Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Side Panel Madness

By Bowen Hobbs

Since the Denver Broncos made history in 1997 by trotting out these uniforms, many teams have used the style in the pro and college ranks. As of right now, 7 of the 32 NFL teams use some type of uniform design in which the pattern on the pants continues up through the side of the jersey. These "side panel" designs have had varying degree of success, and below is a team-by-team synopsis of that success (or lack thereof):

Denver Broncos: Since Denver started this trend, 44th & Goal will start with the Broncos. The Broncos used to have pretty pedestrian uniforms, with only the colors helping the Broncos stand out in the NFL landscape. Enter Nike. The athletic wear company reinvented the team's image preceding the 1997 season and the rest is history. The current Broncos design relies on a vertical stripe motif with sharp curves on the ends. The home uniforms were originally supposed to feature navy pants, but those were relegated to alternate status at the behest of some of the team's veterans, such as John Elway. The Broncos certainly enjoyed on-field success in the new threads, winning two Super Bowls directly after adopting the new uniforms. Design-wise, the uniforms were an instant classic and remain a classic to this day. The one flaw within the set is the lack of interchangeability, but that's a minor quibble.

New England Patriots: Three years later, the New England Patriots would become the next team in the side panel craze, along with the St. Louis Rams (more on them later). New England's design consistenly uses a navy side panel outlined in red piping on the jerseys and silver pants, with an extra white outline flanking the red on the team's navy pants. Although the extra white outline inhibits the team from going all-navy, and sometimes the striping doesn't line up, the overall look is pretty well-executed.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are the one-hit wonder of the side panel craze. The season after winning the Super Bowl, the Rams played in these uniforms. I guess after watching the team try out the side panels for a couple years, the team's brass thought said panels were superfluous, since the team wore a modified version of the uniform two seasons later.

Buffalo Bills: Buffalo, New York is home to the NFL's ugliest uniforms ( and I am not alone in that opinion) and the team that plays in them. Before the current incarnation, the Bills donned their Jim-Kelly-four-Super-Bowl-losses uniforms. And those uniforms weren't anything special, either, as the jerseys were almost exactly the same as the Giants' jerseys of the Phil Simms era. (The only true differences are the number font, and the fact that the Bills' striping uses a thicker white stripe with thinner red stripes on the sleeves.) Further back, the Bills wore the jersey they currently use as an alternate, which would not be advised as a full-time uniform since the stripes almost don't fit on the sleeves. But back to the current duds: The side panels on the jerseys are solid red, to mimic the streak on the logo. The pants, however, add to the red stripe, with navy flanking the red on the white pants, and nickel and white flanking the red on the navy pants. This is because the uniforms were originally supposed to be paired as such: navy jersey/white pants and white jersey/navy pants. The team is currently wearing either all-navy or all-white, making the side panels clash with the pant striping. Between this oversight and the guerish rectangular shoulder yokes (more visible on the away jerseys), the Bills have yet to perfect the art of side panels.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons adopted their current uniform design preceding the 2003 season. While the previous uniforms were pretty pedestrian, the current uniforms are not. Although the Falcons' threads do not use a "traditional" (and I use that term loosely) side panel, they do use a "side piping" style in which a single strip of piping runs down the side of the jersey and continues down the pants. As far as side panels go, this use of jersey space is one of the better options. The simple piping stays consistent between the jerseys and pants and manages to stay fairly lined up, even as players' bodies are turning.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have, perhaps, the most unnecessary use of side panels in the NFL. Their uniforms feature tiger-striped sleeves and tiger-striping down the sides of the pant legs. But the home and alternate jerseys also have solid white side-panels. The Bengals apparently thought the white side panels were necessary to justify the pant stripes, but all they really do is clutter the design. Like the away jersey, the home and alternate jerseys would look better without the side panels, although the black pants would need to be edited.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals use their side panels in a consistent fashion between the home and away uniforms (cardinal red panels with black piping), as both jerseys are paired with white pants. But things weren't always like that in the desert. The Cardinals used to have a pair of red pants in addition to the white set. The red pants, however, looked weird because the white section terminated in an odd way. Luckily, the team removed the red pant option following the 2007 season. But if you think Arizona is a one-pant-design team, you'd be mistaken. The team recently added a second pair of white pants to pair with their new black jerseys.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings redesigned their uniforms for the 2006 season, but pigeonholed themselves combo-wise. While the jerseys contain solid side panels, the pant stripes switch colors just below the hip, leading the uniform to only look correct if the jersey is worn with contrasting-colored pants (not that correct means good). The arbitrary color switch looks like an afterthought, whether the team goes purple jersey/white pants or white jersey/purple pants. I know what you're thinking: Don't the Vikings wear white pants on the road? Yes, they do, and the arbitrary color change on the pants looks even worse in that configuration, not to mention the ridiculousness of the side panels on the all-purple look. If only they went the Falcons' route and kept the side design to simple piping.

The use of side panels on NFL uniforms in the context of a design element certainly has its place, but uniform designers need to think about all the possible ways a team will mix-and-match uniform elements. The Broncos, Patriots, and Cardinals did so by limiting combinations, while the Bengals and Falcons tried to apply a mix-and-match philosophy, but the Bills and Vikings utterly failed.

