Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If the Arizona Diamondbacks and Frankenstein Had a Baby…

By Bowen Hobbs

A couple weeks ago I found the new Timber Rattlers "re-brand" (and I use that term loosely), and I was going to include it with last week's post about the Nationals. But the more I looked at the new "identity" (once again I'm using the term loosely), the more I thought it deserved its own post. So here we go:

Name: Now, I know the team had no intentions of changing the name from Timber Rattlers, but they probably should. As I have detailed before, the name Timber Rattlers has absolutely no association with northeastern Wisconsin outside of the baseball team. There are no timber rattlers in Northeastern Wisconsin. A look at this map shows that timber rattlers only inhabit the great state of Wisconsin along the Mississippi River. Furthermore, "Timber Rattlers" is a mouthful. Since moving to Oshkosh, I have noticed more and more people calling them the "T-Rats", which sounds more like genetically engineered super rats that will take over the world in some bad science fiction movie. As for the distinction of being "Wisconsin", it's at least mildly insulting to the Snappers, but that isn't terrible because they are rivals (trash talking is allowed). The team used to be the Appleton Foxes, and one day I hope they return to it, as "Foxes" gave the team a regional moniker that was more targeted (and meaningful) to the fan base than "Timber Rattlers".

Colors: I have never been much of a fan of the T-Rats color scheme. It's a muddled amalgamation of dark colors. Black, burgundy, red, metallic gold, and silver (plus white)… Really, when you think about it, there is no useful application of having black, burgundy and red in the same logo. The burgundy is too similar to the black, and the red just seems unnecessary. The logo would be improved by removing the red, but removing the black and darkening the red is the best way to go.

Primary Logo: I actually like the primary logo (shown above) for the most part. The snake received a much needed update, and the overall look of the logo is much bolder and intimidating. The only things I would like to see changed are the typefaces. The "RATTLERS" typeface is far too similar to the Arizona Diamondbacks, which wouldn't be a problem if the T-Rats were a D'backs affiliate, but over the past two years the team has spent much of its marketing time on emphasizing its relationship with the parent club. Then they adopt a logo that looks all too similar to the identity of an NL rival? Why? The "TIMBER" typeface is also troublesome, as it sticks out in an awkward way. Why not use the typeface from "WISCONSIN"?

Secondary Logos: This is where the "identity" (there I go again) falls apart. The team kept its longstanding W logo, which not only uses a typeface that doesn't match the rest of the set, but the snake on it has a thinner outline than the snake in the primary. In fact, the team is using three different versions of the snake's head: one in the primary, one for the W logo and BP cap snake-head logo, and another for the R logo. Why have three snake heads? What's the point? I do like the TR logo, though. It is well-balanced (not always easy to do with a T on one side) and matches the primary logo. On the other hand, the R logo clearly looks like it was inspired more by the old typography (it is from the old identity) although it doesn't really match that either.

Uniforms: The uniforms also received an update in the latest redesign, with the home threads now featuring a burgundy cap as the primary option. (It was an alternate cap last year.) The jerseys are pretty straightforward, with the "TIMBER RATTLERS" wordmark placed across the chest and black piping accenting the sleeves and pants. The away uniforms try to stay consistent with the homes, but something's a little off. Between the top-heavy type and the curved I's, the "WISCONSIN" wordmark looks like it belongs in a campy vintage Frankenstein movie or on The Munsters. Too bad they didn't unveil the set on Halloween.

Overall, the inconsistency keeps me from truly appreciating some of the good updates within the set, like the re-rendering of the snake (if only they used it more) in the primary logo or the TR logo. Looks like I still won't be buying a T-Rats cap (unless it's the one with the TR logo… maybe…).

Altoona Curve

Primary Logo: The Curve's old primary logo featured a baseball whizzing by on a train-like "CURVE" wordmark set inside a diamond. The new primary logo uses a conductor flanked by a keystone and a new "CURVE" wordmark. It is an upgrade, but the logo is far from perfect. The conductor doesn't look right. The conductor's chin should line up with the nose, but it is pushed over to the viewer's left, giving the guy a Stan Smith look. In addition, The angle at which the conductor's head meets his neck gives the logo a football feel, as it appears the conductor is hunched over, running full-speed like a linebacker. The other parts of the logo are well done. The keystone holding shape is unique and specific to Pennsylvania. In addition, the type is very interesting, as the "CURVE" wordmark is excellently rendered.

