Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Major League Miscues

By Bowen Hobbs

Washington Natinals? Yes, on April 17, 2009, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn (pictured) were Natinals, thanks to a typo on their jerseys. It ended up being a pretty big story, with the Nationals being the butt of quite a few jokes. But they weren't the only ones to have committed such an offense.

Within the last week, the Wizards have had two noticeable uniform oddities. On Saturday night Washington called up Mustafa Shakur from the D-League, and didn't have much time to get a jersey ready for him. So his front number was very curiously spaced and his name and back number were far too low. Not to mention his name wasn't arched very smoothly. This uniform miscue is particularly odd because of everything that went wrong on one jersey. But Shakur wasn't the only Wizard with uniform issues. Just two days later big man Kevin Seraphin was seen on the court with his shorts on backwards, which looked especially weird because the Wizards only have a swoosh on one side of their uniforms. There's no way he could have pulled it off. With a more symmetrical uniform design, he may have had a shot.

In hockey, Rob Niedermayer skated around for three games with his name spelled wrong. Jeff Francoeur of the Royals had his E and U reversed for a game when he was with the Braves. The Rockies haven't been perfect either. And Kevin Williams had his A and I swapped. Danny Jennings of West Virginia had his double-N in the wrong spot this season as well. Also in the college ranks, Shane Southwell had some mixed up lettering on his nameplate. And last season Zaza Pachulia, whose name is relatively easy to spell, had this mutation of his last name. But how does someone screw up the name of a sports legend? Just ask Wayne Gretkzy.

There's also another common type of miscue: the team/city name typo. While screwing up an athlete's last name is a mistake, it is generally not as bad since it's usually just one player, and in some cases, the names are difficult in the first place. But team/city miscues are worse because whoever is doing quality control should know how to spell the single word they see on an entire group of jerseys. Also, team name typos usually occur at the manufacturer, while individual player names are sewn on by an independently contracted seamster or seamstress. Large manufacturers should have more levels of quality control. The Natinals debacle falls squarely in the team/city typo category. Joe Carter had to wear a classic example of a team/city typo once. Last year, Nike misspelled Kentucky on John Wall's jersey. Luckily the jersey was only used for a photo shoot. And Eugenio Velez spent a brief one game stint in San Francicso, which isn't far from Minnestoa. And once upon a time in Anaheim (as opposed to Los Angeles of Anaheim), there was a team called the Angees. And women's sports aren't immune to miscues either, as seen in this picture from the fine city of Milaukee.

Yet some miscues fail to fall into either category. For example, the stitcher for the Washington Redskins was channeling the bus when lettering Ladell Betts's jersey. I'm not sure how a backwards letter doesn't jump out at someone. This one's nitpicky, but here goes. Do you see it? Look at this jersey for comparison. Still not seeing it? The number font for #30 is MLB Block, while A-Rod's jersey has the correct block number font. Shakur's isn't necessarily a typo, it's just extermely poor craftsmanship. However, in my research, I cam across this gem of a miscue. That's Ted Kluszewski, although you'd never know it from the backward Z and X for a K. Two typos in one name? Epic typo.

But the most celebrated typo in jersey history is the one that happened twice. Mike Alstott had a typo on his jersey his rookie year. It was a standard last name miscue. But the Buccaneers, decided to honor Alstott by putting the miscue on a jersey plaque for a retirement gift. Congratulations Mike Alsott. Your hard work and dedication will be remembered.

Jersey typos are a part of life. With the proliferation of alternate jerseys and expansions teams, there are more jerseys to manufacture and then personalize. Plus, the typos add an extra little nuance to games and remind us that it is, after all, just a game.

