Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Florida State League: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

By Bowen Hobbs

44th & Goal is back with the eighth part of its 14-part series, The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. This week, we will look at the Florida State League. Like every other league within the world of Minor League Baseball, certain teams understand the power of branding, while others need a push in the right direction. Let's take a look:

The Good

Charlotte Stone Crabs: The Stone Crabs are a relatively new team, replacing the Vero Beach Devil Rays before the 2009 season. The Stone Crabs, like their predecessor, worked closely with the branding of the parent club Tampa Bay Rays. Their primary logo consists of a blue crab standing on a Stone Crabs wordmark. They also use two cap logos with Rays-inspired typography and a standalone crab logo. Anytime you can take one of the worst graphic identities in Major League Baseball and carve a great Minor League identity out of it, you know you've done your job.

Clearwater Threshers: The Threshers' identity is the work of Plan B Branding and they couldn't have done a better job. Within the primary logo, you have a shark closing in on a ball below a custom wordmark with a shield holding shape. The primary and alternate cap logos feature a shark in a C shape, while the batting practice cap logo adds a bat. The jerseys use an arched version of the wordmark from the primary logo. Overall, one of the better identity sets in Minor League Baseball.

Fort Myers Miracle: The Miracle had used this logo since 1992, but will be entering the 2011 season with significant changes including a much more scenic logo and new typography. In addition, they have revamped their cap logo and uniforms. The island feel of the new typeface adds some character to the set. It's a good update to a solid identity package.

Lakeland Flying Tigers: I realize there are reasons for using the parent club's moniker. There can be a lot of equity in relationships with the Yankees, Braves, or Cubs. The Paw Sox advertise the Sawx of tomorrow. But how does one go about presenting the team's relationship with the parent club while maintaining an identity of its own? The Flying Tigers are one example. While using the Detroit squad's color scheme and general theme as a starting point, the A-ball club added its own twist to make the team name even more relevant to its fan base. The alternate logo pays homage to the city's World War II history, as does the team's alternate cap (the standard one is the same but without the brim decoration) and jersey number typography. While I don't like brand borrowing, this is well thought out brand incorporation.

The Bad

Brevard County Manatees: Admittedly, a manatee is a tough animal to work with. Their general ability to fill in for the Blob on short notice is a challenge to anyone tasked with trying to develop an identity based around them. But unfortunately, this is not the complete answer. While I like the intention of covering up most of the manatee's body, wouldn't it make more sense to eliminate it and focus on the creature's head, where most of its definition is? Maybe add an accent reminiscent of the tail within the typography… The team's cap logo is also problematic as the typeface of the BC is too thin to handle the mass that people associate with manatees when they see the animal. And really, navy and red? With the Threshers, Cubs, Miracle, Cardinals and Yankees also in the Florida State League, why not try something different?

Dunedin Blue Jays: Brand borrowing. Plain and simple. Just take the bird from Toronto's logo and shove it next to a D. I do like the Dunedin adaptation of the script though. Also, the choice to follow the parent club and use black as the team's primary color despite being named the Blue Jays is a mistake.

Palm Beach Cardinals: The High A affiliate of St. Louis uses the parent club's colors and logos. They have their own PB mark though. It's not the worst brand borrowing design in the Florida State League.

The Ugly

Daytona Cubs: At this point, are they just keeping their logo to be ironic? Is this a baseball logo or an an for Budweiser from 1987? There are better ways to work this the 1980s and the Cubs. Or they could try something really classic. Maybe they should craft an identity from their BP cap logo

Jupiter Hammerheads: This is what happens when you cram 15 pounds of design into a 5-pound bag. While the Jupiter and Hammerhead wordmarks are duking it out for attention, the the lighthouse and the hammerhead are competing in the middle of the "composition". They couldn't even get the cap logo down to two elements. It wouldn't be as bad if any of the elements matched each other. And what's the point of the red lighthouse? Neither the red nor the lighthouse help the design in any way. Then we have the type. While the Jupiter wordmark could be decent if it wasn't overstylized, the Hammerheads wordmark looks sloppy and doesn't work with the script of the Jupiter wordmark. It's as if someone took something they liked from four different identities and smooshed them into one mess of color and form.

St. Lucie Mets: As if rehashing the New York Mets graphic design wasn't bad enough, St. Lucie went a step further and slapped together a clip art palm tree and a streaking sun-ball with a Mets wordmark. It's a six color logo. It really only needs to have three colors: blue, orange, and green. The hat logo is even worse. I didn't know Nickelodeon had a minor league team. Seriously though, the tL combination doesn't fit against the S. And the streaking ball behind it doesn't help. There has to be a better way.

Tampa Yankees: Sometimes you come across an identity that really says something. That's what I thought when I came across the Tampa Yankees identity. But what did it say? Afterthought. From the tacked-on block letters of the Tampa script to the fact that the T and Y in the cap logo aren't integrated into one mark says that there wasn't very much effort out into this. With all the money the Yanks have to throw at players, maybe a fraction of that could go to creating a timeless identity for years to come. Just sayin'.

In Other News… The Air Force Academy looked very patriotic in the Independence Bowl… Tulsa had the island mentality during the Hawaii Bowl… The Pacers have been wearing a mistake all year… The Knicks and Bulls got into the holiday spirit… The Cardinals were a sea of red against Dallas… The Rams went all-navy, as did the Broncos… With the free fall the Dolphins are in, maybe they should try something other than wearing all-white at home… Why can't the Bengals wear this full time?

Designer's Corner
As I mentioned (or ranted) earlier, the Jupiter Hammerheads have an amalgamation of mismatched parts the they've visually duct taped into an identity. The first thing I did was streamline the identity. No mroe splashes of red, no more lighthouse. The primary logo is actually fairly stark, using a Hammerheads wordmark in combination with a revised fish hook J. The Jupiter wordmark was re-rendered into a subordinate typeface so it no longer competes with the Hammerheads wordmark. The alternate marks include a standalone J and a circular logo featuring a hammerhead shark with a basbeall cap. The typography combines a traditional script with the added touch of barbs in the letterforms that resemble the end of a fishing hook. Many of the cap options utilize the hook J, but the bases come in a variety of colors and patterns. Some of the caps use the hammerhead logo as well. But my personal favorite cap is the wraparound shark head cap, complete with toothed brim. The home and away uniforms use simple black type with teal piping that is wavy on the sleeves. The home alternate features a teal jerseys with the hook J in black, while the road alternate uniform is all-black. Alternate 3 relies on subtle silver pinstripes and Alternate 4 features a two-tones shark-inspired jersey with gills on the shoulders.

Feel free to leave a comment about the graphic identities of the Florida State League, the Hammerheads concept above, or anything sports branding related.