Secondary Logos: The team has three supporting marks: a standalone conductor head, a speeding baseball on train tracks, and a Keystone A. The standalone conductor head looks even more like a football logo than the primary. The baseball on tracks logo is well rendered, but the color isn't quite right. Aren't most train tracks built with wood planks and steel rails, not the other way around. Here's a mock-up I found on the Chris Creamer message board with the bronze and grey swapped. Looks better, right? As for the Keystone A, it's good, but part of me wants to see it with less outlines, since the outlines on the current Keystone A don't match the effect on the wordmark in the primary logo anyway.

Uniforms: They have yet to be unveiled. I'll keep you posted.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Colors: That's all that has really changed for the Fisher Cats this year. While the Cats used black, kelly green, yellow, and silver last year, next season they will compete wearing navy, red and silver. Here are the logos: Primary Logo (old/new), NH Logo (old/new), FC Logo (old/new), and the Paw Logo (old/new). Personally, I think the new color shceme is a step in the wrong direction. While black and kelly green was a unique color combination in the Eastern League, navy and red is used by the Harrisburg Senators, the Portland Sea Dogs, and now the Fisher Cats. So much for originality…

Kannapolis Intimidators

Alternate Logo: While Kannapolis's primary logo could use some work, this new alternate logo is certainly a step in the right direction. The script I and rendering of Number 3 are spot on with the NASCAR feel of this identity. Now if only they did something about the primary logo

In Other News… The Kansas City Wizards have re-branded, becoming Sporting Kansas City. Good thing there's a non-gradient version, because they're gonna need it… Oregon State's men's basketball team wore turquoise uniforms for the launch of Nike's new N7 shoes. Kind of looks like the Vancouver Grizzlies… The New Orleans Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves new alternate uniforms have been leaked. That Hornets jersey looks pretty spiffy. And yes, they will still wear the Mardi Gras uniforms this year… The Jets wore green pants at home Sunday… The 'Skins took their stripe-o-rama act on the road to Tennessee… The Rams went all-navy again… The Saints wore their black pants against the Seahawks… Kevin Williams had a typo on Sunday. Just another mishap for the Vikings this year… The Bengals wore their orange jerseys against the Bills… The U (of Miami) broke out their Pro Combat uniforms against Virginia Tech… Iowa State wore gold jerseys against Missouri last Saturday. They looked less like USC than usual… Northwestern wore black jerseys for their Wrigley Field game, while Notre Dame wore green jerseys at Yankee Stadium…

Designer's Corner
This week's designs lead into Turkey Day with the Thanksgiving perennial Detroit Lions. I did this design right after the Lions first unveiled their updated logo. While I am still a big fan of the updated logo, my concept eliminates black from the team's color scheme. I have updated the primary logo by switching the outline to silver. I also created a new mark by combining the logo with a revamped wordmark that features an Olde English L. The uniforms do not rely on the large sleeve stripes that Lions fans have become accustomed to. Instead, the primary home and away uniforms use piping around the shoulder pads with white accents in the shape of the accents in the lion. There are also two alternate uniforms, which are based on the Lions' throwback uniforms.

Next up are the St. Louis Rams. My main issue with the Rams current uniforms has to do with where they play. The Edward Jones Dome is very dimly lit compared to newer domes and outdoor stadiums. That dim lighting makes the Rams' current navy and metallic gold scheme look very lackluster at home. In the interest of injecting a little excitement into the atmosphere in St. Louis, I have restored the team to royal and athletic gold (yellow). Although I did not changed the logos, I have changed one very iconic piece of the Rams' identity: the horned helmet. Nothing too drastic, I just added the highlights from the logo to the horns on the helmet for a more consistent look. The uniforms use accents with a similar style to the updated horns on the shoulders and pants. I have also added a gold jerseys to pay homage to the team's history.

