Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NBA Uni-Palooza

By Bowen Hobbs

Over the past week, numerous NBA teams unveiled new uniforms for the upcoming season. While some changes were simply tweaks, others were completely new uniform concepts. Here is a team-by-team analysis of the changes:

Minnesota Timberwolves: The T'wolves decided to go with the theory of addition by subtraction in creating their new threads. The new home and road uniforms are sans green, which the previous uniforms used a significant amount of. The streamlined color palette of blue, black, and silver is also accompanied by a simplified collar and an updated number font that is easier to read.

Overall, with the removal of green, the team took away one of its trademarks and now looks rather similar to the Magic. On the upside, the revised collar and jersey numbers streamline the uniforms and remove some of the wonkiness of the previous set. Grade: C

Utah Jazz: The Jazz have been in identity limbo for a while now (and some would argue they've been in identity limbo since they came to Utah). After deciding in 1996 to scrap the music note logo, the team went to a purple/teal/copper/light blue/black scheme and a logo system based on their mountainous home state. While the team played well in those duds, going to two NBA Finals, the uniforms were rather guerish (although they lasted for eight seasons). In 2004, Utah switched to a navy/light blue/purple scheme that lasted for six seasons. Critics of that scheme thought the navy and light blue were too similar to the Denver Nuggets (their biggest rival), and it always seemed the dueling blues were never fully accepted.

The team's new scheme (navy/yellow/green) is unique to the NBA, but not too unique as the Nuggets, Pacers, Grizzlies, and Thunder also use navy and yellow in some capacity. The new uniforms are, like the logo, a celebration of the past. Gone are the piping, wordmark and number outlines, and other modern uniform conventions. Present are simple block numbers and rectilinear side panels. The double outline on the side panels, while matching the trim, looks overdone next to the minimalist numbers. Like the logo set, the uniforms are nothing new, and quite frankly, pretty boring. The uniforms would have been much better with a green-centric scheme. Grade: C-

Los Angeles Clippers: Perpetually within the unfriendly confines of the little-brother complex, the Clippers updated their logo. The new logo updated the LOS ANGELES wordmark, the C and S in Clippers, and the basketball (the old version had an extra line that normally doesn't appear on a ball from that angle. The secondary logo was also tweaked, updating the serifs of the letters and adding a silver drop shadow to the LA. The uniforms were edited more substantially, however. The old uniforms used block numbers and solid blue side panels. The new uniforms, however, use an updated number font and a less "default" design for the sides that looks like a modernization of the Bulls uniforms. A Los Angeles script replaces the Clippers script on the road jerseys as well.

Overall, the updated logo doesn't go nearly far enough to differentiate the Clippers from their "big brother" the Lakers. The uniforms, however, are a complete upgrade, giving the Clippers their first semblance of an identity in years. Considering the uniform designers were painted into a corner by having to use a bad logo, their feat is all the more impressive. Grade: A- (uniforms); F (logos)

Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Cavs needed a new identity since their last re-brand coincided with the arrival of a certain someone. It's a weird symmetry, with their latest aesthetic changes coinciding with that player's departure. The new-look Cavs have darkened their red to burgundy and replaced their metallic gold with yellow. The navy takes a back seat in the latest branding effort as it is relegated to the logos only. The uniforms look like the Cavs and Celtics had a baby. The team removed the side panels and piping for a clean, simple, retro-based look. The new uniforms' only embellishment is within the 5-stripe trim and the nuances of the type, along with the phrase, "All for one. One for all." placed along the inside of the collar. The uniforms are designed to remind the Cavs of their history, while allowing them to look forward.

The uniforms, as a whole, are well-designed, clean, and combine the best parts of retro and modern. Pay attention, Utah, as this was the way to go retro but not out-of-date. Grade: A

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have leaked their home jersey, but they have yet to unveil their full uniforms. The jerseys feature the bridge logo on the front with the player's number with the logo. The trim is problematic, as the armholes are solid blue, the side panels are yellow, and the collar is blue and yellow. A little consistency between the uniform elements would greatly improve the jersey. The side panels and armholes don't look as out of place when paired with the shorts, as on this picture of the away set. However, I will reserve judgment for for when I see the full unveiling. Grade: Incomplete

Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs also have yet to unveil their new uniform set, but it was leaked on the internet. It looks like the team essentially swapped the navy and royal on the road set. It will be interesting to see what the team does with the alternate jersey it unveiled last year.

That covers the NBA's uniform changes up to today. Stay tuned for additional updates on the Warriors and Mavericks.

Today we have another Double Play Design. Leading off are the St. Louis Cardinals, who finish a two-game series with the Brewers today. The Cardinals are one of many teams with a red/navy color scheme. That was the first thing I sought out to change, as the navy (while classic) doesn't say anything about cardinals, and over a third of MLB uses some blue/red scheme. I opted for a red/burgundy/yellow scheme because it was original and worked well for a cardinal. I didn't want to overhaul the iconic "bird on a bat" logo, but I did tweak the typography. I added a slight bevel to bring the team into the 21st century. The jerseys evoke memories of Stan Musial, a Cardinals great by using placket piping with additional piping running down the sleeves and along the belt loops. The numbers are no longer the default MLB Block. Instead, I used a thinner block font, giving the Cardinals a unique look from the back, as well as their trademark jersey fronts. The home uniforms start with a white base and are paired with red cap featuring a white STL. The away jerseys are emblazoned with St. Louis instead of Cardinals. The primary away uniforms are grey and are paired with a red cap that contains a yellow STL. The away alternates use a burgundy jersey with yellow type and are paired with a burgundy cap with a red brim. The Sunday Alternates have burgundy piping on a white base and are also paired with the burgundy caps. The STL logo appears on the left chest of the jersey.

Up second, we have the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers biggest issue is that they use two different D logos: one for the cap, and another on the jerseys. I decided to eliminate the jersey D in favor of the cap D since the jersey D looks a little flat. I developed a new primary logo based on the team's logo from the 80s. The secondary logo is the cap D with a thin outline. The tertiary is a standalone tiger head, which is used on the BP jerseys. The uniforms use placket piping with no sleeve trim, as it is classic Detroit Tigers. The jerseys also uses the primary logo as a patch on the left sleeve. The home uniforms use a white base and are paired with navy caps emblazoned with a white D outlined in orange. One of my goals for the home uniforms was to add some orange in order to differentiate the Tigers from the Yankees (who, like the Tigers, have at least two version of their signature NY logo). The D on the jersey and the numbers are also outlined in orange. The alternate home uniform is similar to the primary home uniform, but uses a navy jersey. The away uniforms feature a new Detroit script that is rendered in an Old English typeface. The new script replaces the cursive Detroit the team currently wears. The away caps feature an orange D outlined in grey and match the colors of alternate away jerseys, which are complemented by orange piping. The Sunday alternates take a different approach than the other uniforms, starting with a white cap that contains orange piping over the seems. The cap is paired with a white uniform that has orange pinstripes, creating a retro look that implies tiger stripes.

Feel free to leave a comment on any of the plethora of new NBA uniforms, the Cardinals or Tigers concepts above, or anything sports branding related.

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