In Other News… A week and a half ago the Ducks wore their carbon helmets with green jerseys and grey pants. The weird(est) part: Last year the numbers on the green jerseys were silver, and now they are yellow. Did the team add a second green jersey, or did they replace last year's? We'll see… Georgia Tech was not allowed to wear white at home versus NC State, as per the ACC's rules (both teams must agree if the home team wants to wear white), so they had to break out last year's gold jerseys. Big branding mistake not to have a contingency plan for this situation… The Redskins paired their burgundy pants with their white jerseys Sunday, a look with only two different striping patterns… The Dolphins wore their orange alternates Sunday night…The Bears wore their throwbacks versus the Packers on Monday. The uniform numbers on the backs of the jerseys looked pretty good (a little like the Red Sox), but the numbers on the front were a different font that was a bit thick, especially on the 4s and 8s… Jermichael Finley has apparently abandoned the "Video Game Jersey", as he was wearing a more standard model Monday…

Designer's Corner
This week's design section comes to you with a new name and a re-brand for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes' current logo was designed in 1979 and hasn't changed since. The main issue it has is that the hawk looks somewhat like a chicken, due to the rendering of the space below the eye and the small lower beak. In addition, the filled in eye treatment deprives the viewer of a key visual clue. My revision of the logo seeks to fix those issues, first by creating an iris and pupil within the eye, giving it more of a hawk-like appearance. I also made the lower beak larger and added a nostril in the top beak, in the interest of being anatomically correct. The shape under the eye was sharpened, as was the curves at the back of the head. The overall result transforms the team's image from 70s chicken to modern hawk. My next step involved creating wordmarks and uniform numbers that were original, yet evoked the proud, tough heritage of Hawkeyes football. I developed the typography from the Green Bay Packers uniform numbers, tweaking the size of the corners, and developing letterforms from the revised numerals. After the typography was created, I went to work on the uniforms. Iowa's current football uniforms are essentially knockoffs of the Pittsburgh Steelers, except that the Steelers changed their numbers in the 90s. As the story goes, Hayden Frye wanted to give the team the look of a winner to rejuvenate the program. And with the Steelers winning four Super Bowls in the 70s, not to mention that they shared a color scheme with the Hawkeyes, Frye contacted the Pittsburgh club and got approval to use the uniforms. Since the Hawkeyes have no problem winning games nowadays, it's time for the program to forge its own identity. I utilized a two-stripe pattern throughout the scheme, from the helmets down to the socks. I have also added options for the team to wear white pants and/or yellow jerseys. Lastly I developed a fauxback based on the uniforms the team wore last weekend. My version streamlines the uniforms by using only one number font, two striping patterns, and a black facemask.

Feel free to leave a comment about football uniforms with side panel designs, the concept above, or anything sports branding related.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Southern League: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

By Bowen Hobbs

Today we look at the branding efforts of the Southern League in Part 5 of a 14-part series about branding in Minor League Baseball. Who has great branding? Who could use an update to their identity? Which teams should start over, branding-wise? The answers to those questions and more:

The Good

Birmingham Barons: Remember when Michael Jordan retired from basketball to play Minor League Baseball? If you do, you may also remember that he, in fact, played for the Barons. The Barons' branding was very consistent with the graphic identity of their parent club, the Chicago White Sox. Black caps, pinstriped home uniforms, Old English typography mixed with classic script… all the White Sox hallmarks. After the 2007 season, however, the Barons decided to refresh their brand. Silver was minimized, while red stepped in to fill the void. While the old primary logo was essentially a wordmark, the new logo complements an updated version of said wordmark with a baseball holding shape that allows for a more structured placement of the subordinate typography. Although the supporting type is rendered in Copperplate, it fits within the vintage feel of this identity. The supporting marks also received an update: the B logo added a red outline, and the team added a new logo that is used on the batting practice caps. The logo of the old-timey player with a moustache is an evolution from this design. The new uniforms also seek to give the Barons more of their own identity by highlighting red throughout the set, especially in the alternate jersey. The home uniforms remain fairly true to their predecessor, keeping the overall look of an Old English B complemented by a pinstriped uniform with the team name across the chest in a classic script. The away uniforms feature placket piping with "BIRMINGHAM" arced across the chest in Copperplate. Overall, the Barons did a great job refreshing their brand. The "man with a moustache" logo is one of the best marks in MiLB.

Jackson Generals: Formerly the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, the Generals unveiled their new brand at their last regular season home game, a few weeks ago. (You can read a full review here.) The new primary logo is very well executed, and the secondary (read: cap) logo is solid as well. Also, kudos to the team for not keeping its bear mascot, as the BayBears and Smokies also have bear mascots. The uniforms, however, could be a bit less… basic. I'm not particularly thrilled by the plain white cap used with the pinstriped uniforms, something along these lines would have been better. The real difficult part to understand is why the team didn't include any green on the uniforms. The Generals are the only team in the Southern League with green. (Well, the Smokies have a little green on their logo, but nowhere on the uniforms.) They should have highlighted it more, possibly including it as an outline color to complement the black.