Feel free to leave a comment on the new Timber Rattlers identity, other changes in the identities of MiLB teams, the designs above, or anything sports branding related.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'Tis the Season

By Bowen Hobbs

Lots to get to today, as not only did the Nationals unveil their new uniforms and logos last Wednesday night, the Kinston Indians and Omaha Royals made significant changes to their on-field brands. Starting with the…

Washington Nationals

Logos: The Nats' previous logo displayed "NATIONALS" in a monument-style font with "WASHINGTON" in a ribbon above it, and baseball-style bunting below it. In fact, the whole set was petty consistent when the Nats entered the league, except for the Curly W. The story goes that the Nationals were originally supposed to wear a W on their caps that matched the beveled type from the logo. But at the last minute, Bud Selig stepped in and made the switch to the Curly W, thus entering the Nats into a period of schizophrenic identity. The new identity system focuses on the Curly W, a decision that should have been made in the in the early stages of the last identity design. (Can't blame the designer, Todd Radom, though. It was out of his hands at that point.) The new primary logo features the Curly W in a circle, flanked by "WASHINGTON" and "NATIONALS". It is a solid design, albeit a little boring. The standalone Curly W stays, as you had probably guessed. The Nats also have a new Nationals script, which does not appear on any of the jerseys (more on that later), and a revised DC logo, which also makes no appearances on the uniforms. The Washington script from last year's away uniforms stays. Overall the logo set is much more consistent and, therefore, represents an improvement.

Home Uniforms: The team kept its red cap with the Curly W, as expected. But the jerseys are much different. Last year's jerseys used the monument script and three-stripe trim in the faux v-neck pattern, while this year's home jerseys use a two-stripe placket piping scheme and feature the Curly W as a crest on the left chest. I like the use of the W, as well as the two-color trim, but I have one complaint. Last year's jerseys applied the trim inconsistently, placing the neck trim on the edge of the jersey while the sleeve trim was placed off the edge of the cuff. With all the effort the team put into making the logo set more consistent, you'd think that mindset would have been useful when applied to the uniforms. This year's home uniforms place the sleeve trim on the edge of the sleeve, but it doesn't match the placket piping's placement off the edge. Making the jerseys worse is the placement of the player numbers on the front. Generally speaking, baseball jerseys with crests look better when the number is aligned to the crest, not dropped low. While I like the W as a crest, the inconsistency of the trim and the low number placement keep the homes from reaching their full potential.

Away Uniforms: Why do the aways keep the three-stripe faux v-neck trim when the other jerseys have a two-stripe pattern. It just looks lazy. Even if the team didn't want to use the placket piping in the interest of readability, the sleeve trim should be in the two-stripe pattern, and the faux v-neck could probably be removed. Also, and the Nats aren't the only team doing this, why do they need the extra white outline around the script? Red outlined in navy is perfectly legible on light grey, making the white outline superfluous. In addition, the old-school look that the team appeared to be going for would have been helped by ditching the white on the roads. The away jerseys will feature a new cap that is similar to their previous away caps, but with a red brim. Not bad. It adds a little red to the away uniforms, which is needed with the red type on the jerseys.

Alternate Uniforms: The Nats will have two this year. The first alternate jersey is a red version of the home uniform, while second alternate is navy blue, and features a "stars & stripes" pattern in the logo, like last year's DC jerseys. Neither is bad on its own, but when combined with the home jersey, the Nats will have three jerseys with the Curly W as a crest. Since the home jersey looks great as a contrast to the division rival Phillies, and second alternate couldn't work with the full script, the red jersey should probably have said "Nationals", similar to a prototype jersey that has been floating around.

While the Nationals have made some good changes, some of their decisions aren't consistent with the other changes they've made. While the new identity is an overall improvement, the team is still another red/navy team with red type outlined in navy on the jerseys. Whether they wear red or navy caps, they will resemble another team in MLB. If they had used red caps all around with navy type on their jerseys, they could have coined the only truly unique red/navy scheme in MLB. Here's a sample: Logos / Home / Away / Alt. (If you're curious, the double piping and three stars on each sleeve are meant to evoke the DC flag.)

Kinston Indians

Logos: The Indians have made a major improvement, ridding themselves of this ridiculous caricature of a logo. The new logo is simpler, as it is primarily made up of a stylized wordmark flanked by a bat and feathers. The team also has two alternate logos, a K that is comprised of a bat and feather, and a different stylized K.

Uniforms: The team's uniforms are fairly basic. The homes use red piping and an "Indians" script that differs from the primary logo. The aways opt for a matching "Kinston" script, and the alternates pair the home caps with the stylized K from the away caps. The old cap logos are as follows: Home / Away / Alternate / BP. The alternates would be better if the K's matched, but overall it's an upgrade. I also believe the I-feather logo is still in play, and it would have helped the uniform set if it had made it onto one of the caps (preferably home or alternate).

