entirely. The redeeming aspect of the identity is the alternate mark, an acorn with a letter R, which front leg becomes a squirrel tail.
Eastern League
Level: Class AA
Affiliate: San Francisco Giants

10. Reno Aces
The Aces began play in 2009, their nickname and obvious play to their gambling hometown. Although the navy, red, and grey colors look very sharp, its curious that the team colors are not red and black. The pimary mark has too much going on, as it tries to bring together the script, a baseball, the city name, and the words 'Baseball Club' underneath. The elements work much better on their own. Despite these successes, I can't help but feel that something more could have been done with this identity. We see the diamond on the letter A, but it seems to be just sitting there. The spade shows up in the secondary mark, but its just placed in the middle. The elements could interact with each other in a much more interesting way. Perhaps reversing the A out of the spade? We also see nothing of the heart or club anywhere in the identity. Its not bad overall, but it could have been much better.
Pacific Coast League
Level: Class AAA
Affiliate: Arizona Diamondbacks

Honorable Mention

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
The Quakes have been around since 1993, and have always been one of my favorite minor league identities. They've always featured a wordmark that is split over a faultline. The Q also works well on the cap by itself. A nice execution brings several elements together into an all too often used seal.

Fort Wayne Tin Caps
Another produce-themed mascot, the Tin Caps have been around for 2 years now. Its a fun theme with a great devious mascot. The type looks like its supposed to be sheets of tin nailed to the wall. While it is a nice attempt at creating a unique wordmark, it looks amateurish in a bad way.

Albuquerque Isotopes
The fictional Springfield Isotopes from the long running TV series The Simpsons were the influence for the name of the team, from an episode where Homer attempts to thwart the team's plan to move to Albuquerque by going on a hunger strike. The logo features baseballs orbiting around the letter A in atomic formation.

February 7, 2010

Twins Target New Look for Inaugural Season

In preparation for the move to a brand new home, the Minnesota Twins have lightly freshened up their identity and uniforms for the 2010 season.

The primary mark, which had been in use since 1987, features the Twins script overlaying a poorly-drawn baseball with an underlined, serif MINNESOTA inscribed at the top. The updated vesion features the same elements, but also adds a blue circle around them, creating the always popular club seal that has always been popular in the sports vernacular. Whereas, the previous logo looked disjointed and lacked cohesion, the new mark makes an attempt to bring the elements together into a composition, albeit an all-too expected one. Although the mark is stronger on the whole, it suffers a bit at a small size. The now darker maroon script starts to blend into the navy ring in a way that appears to truncate the club name to 'win' (a convenient, albeit undesired coincidence). Also, the 'BASEBALL CLUB' type in the ring, which appears to be set in the Friz Quadrata typeface, really starts to lose legibility. The secondary mark, which features just the Twins script over the baseball, is really much stronger. The script really stands out much better than any mark they've ever had, and the red color of the script looks sharp on top of the red stitches on the nicely-rendered baseball. With a mark this nice, it just seems unnecessary to have the blue ring as in the primary mark.

While the pinstriped home uniforms remain the same for the most part, the Twinkies will sport brand new road and alternate uniforms. The former road unis were in dire need of an overhaul, so this is a well-deserved refreshment. To start, the underlined M that used to adorn the entire uniform package has now been officially relegated to alternate cap status. The road cap will now feature the much more interesting (not to mention historic) TC logo, but will have a red brim. The pinstripes are gone, replaced by red and blue double-piping at the neck and sleeves. Although this looks great on the pullover uniforms popular in the 70s, it just doesn't look as nice on the button ups. The road uniforms will also feature a newly-drawn script Minnesota. The script, underlined, slightly upward-angled hometown script has become all the rage in baseball these days, as the Orioles and Nationals both adopted it last year. While the Washington script is very well executed to be clean but not sterile, the Baltimore and Minnesota scripts lack character, and look like they have been cut from the same mold. The first thing that came to mind with the new Minnesota script is the Milwaukee powertools logo, makers of the ever-popular Sawzall.

Perhaps the best part of the updated package is the brand new alternate uniform. Following a recent trend in baseball, the Twins are joining the cream-colored renaissance. The pinstriped alternates feature the original, unaltered Twins script from 1961 across the chest, and namesless blue numbers on the back. The left shoulder also features the two twins shaking hands logo, which was the original primary mark for the Twins back in 1961. In taking their inspiration entirely from the past, baseball finally got this one right, top to bottom. The cream and pinstripes are classy, the script is unique, and the adornments are fun, meaningful, and invoke memories of past. A perfect way to christen a beautiful new ballpark and bridge the gap in eras of Minnesota Twins history.

February 2, 2010

A Gold Medal in Fashion

After a previous attempt in Beijing made team USA look like some kind of bizarre flight squad, Ralph Lauren has unveiled its its 2010 Winter Olympics collection. This time, they have succeeded in creating a dignified, stylish look.

The selection of an actual fashion designer, instead of an athletic clothing manufacturer like Reebok or Nike, has yielded a dashing result. The concept is rooted in actual fashion style, as opposed to slapping some glitzy, annoying graphic patterns on standard, run-of-the-mill athletic apparel. In true Ralph Lauren style, these uniforms are conservative and clean. Lauren's understated combo makes use of striping along the jackets as a subtle hint to the sports vernacular. Rather than try to do too much with the apparel, he has made use of solid colors of the US flag, accented with a detailed winter cap to top off each outfit. While they may come across as elitest, don't we want to project our athletes as nothing but the best on the world stage? Don't we want our athletes to feel like they are the best?

The one obvious criticism that everyone will make is the Polo logo on the front of the jackets, which seems to outsize even the USA Olympic emblem on the opposite breast. While it is unnecessary, it is excusable because the rest of the uniform is so impeccable.

The accompanying marketing campaign displays the uniforms in a style that immediately brings to mind art deco travel posters of the 30's. The athlete appears to be conquering all by planting the USA Olympics flag.

Perhaps the best thing about these outfits is that by doing less, they actually do more. The athletes will be able to keep the uniforms and wear them in future situations outside the actual games without looking like a clown. Also, the general public can buy the uniforms by the piece and incorporate them into their everyday fashion. If only we all had $425 to drop on a sweater to show our patriotic olympic spirit.