Mobile BayBears: The BayBears were included in my MiLB preview in March, and I still think they have a great set. The navy, light blue, and cream color palette gives the team an old-school feel, as does the new jersey piping. The cap with the bear head logo also deserves more praise, as the bear appears to be coming out from the shadows. The uniforms don't disappoint either, using a style of placket piping that reminds viewers of baseball's rich history.

Montgomery Biscuits: The Biscuits have had their current graphic identity since 2004, although the blue was darkened before the 2009 season. The team's primary logo is made up of a biscuit caricature and a script wordmark. The team also has two supporting marks: one in which the biscuit appears with a script M, as seen on the home caps; and a script B that appears on the away caps. The home uniforms use a triple-stripe piping on the placket, but use only a single line of piping near the armholes of their vest jerseys. The road jerseys are also somewhat peculiar, as they Biscuits buck the trend of grey away uniforms (somewhat) by opting to pair a navy jersey with their grey road pants. I don't think most teams could get away with such a whimsical and fun mascot, but when your team is named the Biscuits, what other choice do you have?

The Bad

Carolina Mudcats: The Mudcats have a solid base for their identity. They have strong colors that tie in with their parent club (Cincinnati Reds) and a solid wordmark. That said, the logo needs an update, despite the fact that it's a classic in the world of MiLB. Nothing drastic, but some of the lines in the current logo are quite thin and do not lend themselves to showing the mud cat in an intimidating or sleek light. In addition, some of the areas could use less detail to complement the bolder lines. The current caps use the C-fish logo across the board (home, away, alternate). The uniforms make use of the "MUD CATS" script. The Mudcats were a difficult choice for the "Bad" category, but nonetheless could use an update.

Chattanooga Lookouts: The Lookouts have the opposite problem as the Mudcats. The Lookouts have a great logo (a classic), but they lack quality typography and their color scheme is a mess. (You wouldn't know it by looking at the logos, but the team wears royal blue as its primary color. This love for royal is a byproduct of the team's partnership with the Dodgers, which literally means the team's brand is for sale. The caps used to be black and red, but with the Dodgers footing the bill of the Player Development Contract, the Dodgers apparently have the final say in how the team should look. This cross-contamination of brands essentially leaves the Lookouts without a true brand.

Huntsville Stars: The Stars re-branded between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The old logo was about as campy as a sports identity could get. It literally looks like it came from the 1970s or 80s. The new logo is an improvement, but their are some items that could be improved. The rocket is well rendered and helps the viewer associate the team with Huntsville's claim to fame, Space Camp. The type, however, is a different story. "STARS" is rendered in Serpentine, which really belongs on race cars and Limp Bizkit albums. In addition, the "STARS" wordmark is warped rather awkwardly. The home and road caps use an H that doesn't fit with either font from the primary logo. The home uniforms use simple sleeve trim and the "STARS" wordmark.

Jacksonville Suns: The Suns, like the BayBears, were covered in my preseason preview of MiLB's branding changes. The set is full of inconsistencies, and the color scheme doesn't make sense. Black is the absence of light, while the Sun is a source of light. In fact, the jersey uses a different version of the script than the logo does.

The Ugly

Mississippi Braves: The Mississippi version of the Braves isn't much different than any of the Braves' other minor league affiliates, design-wise. It's another team accenting the parent club's script with an average-at-best design. The caps blend the Braves' hatchet with a block M that looks borrowed from the team's Milwaukee days. To see the jerseys, simply tune in to TBS sometime between April and September, as the Mississippi squad uses the same duds as the parent club, down to the Atlanta-wordmarked away gear. A Mississippi script is the least this team could do, although a total re-brand would make more sense.

Tennessee Smokies: The Smokies have a long, rich history in the Knoxville area, but that doesn't mean they can't have a great brand. The current logo features a mountain with trees in it above a "SMOKIES" wordmark. In addition, there is a baseball peeking out from behind the mountains and "TENNESSEE" and "BASEBALL" flank the mark. The color palette is not very cohesive, as it features navy, red, light blue, silver, and kelly green (plus white) for a grand total of six colors. Also, the way the mountains terminate at the bottom is a cause for concern. The smooth curve of the mountain's bottom edge is interrupted by the position of the letters in "SMOKIES", creating numerous small white pockets of negative space that are distracting to the eye. As for the typography, the team uses three distinctly different typefaces: a script-like font of capital letters for "TENNESSEE", a drop-shadowed serif typeface for "SMOKIES", and a bold sans serif (either Helvetica or Arial; I can't tell without any capital R's or G's present) for "BASEBALL". There is really only a need for two typefaces: one for the primary wordmark (in this case, "SMOKIES") and one for the supporting type. The uniforms aren't any better either. This is something I have seen multiple teams attempt: using a dated or vintage-style logo with extremely modern uniforms. It just flat out doesn't work. The uniform style clashes with the style of the logos. The caps are OK, considering what the team had to work with. The home caps are probably the best, as the trucker style is a unique element, and the alternate caps (red) are probably the worst, as the black bear imagery adds another unnecessary color (black) to the team's palette, in addition to the Smokies having the same animal mascot as the BayBears.