The team had nowhere to go but up, but the new set is significantly better than just eliminating the caricature.

Omaha Storm Chasers

Name: Yes, you read that right. The Omaha Royals have become the Omaha Storm Chasers. As an advocate against "brand borrowing", I think it's a step in the right direction. It ties to the region, as anyone in Tornado Alley knows, and gives the team a unique moniker and theme.

Logos: The O-Royals' primary logo was laughable. (If you aren't a graphic designer that is, then it was just sad. For a more detailed rant, go here.) The new Storm Chasers logo, isn't great either. I will admit that the lightning in the lettering is a nice touch, but the two-tone effect on the wordmark has way too much contrast. From there, the logo set gets weirder. The alternate marks inculde an O-Bolt logo, an SC lettermark, a combination of the O-Bolt and SC, two mascot marks, and an affiliation patch. The main issue is an utter lack of consistency. The primary logo is royal and gold, Stormy the mascot is green and wears blue and white, the affiliation patch is blue and white, and the rest of the package is rendered in black, white, gold and red. The package uses blue, black, gold, red, green, and silver (plus white). Counting white, that's seven colors! Are you telling me that Stormy couldn't have been gold or blue, as to not look like the Philly Phanatic? Or that the OSC logo couldn't have been black, royal and gold? Or the SC couldn't have been blue and gold? A little consistency goes a long way, and this logo set looks like a collections of marks and illustrations, not a unified brand.

Uniforms: If you were expecting the team to get it right on the uniforms after seeing the logo, you are going to be disappointed. The home uniforms are what you'd expect after seeing the primary logo, but the away uniforms only match the O-Bolt. Also, what's the point of arching "Omaha" on the jerseys? It doesn't match the homes or the primary logo. Are the Storm Chasers a blue/gold team or a black/gold team? With this set, we may never know…

Overall, the logos, individually, each represent an improvement. But since this conversation is about branding, it falls flat. Too many colors. If the Omaha Royals were a hot mess, then the Storm Chasers are a well-rendered hot mess.

Next Week… I will review and analyze the new branding efforts of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, as well as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

In Other News… The Alabama Crimson Tide broke out their Pro Combat uniforms, complete with sublimated houndstooth… The White Sox are swapping out the sock-in-a-diamond logo with their primary logo for the sleeve patch of their road jerseys… The Atlanta Falcons wore their throwbacks against the Ravens Thursday… The Miami Dolphins went storm trooper at home against the tri-color Titans… The Jets went storm trooper on the road in Cleveland… Here's something you don't see every day: The Vikings wore their purple pants on the road against a throwback-clad Bears team… The Buccaneers went tri-color against the Panthers… The Broncos wore their orange alternate jerseys again, and some people, including coach Josh McDaniels, want to make the orange jerseys the team's primary home uniform… The Rams wore their navy pants in San Francisco… The Steelers threw back to a time when they weren't getting beaten by the Pats Sunday night… The uniform gods weren't pleased with the stripe-o-maina the 'Skins wore on Monday… Here's your newest Ducks combo, worn Saturday in Berkeley…

Designer's Corner
This week's designs focus on nostalgia, a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past. Starting the section, we have the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons wore one of their throwback uniforms Thursday night. The combination featured a red helmet, black jersey, and white pants. Seeing as only two teams in the NFL currently rock red domes (Chiefs, Bills), the Falcons going crimson-helmeted would be fairly unique in the pro football landscape. My concept seeks to blend old and new. I opted for the red dome and paired it with a red home jersey. My red helmet uses the updated F-logo, outlined in black instead of silver, and is paired with a black facemask and a single tapered white stripe. The jerseys use a modern style with inserts and black piping around the sleeves to create a winged effect, while a similar style is carried over to the design of the pants. The red home jersey can be paired white or red pants, while the white road jersey can also be paired with white or red pants. The alternate jersey is black, with options for black and white pants.

