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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I just discovered your website, and I find it extremely interesting. I especially enjoy your own designs for NFL teams. I like your idea of the Falcons using a red helmet; there's way too much black in the NFL these days (I mean, c'mon, the CARDINALS using a black jersey?!) While I'm not a fan of same-color jerseys and pants, I do like the all-red look of the Falcons that you created, and the all-navy look for the Broncos (your comments in an earlier post about what works for "monochrome" uniforms regarding the clothing and the helmets made me reconsider my stance, and I think some of them do work, like St. Louis' all-navy look). I think if the Broncos are going to use the orange jersey as their primary color, they should lighten the blue back to the "Orange Crush" color. The navy blue, to my eye, just doesn't work.

    Thanks for the site and letting me share my views!