In Other News…
The Redskins wore their gold pants again last Sunday. I wonder if the new pants will appear with the white jersey this season… Some of the New York Giants had excessively wide pant stripes on Sunday… I couldn't help but notice how awful the Bills' uniforms still are… The Vikings wore their throwbacks again, you know, the ones with the big sleeve stripes… The Falcons and Cardinals showed some Wisconsin-Nebraska-like similarities… The NBA has imposed a league-wide change in the construction of its uniforms, with new fabrics and templates… Speaking of the NBA, do you think they have a problem with teams having similar color palettes… New basketball uniforms for U of Maryland, complete with turtle shell… Colorado State will be wearing orange jerseys this week against Idaho…

Today's design stays in the Southern League. As I mentioned before, the Tennessee Smokies have numerous issues with their graphic identity, ranging from craftsmanship to concept. The team is one of three navy/red teams in the 10-team league, which is the first thing I sought to change. I decided to go with a burgundy/cerulean/powder blue scheme, which is unique within the Southern League, and really, all of MiLB. My version of the primary logo starts with a custom script for "Smokies" that feaures a bevel and three stars in the tail of the S, representing the Tennessee state flag. Above the wordmark, I developed a mountain scene that fits within a baseball. The supporting marks are letterforms that are used on the caps, with the S from the "Smokies" wordmark and a T for Tennessee that features the state's likeness as the crossbar of the T. The "Tennessee" wordmark is, like its "Smokies" counterpart, a custom script. For the caps, I tried different options including contrasting brims, trucker-style front panels, and even introducing a comined TS mark. The uniforms are fairly basic for two reasons: 1) I wanted the team to have a classic feel. The combination of the script wordmarks and simple jersey design accomplishes this. 2) The simpler uniforms allow the wordmarks to standout unimpeded. The jersey numbers are a block slab serif typeface, in tune with the overall classic feel. The primary home set starts with a white base and burgundy piping and is paired with an all-burgundy cap emblazoned with the S logo. The primary away uniforms use a light blue base and an all-burgundy cap that features a powder blue T. The alternate home and away uniforms feature burgundy jerseys that pair with the primary pant options. Alternate Uniform 3 uses one of the trucker-style caps I created paired with a raglan-cut jersey with contrasting sleeves. Alternate 4 allows for the team to make use of the darker shade of blue in the logo set by pairing it with the TS logo on the caps and jerseys.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions regarding the branding of the Southern League, the Smokies concept above, or anything regarding sports branding.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Texas League: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

By Bowen Hobbs

As a continuation of my look into the branding of Minor League Baseball, today's 44th & Goal will examine the visual identities of the Texas League. (You can also read my breakdowns of the International League, Pacific Coast League, and Eastern League.) Like the other leagues, the Texas League features some teams that have well-executed brands, others that are in need of an update, and some that should blow everything up (graphically speaking, of course) and start over. Without further adieu:

The Good

Corpus Christi Hooks: The Hooks were previously the Round Rock Express, which is now a Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League. This was possible when the ownership group that owns the Hooks bought a Triple-A team from Alberta (the Edmonton Trappers) and moved them to Round Rock, allowing the then-Round Rock Express to make the move to Corpus Christi. The Hooks' primary logo features a "Hooks" wordmark in which the o's are the eyes of fishing hooks. The fishing hooks loop down below the underscore to reinforce the theme of submerging into water to catch fish. The city name appears inside a Texas flag-inspired banner above the "Hooks" wordmark. The team's mascot, a hook wearing a hat and holding a bat, is stitched onto the home caps, while the away caps are emblazoned with a CC logo (for Corpus Christi) made from two fish hooks. The jerseys are vests with placket piping. While the home jersey uses a modified Hooks wordmark with non-fish hook o's, the road jersey uses the CC logo as a crest, placed on the left chest.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals: The Naturals are a new team, having only been the Naturals since they moved from Wichita following the 2007 season. The name "Naturals" is a reference to Arkansas's nickname, "The Natural State". The primary logo consists of a mountain, a waterfall, and a baseball streaking to the left, in addition to a "Naturals" wordmark. Speaking of the wordmark, it uses an italicized and arched sans serif with a bevel. In addition, the N at the beginning of the wordmark features a lightning bolt, which is possibly a reference to Roy Hobbs from "The Natural". (Roy Hobbs carved his bat, "Wonderbat", from a tree limb that was struck by lightning.) The caps use the N monogram for home, away, and alternate. The home jersey and alternate jersey display the "Naturals" wordmark from the logo, while the away tops opt for "Northwest Arkansas" across the chest. Overall, the identity is pretty cluttered, but the N mark from the hats is very strong.

Tulsa Drillers: While the Drillers have called Tulsa home since 1977, the team's current scheme has only been in use since 2004. The primary logo consists of a man drilling into a baseball, flanked by "Tulsa" and "Drillers". The color scheme is very unique, as it is comprised of royal, graphite, black, copper, and light blue. The team also uses a set of alternate marks to reinforce the brand. The caps feature one of said alternate marks: a beveled T with oil dripping from it. The other supporting marks include a baseball with a drill through it, a version of the man drilling sans wordmarks, and a drop of oil that is on fire. The home jerseys have no placket piping, trim, or pinstripes, just a "Drillers" wordmark. The away jerseys do use placket piping to complement the "Tulsa" wordmark, and the alternate jerseys are royal blue with copper piping and the "Drillers" script.