Next up, we have the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have had multiple trendsetting styles throughout their history, from their brown and yellow inaugural season gear and the uniforms they reused during the NFL 75th Anniversary season, to their classic "Orange Crush" look and their Super Bowl-winning current threads. Of those looks the Orange Crush and current uniforms are the most notable in Broncos history. My goal was to combine those two looks into a signature style for the team. I changed the color palette from navy, orange and white, to orange, dark royal and white. The dark royal is a compomise between the current navy and the light royal the team used during the majority of the Elway years. The helmets use the new royal, complemented by a white facemask and a thin white streak added to the tapered orange helmet stripe. The jerseys are modern, using the famed Broncos side panels that have been replicated time and time again, but with a twist: the side panel striping truncates and wraps arouund the back before it reaches the pants, allowing for mix-and-match combinations that are not confined to matching the side panels. The jerseys also have piping around the shoulder yoke, with accents on the shoulders themselves, re-working what many feel is too blank a sleeve area for the Broncos. The home jersey is orange and can be paired with white or orange pants (or blue if necessary). The away jersey is white, naturally, with blue type and accents and best pairs with white or blue pants. The alternate jersey is blue, and is paired with blue or white pants.

Feel free to leave a comment about the new looks of the Nationals, K-Tribe, or Storm Chasers, the designs above, or anything sports branding related. And check back next Wednesday for the full scoop on the new Timber Rattlers uniforms.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Bowen Hobbs

It's re-brand season for Major and Minor League Baseball and a few teams have already started in on the fun. Above you'll see the new uniforms for the Cleveland Indians (full video of the new Away and Home Alternate jerseys here). After looking the new changes over, and digesting them, here is a critique of the new uniforms:

Primary Home Uniform: This one is actually the furthest on the right in the photo above. It has not changed since last season.

Primary Away Uniform: The jersey is new, while the cap was moved over from last season's alternate home uniform. The caps are all navy with a red block C. The jerseys feature CLEVELAND in navy block letters outlined in red. The player name and number on the back will also be navy blue, with the number also featuring the red outline. Although it's tough to see in the photo above, the jerseys have trim around the sleeves and neck.

Alternate Home Uniform: The Tribe have been wearing the cream-colored alternates since 2008, but the 2011 version showcases a new red cap with a navy block C. The look remains unchanged below the neck though, with INDIANS in red block letters outlined in navy. The numbers on the back are also red block type with navy outlines, and there are no player names above the numbers.

Alternate Away Uniform: The away alternates, like the home alternates, remain unchanged from the neck down. The jerseys feature a red wordmark, double-outlined in navy and white, and silver piping down the placket and around the sleeves. The player numbers are rendered in MLB Block (as are all the other jersey numbers in the Indians' set) and maintain the double-outline from the wordmark on the front. The cap is newly paired with the navy jersey, as it was last season's primary away cap. (Last season the navy jerseys were complemented by the I cap, which is no longer in use.)

Now that we have a base of what the new look will be, we can analyze if it is effective branding or not. My answer: No. The problem with the set is that it fails to deal with either of the issues of the previous Indians uniform sets:

Chief Wahoo: The Chief has been a hot button issue for a while now, as the logo is essentially a stereotype of a Native American. Some people see the logo as incredibly offensive because it is a very distasteful caricature of a race. Others say, "Tradition is tradition, and I don't care who it offends." The Indians had a choice to make going into this re-design: Do we ditch Wahoo because it could turn off emerging Ohio baseball fans to our team, or do we keep it because we would anger the traditionalists if we got rid of it? The team decided to ride the line, shifting Wahoo away from the primary away uniform, but keeping him on two of their four caps and on the left sleeve of every jersey. It's a slight reduction in Wahoo usage, but it doesn't go nearly far enough.

The Twins: The Indians have had to deal with the fact that they are not the only navy/red team in their own division, let alone the AL or all of MLB. This redesign does not address that at all. The home uniforms still use navy caps and red lettering, which Boston, Minnesota, and Atlanta also use. Hardly original. The home alternates use red caps and lettering with navy accents, which matches the home uniforms of the Angels, Cardinals, and Nationals. The away uniforms now have navy lettering outlined in red, which is more unique than navy caps paired with red lettering on the road (Braves, Cardinals, Nationals), but still matches the overall look of the Twins and Red Sox. The Indians lack a signature look, as they have throughout their history while vacillating between being a "navy team" or a "red team". There are only so many ways to create a navy and red uniform, so maybe it's time for the Tribe to switch color schemes.