The Bad

Frisco RoughRiders: The RoughRiders moved to the Dallas metro area from Shreveport, where they were called the Swamp Dragons. The RoughRiders use a black, red, and silver color scheme, which is surprisingly unique within the Texas League. The primary logo features a cowboy riding a horse under a western style "RoughRiders" script. The logo is a bit detailed, and some of the thinner lines appear to be difficult to reproduce in various media, such as embroidery. The logo could be very strong with a stylistic update. The secondary logo is a double-R with a black horse coming out from the right side. The secondary logo appears on the home and road caps, which are black and red, respectively. The home jerseys use a Riders wordmark that matches the logo, while the away jerseys rely on a "Frisco" wordmark in cursive script. The alternate jerseys are red with a embellished version of the "Riders" script. With a stylistic update, Frisco could have a great identity.

San Antonio Missions: The franchise has called San Antonio home since 1977, but between the '87 and '88 seasons the team re-branded and became the Missions. They were previously known as the San Antonio Dodgers. The Missions' primary logo is fairly basic: it's a depiction of the Alamo over "MISSIONS" in a bold slab serif. The problem is the use of white type against a white background. While the bold black drop shadow helps with legibility, the fact that the viewer does not see half of the edges of the letters hinders the logo when it is reproduced in small spaces. In addition, "SAN ANTONIO" appears tacked on, as if it were an afterthought. The secondary logo isn't much better, but at least it appears on black home and away caps. The team also uses a gold Sunday cap. The Missions' home jersey is a vest with trim around the armholes near the shoulder area. The "MISSIONS" wordmark appears across the chest with the alamo proudly above it. In addition, the player's number appears below the wordmark on the player's left side. The away jerseys are also vests, but use placket piping and a Dodgers-inspired script in black, outline in gold. One nice touch within the "San Antonio" script is the star that dots the I. The team also uses an alternate jersey with "Missions" in a white cursive script outlined in gold on a black jersey. The player number also appears on the front of the shirt. The basis of the identity is solid, but the identity package could use a facelift and the type work needs to be standardized.

Springfield Cardinals: As I have stated before, I've never been a fan of a team using the parent club's identity. I know it's a common practice in the lower levels of A-ball and Rookie Leagues, and that is exactly what it makes the Springfield team look like. There are plenty of ways to interpret the cardinal theme without simply swapping out a script. The team also has a sleeve patch with the cardinal inside the state of Missouri, which would be better if kelly green, spring green, and light blue weren't added. In addition the lower right corner of the logo has an awkward tension between the cardinal's wing and the outline of the state. The two primary caps feature an S logo with a cardinal, while the Sunday cap uses a batting cardinal and a C. To make matters worse, the team places "Springfield" on both the home and away jerseys, just like the Texas Texas's.

The Ugly

Arkansas Travelers: What can I say about the Travelers? I understand it's a difficult name to work with identity-wise, but how is this the best possible answer? The primary logo doesn't even have the full team name in it. Instead, it uses valuable graphic real estate on a slogan that doesn't even belong in the logo in the first place. It's no wonder none of the secondary logos even follow the branding of the primary. The home, road, and alternate caps use an LR logo with or without a star (depending on the cap) and the word "North" in a script. Once again, I can understand the logic of the LR logo on the the caps, and the logic of complementing it with a star, but the generic script "North" is too much. It's almost impossible to read, and the font used looks like it came from the 80s (and not in a good way). The home and away jerseys, by contrast, are rather simple. This identity isn't much of an identity at all, as it's wildly inconsistent. At least travelers outside of Arkansas understand the idea of matching.

Midland RockHounds: It looks like Scooby Doo and the Flintstones had a baby. The primary logo consists of a hound dog, wearing what appears to be a tunic from the town of Bedrock and a hard hat, holding a bat and a ball. In the background, oil derricks are gushing and the whole scene is cropped by a jagged circle with Mildland in African tribal-styled lettering. "RockHounds" appears in a chipped stone font that is more playful than tough over the entire logo. The sundial watch is a nice touch within the prehistoric theme, but the whole theme should probably be scrapped, as it appears to be left over dino-mania from the Jurassic Park movies. Working within the prehistoric theme, the the hound could have been made of stone or fossilized, instead of wearing prehistoric animal print. In addition, the type could be less goofy. Personally, I would try to bring out the intrinsic strength of rock, over making the rock look fragile by showing it chipping away. The team also has two supporting marks that appear on caps and inexplicably use red, when the primary logo shows the hound in an orange and blue tunic. The cap logos also use a gradient, which doesn't appear anywhere else in the identity. The jerseys (here is a picture of the road jersey) look like batting practice gear due to the side panels, which are modern and do not fit the prehistoric theme. This identity uses all the bells and whistles, but sometimes, too much is really just too much. Simplification would really help.

NFL Week 1 Notes

• I loved seeing the Eagles in kelly green this last weekend, now if only they mixed the lighter green with their current scheme.

• Another thought on the Eagles' throwbacks: The sleeve numbers didn't match the the front and back numbers. A team probably couldn't get away with that today, but the throwback's purpose is historical accuracy, not modern aesthetics.

• The Redskins decided to break out gold pants for their Sunday night game versus the Cowboys, along with socks from the 70th anniversary uniforms. On Sunday, the 'Skins sported four non-matching striping patterns: one on the helmet, one on the jersey sleeves, another on the pants, and one on the socks. Considering they were playing the Cowboys, this was a clash of the non-matching (the Cowboys and their loose sense of a color scheme vs. the 'Skins stripe-o-mania). I liked the idea of pairing gold pants with a burgundy jersey, but it doesn't mean all other principles of deisgn can blatantly be ignored.

Today's design is an elaboration of what the San Antonio Missions could do to improve their brand. In my re-brand, starting with the primary logo, I created a single holding shape around the entire mark, so the word "MISSIONS" isn't lost, like it is on the current logo. This also allows for the mark to appear as a unified whole, not a collection of parts. I added silver and a darker grey to the color scheme to create a western-style wordmark with dimension. The baseball is now placed at the top of the Alamo, instead of flying over it, for a more concise depiction. The cap logos are letter-based marks of an M and an SA, both of which are enclosed in abstract Alamo shapes. I have also created a logo to honor the team's mascot, Ballapeno. The wordmarks are consistent with each other, unlike the current scheme, which features the slab serif on the home jersey, and traditional script on the away and alternate jerseys. The cap options include various uses of the secondary logos, in addition to versions of the M and SA logo that do not use the holding shape. I also created a cap based on the helmet in the Ballapeno logo, with a simple star and two white front panels.

The primary home and away uniforms start with vests. Then, I applied a double-stripe of gold as placket piping, sleeve trim, and pant striping. Ballapeno appears as a sleeve patch as well. The home uniforms use a trucker-style cap with a white front, while the away uniforms use a solid black cap with a gold button and silver lettering. The home and away alternates feature black jerseys with the double-stripe scheme. The home alternate is paired with a black cap that features the M-in-Alamo logo, while the away alternate is complemented by a gold-brimmed cap. Alternates 3 through 6 are options for a possible fauxback design. Alternate 3 has an 80s style, complete with the Ballapeno cap, and the Alamo appearing on the front of the jersey, similar to the current uniforms. Alternate 4 features a vintage contrasting placket design, with the more traditional M on the jersey and a white cap. Alternates 5 and 6 are feature black jerseys and pants with more traditional typography. While Alternate 5 is paired with a white cap, Alternate 6 is paired with a gold front trucker-style cap.

Feel free to comment on the branding efforts of the Texas League, the uniforms stylings of Week 1 in the NFL, the Missions concept above, or anything sports branding related.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Action Jackson

By Bowen Hobbs

On Monday, the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx unveiled their new name and logos. When the 2010 Southern League Playoffs end the Diamond Jaxx will officially be known as the Jackson Generals. While the old primary logo consists of a miner holding a diamond in one hand and resting a bat/pick axe on his shoulder over a "Jaxx" wordmark, the new logo features a bulldog wearing a WWII-style battle helmet biting a bat. The three stars on the helmet represent Tennessee, as they appear on the state's flag. The GENERALS wordmark is rendered in a Tuscan typeface, giving it a baseball-specific feel, while the JACKSON wordmark above it is displayed in a simple, no-nonsense sans serif. The mark employs a shield holding shape to frame the logo and bring the other elements together as a cohesive whole.

The Diamond Jaxx used a color palette that was rather expansive, containing black, two greens, burgundy, mid-grey, silver, tan and, of course, white for a grand total of eight colors. The Generals' brand has a paired down palette, focusing on black, emerald green, silver, tan and white. This reduction in the number of colors used allows for a more streamlined aesthetic and lower production costs.

While the Diamond Jaxx employed a beveled wordmark to match the rendering style of the diamond, the Generals use a Tuscan-style font arched over the bulldog's head with green accents below the wordmark, giving it volume and mass. The shield employs a similar shading style to the bulldog's mouth, giving the logo a sense of rhythm.

The Diamond Jaxx used a miner cropped by a J as their secondary logo, as it appeared on their home, road and alternate caps. The new secondary logo uses the Tuscan typeface from the Generals' primary logo to create an interlocking J and G, which is rumored to appear on the new caps.

To the million-dollar question: Is it an upgrade? While the miner and type in the Jaxx logo set was well-rendered, the brand featured too many colors and the name "Diamond Jaxx" is rather kitschy, considering the two Xs that end the word Jaxx. The Jackson Generals moniker brings with it a significant amount of history, evoking names like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Yogi Berra, both of whom played for past Jackson Generals teams. The Generals brand also gives fans a unique animal mascot (instead of this; it's apparently a bear, which is the same animal mascot used by the BayBears and Smokies, who are also in the Southern League). Overall, the re-branding effort was a significant upgrade, especially when it comes to the color scheme, name and mascot.

In Other News… The Minnesota Wild have replaced this wordmark with this wordmark. It certainly fits with the logo better than the previous wordmark, which was absolutely horrid… The NFL introduced 2010 sideline cap for players. It apparently has technology to allow fans and players to interchangeably wear the brim flat or curved. Too bad the design is garish… Penn State University will be wearing new basketball uniforms this year. They aren't bad, although the collar seems a bit thick.