The other issue is that the new set is very schizophrenic. It's not unheard of for a team to have a throwback inspired alternate, but the having a throwback inspired alternate and away uniform, while the other uniforms look quite modern? That very Twins of them (home / away / alternate 1 / 2 / 3) . Also, the Indians have four caps. Four! Is that really necessary? The Twins, with their five jerseys, have only three caps. Couldn't the Tribe wear the one Wahoo cap with the primary home and alternate away uniforms? Do they need the red cap, when the navy block C cap worked just fine with the cream uniforms last year?

While I'm all for the team minimizing Chief Wahoo, they didn't go far enough to that end. And in the process of slightly downgrading Wahoo's status, they developed a scheme that lacks a true identity. They copied the Twins, a division rival, at every turn (except the red cap), and came out with two separate identities: one throwback, one modern. It'll be difficlt for the team be achieve the instant recognition that the Yankees and Cubs enjoy with their current scheme.

The Nationals will be unveiling their new uniforms at 7:15 PM (6:15 Central) tonight. The team has mentioned there will be "major changes". Let's hope they do not continue their current schizophrenic identity of waffling between beveled block letters and script.

Other changes in MLB this year include the Mariners' return to a teal jersey and the A's getting a gold alternate jersey to replace their inexplicable black jersey. Also in the AL West, the Angels will celebrate their 50th anniversary by changing the halos on the caps and wordmarks from silver to gold.

In the Minors, the Lake County Captains and Asheville Tourists unveiled new identities in the past week. While the Captains' old logo used a cartoon steamboat captain, the new identity uses a ship's steering wheel with a splash of water as the primary logo. The team has three caps: a primary, an alternate, and one for batting practice. The home jerseys use a wordmark almost the same as the logo, but with a lighthouse substituted for the I. In addition, the numbers are consistent with the feel of the wordmark by utilizing notches that are cut into the numbers themselves. The home jerseys also have a patch on the right sleeve of a ship in a circle. With a streamlined color pallete, consistent typography, and well-rendered logos, this re-brand was a major upgrade.

The Asheville Tourists were also in need of a redesign, as their previous logo lacked flow and a cohesive style. The new logo plays on the idea of a nighttime ballpark scene. The supporting type is a little over-stylized, but the rest of the logo is well-rendered and the color scheme uses a very unique seafoam color to illustrate the glow of moonlight. The Tourists also have two alternate logos of a moon-based mascot that resembles Mr. Met, in addition to a matching stadium logo. The team uses four caps: a navy home cap with the moon man's head (It glows in the dark!), a light blue road cap with an A, a light blue alternate cap with a navy brim and the A inside a nighttime scene, and a navy batting practice cap with the full body moon man. Although the set isn't perfect, it's very good and constitutes a major upgrade over the previous package.

In Other News… The Oregon Ducks basketball program unveiled a new court design. Can't tell what it is? Here's another look. Interesting, but I will have to reserve judgment until I see it on TV… The Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines got new hoops uniforms, complete with senseless looking collars… Monochrome Madness struck in the NFL, as the Texans went all-navy and the Vikings broke out the seldom seen all-purple, complete with that weird side block on the pants… The Colts wore their throwbacks on Sunday, which have the horseshoes on the back of the helmet

Designer's Corner
Today's designs come from the NFL, starting with the Cleveland Indians' neighbor, the Browns. For the Browns, I wanted to develop a modern classic. The first thing I sought to do with the Browns was the unthinkable: give them a logo. Now, I respect tradition and would never try to disregard the passion of Browns fans, but the team need a logo. The helmets can continue to be blank, but for various purposes, the helmet illustration they currently use as a logo falls short. In its place I created a new version of their B football logo (also called the =B= logo) that uses the natural seam of a football to create an accent of orange. The color scheme is also modified, replacing the white with an off-white that fits with the overall warm tones of the team's brown and orange. The secondary logo is the memorial patch the team currently wears for Al Lerner, while the wordmark is a subtle update to their current typography. My main goal with the uniform was to create a consistent striping pattern. In my version of the striping, orange is always placed in the middle (on a cream or brown background), while the cream is always placed on the outsides of the striping ( orange or brown background). The uniforms also feature piping that crops the striping, mixing modern and traditional elements. I also substituted the non-matching grey facemasks for brown ones and rendered the shoes in brown, since both black and white looked out of place with the brown and cream colors.