This week is the finale of my MLB Double Play designs. Starting in the NL, we have the New York Mets. The Mets' current scheme came to be when the team added black preceding the 1998 season. Previously, the team was primarily royal blue and orange. Since the addition of black, however, the Mets' brand has increasingly relied on the combination of black and royal blue, relegating orange to an accent color. My design seeks to rectify that injustice (and trust me, most Mets fans I've met find it to be an injustice), restoring royal blue and orange as the team's primary colors. However, I also warmed the white to a cream color, similar to what the Mets currently use for their alternate jerseys. The royal, orange, and off-white color scheme gives the Mets a unique, retro look, which is a stark contrast from this. I developed a standalone M as an alternate mark, which appears on the batting practice caps. The home and away uniforms feature the famous "racing stripes" pattern made famous by the '80s Mets teams (without the pinstripes, however). The primary home uniform uses an off-white base, with the option of an alternate blue jersey. The numbers are a proprietary block numeral, since MLB Block is overused as it is. The away uniforms start with a cool grey base, giving the team a unique deviation from the standard Cool Base grey. There is also an alternate blue jersey for the road with NEW YORK on the chest in cool grey, outlined in orange. The Sunday Alternate looks to evoke memories of the Amazin' Mets of '69. The pinstripes are spaced further apart from standard pinstripes to give the jersey a unique element that helps reinforce the vintage look.

The Baltimore Orioles are up second. The team's current primary logo is of an oriole sitting on a script "Orioles" wordmark, while the secondary logo is a standalone bird, facing left, and the tertiary logo is a sleeve patch based on the Maryland flag. My version of the primary logo makes the bird the focus instead of the script, which is relegated to the uniforms. The oriole appears within a circle, making it a less horizontal logo. My version of the secondary is a standalone oriole head. I've always thought the current caps were rather cluttered. The oriole head, however, lets the viewer see more of the oriole's face, instead of its body. The tertiary in my concept is similar to the existing sleeve patch, but with revised typography to fit the rest of the design. The uniforms use a special style of trim that was inspired by the Maryland flag. The numbers are a slab serif in the same family as the supporting type on the logos (as I mentioned before, MLB Block is far too overused). The home uniforms use a white base and orange type and are complemented by a black hat with an orange brim. The home alternate jersey is orange with black type. The away uniforms use a neutral grey base and orange type, with an option for a black alternate jersey. The Sunday Alternates rely on a retro feel, illustrated by the trucker-style caps and thick sleeve trim.

Feel free to leave a comment regarding The newly-named Jackson Generals, the Mets and Orioles designs above, or anything related to the sports branding world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nike Pro Combat: 2010

By Bowen Hobbs

Nike is at it again.

As it turns out, last year's wildly successful Pro Combat uniforms were a one-game special. To keep the Pro Combat train rolling along, Nike unveiled the 2010 edition of Pro Combat this morning. Here's a look:

Boise State: Famous for beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 and blue turf, Boise State was selected as one of this year's 10 Pro Combat teams. Their new uniform features a grey jersey with one blue sleeve, which has a large, cropped image of the Boise State Broncos bronco head. The oversized logo theme continues onto the helmet, where the bronco head is displayed proudly… and massively on a blue shell. The pants are, like the jersey, asymmetically designed, complete with another large bronco head on the left hip, the BRONCOS wordmark down the right leg, and a silver B on the left knee.

Virginia Tech: Inspired by VT's relationship with the military, the uniform is all-black with grey accents (symbolic of military dress uniforms) to accompany the team's burgundy and orange. The helmet is a flat black shell with the VT logo in orange outlined in burgundy and white. The uniform numbers feature a computer-chip pattern signifying the school's technological background. The "tech-y" pattern is also used throughout the uniforms on orange accent panels that crop the shoulders and run down the pant legs.

Ohio State:
Like VT, The Ohio State University unveiled its second Pro Combat uniform in as many years. This year's Ohio State uniform looks to honor the 1942 team. The helmet is rather basic, featuring a red shell, grey facemasks, and the Bronze Star of Charles Csuri, the MVP of the 1942 squad. The jerseys are also rather simple, only adorned by an American flag on the right sleeve and stylized jersey numbers that pay homage to the 1942 squad. The pants are simple, as well: grey with the Ohio State O logo on the hips. The under layer shows off a sublimated camouflage pattern to tie the scheme together.

U of Miami: Especially compared to last year's white-out Pro Combat set, this year's uniform is dripping with color. The helmet is a metallic shade of green that falls between Miami's normal forest green and emerald, complete with the U logo on each side. The jersey, by contrast, is bright orange with green sleeves which have a sublimated palm tree pattern on them. The numbers are the same font as last year's model, but instead of being half-green and half-orange, they are half-green and half-black with a white outline. Rounding the set out are orange pants that feature a green stripe that runs across the backside and down each leg. "The U" adorns the top of the pants on the back, while the U logo is placed on the left knee in silver.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide win the "Texas Longhorns Award" for the least change from their regular uniforms to their Pro Combat threads. The only difference between the standard and Pro Combat helmets is the addition of a sublimated houndstooth pattern on the helmet stripe of the Pro Combat version. The new jersey is also incredibly similar to the standard, with the only changes being the addition of an American flag to the right sleeve and (of course) the use of the houndstooth pattern on the numbers. The pants add a logo to the hip where there wasn't previously one, but to the average fan, not much has changed.

Florida: The Gators really adopted the gator skin pattern that Nike experimented with last year. This year's Pro Combat uniform uses said pattern on the helmet, sleeves, numbers, pants, and undershirt. The helmet is different from last year's (which was white), as it is orange and uses the classic Gators script. This year's jersey is white and is paired with blue pants.

Oregon State: To be worn in the "Civil War" (the school's rivalry game against U of Oregon), the Beavers' new pro Combat duds are modeled after the 1967 team known as the "Giant Killers". The uniforms use a black helmet and jersey with off-white pants and feature a consistent striping pattern of off-white/orange/off-white on a black background (black/orange/black on the pants). Other than the stripe, the helmet is solid black. Nike helped push the throwback look to this set by adding the st pattern to the sleeves of the undershirt, as the jersey sleeves are too small for such a thick stripe, in addition to the jersey number.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers are new to the Pro Combat game, but that didn't stop them from trying something different. The uniform is all navy with black and metallic gold accents and is supposed to represent the steel industry. The PITT wordmark and jerseys numbers are designed to look like they are cut from steel, while the helmet stripe is supposed to look like an I-beam.

West Virginia: Like Pitt, West Virginia is new to the Pro Combat game. The Mountaineers themed their set to honor the coal mining industry. The helmet features a thin strip of yellow to represent the headlamps worn by miners and a smudged black pattern is used throughout the uniform to further convey that message. The jersey and pants are both white, with the thin yellow stripe running down the sides of the pants.

TCU: Ah yes, TCU. They're the ones who trotted out this look last year. They kept the frog skin pattern, although this year it's "icier" to reference a memorable quote from celebrated coach Leo "Dutch" Meyer. ("We'll fight 'em 'til Hell freezes over, then we'll fight 'em on the ice.") This year's version will pair a silver frog skin-patterned helmet with a black jersey and matching silver pants. The jersey features purple side panels and shoulder accents, in addition to frog skin numbers. Overall, not that different than last year's model, but slightly better.

Nike did a good job fixing some of last year's issues with the Pro Combat set, particularly the use of the shoulder feather pattern and the overabundance of white. Many of the uniforms still use colors not associated with the teams (like black for Miami and silver/grey for Boise State), but since the jerseys are one-and-done, it's acceptable. The Alabama uniform's new additions are so subtle they could even be used as a full-time uniform. Pro Combat is here to stay, at least for the next few years.

Today, we have another Double Play Design, starting with the Cincinnati Reds. The "Oldest Team in Baseball" currently has a pretty strong identity. I didn't look to overhaul the existing scheme; instead, I sought to improve upon it. The current primary logo uses block letters for the REDS wordmark encapsulated within the C. I have replaced the block letters with the Reds' proprietary font, giving the overall scheme more unity. I have also eliminated black from the identity and replaced it with charcoal grey, adding a unique twist to the color scheme. For Mr. Redlegs, I swapped the two-stripe pillbox hat for something slightly more contemporary. The primary home and away uniforms use sleeveless jerseys with red undershirts, while the home and away alternates use red fax-vests (the jerseys have sleeves, but the piping still resides on the shoulders). The home hat is the same as the Reds used to wear before their foray into black accents, while the road cap is solid red with a grey C, to match the red/grey look of the road uniforms. The Sunday Alternate opts for a white crowned cap with a red C and is paired with a simple no-frills sleeveless jersey.

Second, we have Ohio's other team, the Cleveland Indians. Many people find the Indians' current logo offensive, and I can't necessarily blame them. The caricature is outdated and insulting. My main goal was to bring a level of dignity to the brand. To accomplish this, I decided to rely on abstract symbols of Native American culture, such as the feather and dream catcher. It was also important to not paint the team as warriors, since they are not specifically named after warriors, like the Braves. Baseball has a long tradition of not necessarily using fierce or intimidating mascot (read: Cubs, Orioles, Rays), so the more peaceful iconography isn't out of place. The color palette is brown and red to avoid the overuse of navy and red that currently plagues MLB. My primary logo uses a dream catcher with a baseball inside of it as a base. I then placed an interlocking CI in the center and an INDIANS wordmark above it. The secondary logo is a C with two feathers, while the tertiary is the CI by itself. The uniforms are very traditional, with the home using a cream-colored base. The jerseys feature placket piping and sleeve trim, while the pants have matching piping running down the sides of the legs. The home sets use more red than the roads, with the hats having a red brim in addition to the red home alternate jersey and the red type on the primary home uniform. The primary away features brown type outlined in red on a grey base, and the alternate away consists of a brown jersey with grey type to match the grey pants. The Sunday Alternate uses a red cap and a contrast-placket jersey with the feathered-C logo on the left chest.

Feel free to leave a comment on the 2010 edition of Nike Pro Combat, the Reds or Indians concepts above, or anything sports branding related.