Next up are the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins concept is also an attempt at a modern classic, blending new and traditional elements. My first task with the 'Phins was to edit the color palette. The navy that was introduced in 1997 appears dated and, quite frankly, a little kitschy. I replaced the navy with a deep grey that has a slight teal hue, giving the concept an overall tonality in addition to better matching the overall color of a dolphin. I updated the M on the dolphin's helmet as the current M does not flow with the modern direction that this concept was headed in. I also created a new sleeker wordmark that features a wave set into the two-tone type. The uniforms feature consistent striping (the current uniforms don't) that is cropped by piping, as well as a new sleeker number font. The piping on the jerseys highlights the shoulder area, while the piping on the pants wraps around the back of the pants.

Feel free to leave a comment on the new designs for the Indians, Captains, and Tourists; the concepts above; or anything sports branding related.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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

By Bowen Hobbs

44th & Goal jumps back into the aesthetic world of Minor League Baseball with Part 7 of its 14-Part series: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. This week, we will cover the visual identities of the California League. Like the other leagues of Minor League Baseball, the California League loasts some great examples of sports branding as well as some teams that could use help with their look.

The Good
Lancaster Jethawks: The Jethawks adopted their current look between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Their previous logo was rooted the the aesthetics of the 1950s, and used a color pallete of blue, red, black, gold, and silver. The current brand streamlined the color scheme, while the current logo uses a much more fitting fighter jet theme. The new mark features much bolder lines and typography. Where the previous caps used rather cartoony illustrations for logos, the new caps use partial marks based on the primary logo. The Jethawks instantly upgraded their identity package with their most recent re-brand.

Modesto Nuts: The Nuts used to be the Modesto A's before the 2005 season. If they hadn't re-branded, they would have found themselves directly in the Bad category for brand borrowing. Instead, their current logo balances their quirky name with the boldness of a sports logo. The typography is bold and balanced, without the typesetting inconsistency of the previous logo. The caps are particularly interesting because the each cap has one of the two nuts on it, whereas both nuts appear in the primary logo. The home jersey is a white vest with black undersleeves, while the away jersey is a solid black jersey with placket piping and sleeve trim. The Nuts' graphic scheme highlights every to love about Minor League Baseball: professional logos that are unique due to the the team's one-of-a-kind name.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Although the Quakes' primary logo is a little over-designed, (I don't think the wordmark needs that much distress.) the team's overall graphic appearance is solid. The caps are very unique by featuring an embroidered fault line across the brim. The color and typography are consistently applied, giving the Quakes a fresh, professional look.

Visalia Rawhide: Minor League Baseball returned to Visalia in 2009, this time as the Visalia Rawhide. The Rawhide's logo mainly consists of a westernized script, complemented by a bull whip R. The team's color scheme features red, black, and metallic gold. The home and away caps use a pair of marks that are inspired by cattle branding. The jerseys are fairly basic, with only the wordmark on the front and the number on the back. Kudos to the Rawhide for going all out with their theme.

The Bad

High Desert Mavericks: The Mavs have been a staple of the California League since 1991. In that time, the team has not changed its logo at all. The issues are apparent: The outline on "MAVERICKS" is far too thin, leading it to disappear at small sizes. The supporting text ("HIGH DESERT" and "BASEBALL CLUB") uses two different typefaces when one would do, in addition to the fact that the supporting type is integrated poorly, leading it to look slapped on. Lastly, the way the underline of "MAVERICKS" connects to the S is very poorly done. Although the baseballs on the hat in the logo are clever, the do not lend themselves to reproduction at small sizes. The cap logo is just the M with the hat, while the jerseys say "Mavs" on the front. Overall, the Mavericks are due for an update, whether it's an update or a re-brand.

Inland Empire 66ers: Great name, but that's where the praise ends. Formerly the San Bernadino Stampede, the 66ers employ a royal, red, black ,and silver scheme. The problem with using the Interstate color scheme is that Route 66 was never an official Interstate highway. Actual Route 66 signs look more like this. And while there are times people have taken liberty with the design of the sign, US Highways are officially designated by black and white signage. The home cap is royal with a grey brim, while the away cap uses a red crown. Further confusing the identity, the jerseys use very little red and blue, with the wordmarks rendered in silver and black (although there are picture of Manny Ramirez floating around wearing a red-wordmarked away jersey). Using the signage for inspiration on the logos and caps and then going with a classic car theme on the jerseys creates a visual disconnect that does not reinforce a consistent brand. Once again, great name, but that's where the praise ends.

San Jose Giants: Is there a lazier way to make a primary logo than this? All they did was make the gold grey and swap out "SAN FRANCISCO" for "SAN JOSE". At least the caps have a cool logo, although it doesn't match the "GIANTS" wordmark in the logo. Although the home jersey now says "GIANTS", it used to use the SJ logo as recently as last season. These Giants are using two different style that don't quite work together.

Stockton Ports: It's not the worst logo in MiLB, but it's certainly not the best either. A closer inspection reveals just how poorly the type was rendered. The home and away caps use lettermarks with anchors and baseballs, which unfortunately, are a bit busy. (The baseball is overkill.) The jerseys are nothing special. The home version uses red sleeves and blue piping, while its away counterpart is a plain grey jersey with "STOCKTON" in blue, outlined in white. The Ports would have a solid baseball-centric identity, but execution counts.

The Ugly

Bakersfield Blaze: Well, where do I begin? The logo? OK, the logo. The Blaze call this their primary logo. As you can see, the letterforms are crammed into a geometric shape, except for a few parts of the letters popping out awkwardly. Making things worse, the inside of the B and A only have a red outline, instead of the triple outline the rest of the wordmark uses. The secondary logo isn't any better. It looks like an abstract butterfly with a flaming maple leaf behind it. Seriously though, the repeated clip art flames are an insult to professional graphic designers everywhere. It appears the team is starting to see the light, as the jerseys use a basic cursive script that, although plain, is far less awful that the previous version. I would say it's time for a re-brand, but the last time they re-branded, they came up with what I've been complaining about for the last paragraph.

Lake Elsinore Storm: The Storm re-branded before the 2002 season. Unfortunately, their old logo was better. The current logo primarily consists of a Storm wordmark (that's what that is…) with eyes below it. Generally, in the branding world, a logo should be legible, and this isn't nearly as legible as it should be. The team uses three caps, one for home and two for the road, all of which have eyes on them. The jerseys use the primary logo across the chest. Although I admit the numbers are pretty cool. (Well, the two's anyway.) If the fans can't read the logo, what the point?

In Other News… The Bengals wore their standard home uniforms, instead of the coolest Halloween uniforms ever… The Rams wore their throwbacks, which compensated for the poor lighting of the Edward Jones Dome nicely… The Patriots also threw back… The Cardinals wore their black alternates against Tampa Bay… The Saints went all-black (except for the helmets) against Pittsburgh, who finally wore white this season… The Oregon Ducks went storm trooper while beating USC. Turns out, the player names on those jerseys are white too. Nice subtle touch… Army went full-camo on Saturday. I definitely prefer the black jerseys in this set… Florida wore their Pro Combat uniforms… Ole Miss went all-grey

Designer's Corner
As I mentioned before, the Bakersfield Blaze's identity is a nightmare. My re-brand for the Blaze uses a charcoal grey/red/orange color scheme that implies fire and ashes. Whereas the current Blaze logo forces the letters into a geometric shape, my primary logo concept features a Blaze script in front of a fireball/baseball. The supporting marks include two stylized Bs and a standalone fireball/baseball. The home uniforms use a white base with red raglan-cut sleeves and the Blaze wordmark across the chest. The player number appears on the left below the wordmark. The away uniforms go in a unique direction, using a charcoal base, similar to what the Toronto Blue Jays almost went with back in 2004. Most of the type on the charcoal uniforms is orange, giving the uniform a burning embers look. The alternate home and away jerseys are red with the alternate home jerseys featuring white type, while the alternate away jersey uses orange type. Alternate Uniform 3 has a throwback feel, with a cap the has a bit on old-school piping over the seams. The jerseys for Alternate 3 use the B logo as a crest and a serifed block font for the numbers. Alternate 4 shows off an orange cap (with the fireball logo) and jersey.

Feel free to leave a comment on the aesthetics of the California League, the Bakersfield Blaze re-brand above, or anything sports design related.