In Other News… The Cavs wore their 2010-11 CavFanatic uniforms over the weekend… UW Green Bay unveiled throwbacks based on this design. The black swoosh looks a little ridiculous; it should have been red… The San Diego Padres just unveiled their new military alternate uniforms… Speaking of the Padres, their former Triple-A affiliate (Portland Beavers) were forced from their home by the MLS's Portland Timbers, an expansion franchise. They have moved to Tuscon, at least temporarily, and they have a new logo. Ladies and gentlemen, the Tuscon Padres… Chad Ochocinco is no more. He's going back to Chad Johnson

Designer's Corner
Sticking in the SEC, this week's design is for the Auburn Tigers, National Champions. Auburn has a lot of tradition, so I didn't want to deviate too much from their current scheme. However, Their striping is painfully inconsistent, and the jersey stripes are named after another school (they are called Northwestern Stripes). More on that later. I tweaked the proportions of Auburn's primary logo and added a serif to the top of the A. I used the proportions of the A to develop the two wordmarks. I also have a tiger-striped version of the primary logo as an alternate option.

Back to the uniforms: I made the striping consistent across all backgrounds (white–navy–tiger–navy–white). On white the outer stripes bleed directly into the background, which was a better option than swapping the navy and white, like the team currently does. This is because of the tiger-striped patter nin the stripes, which I find helpful in enhancing the tiger motif. The player names on the backs of the jerseys are rendered in the different color from the numbers to provide less contrast. This places more emphasis on the numbers and less on the names, which aren't truly necessary information. I added options for navy pants and orange jerseys as well. The fauxbacks combine two eras of Auburn football with the four-striped sleeves and the smaller front numbers. I also wanted to replicate the feeling of leather helmets and the tan pants seen on many old-school uniforms, but I didn't want to replicate the Packers and mismatch the helmet and pants. So I split the difference and used a hue that is roughly half way between the khaki and brown the Packers used. I think it works very well with the navy and orange.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

44th & Goalie: The Mask In Front of the Man

By Bowen Hobbs

To start 2011, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders via a trade. During his first game, Roloson had that "just traded" look on his face. But it wasn't in his eyes, it was literally sitting on his face. While the team had issued him a new jersey and new breezers, Roloson's mask and pads were hold overs from the 2010 he spent in New York.

This is a fairly common phenomenon among the brethren of recently traded goaltenders. A recently acquired netminder has to wait a while for his custom equipment to not only be made, but broken in as well. And don't be fooled. Goalies are particular about their equipment. A poorly fitting mask can be incredibly frustrating, especially during a bad game. And while I don't usually talk about equipment in these postings, the goalie mask is more than that. It's unique and artistic. A goalie mask design can be team-based or personal. It provides an artistic expression that isn't generally seen in-game in the other major sports. It can incorporate vibrant illustration or crisp eye-catching graphics.

That said, there are some truly memorable masks that I remember. Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek went old school. Patrick Roy featured an illustrative version of an avalanche. Bu the most memorable mask always belonged to John Vanbiesbrouck. The panther's head from the team logo dominated the shell, with the teeth cropping the the full cage from which The Beezer saw. That mask had it all: crisp graphics and a revolutionary concept.

Back to Roloson: he eventually got a plain white mask, which he used until his new mask came in. I have to say, it's pretty cool. The steely wings are rendered beautifully and the one-color redux of the Lightning's alternate logo is spectacular. But Roloson isn't the only goalie with a great mask. In fact, there are a number of masks with enticing graphics and great references this year. One of Devan Dubnyk masks features a cartoon giraffe on the back, while Martin Brodeur still rocks his signature red and white flames. Thomas Vokoun's headgear shows off a leaping panther that would look at home within the team's logo set. Curtis McElhinney's goes for intimidation with his scary skeleton zombie duck, while Anaheim's other goalie, Jonas Hiller, opts for the minimalist approach. But the best mask of the year has to be Kari Lehtonen's. I'm obligated to say this, of course, as the consequences for not doing so include a vicious roundhouse to the head. But in all seriousness, what goalie wouldn't want to wear a mask with Chuck Norris on it.

Cristobal Huet featured a wraparound design that mimics a Native American headdress last season. And Niklas Backstrom accented the natural shape of of his mask by added a paw clawing through it in the 2009-10 season. Robert Luongo has a strong history of good mask designs. He has played with multiple elements of the Canucks identity, including the team's classic V pattern, the rink logo, and even Johnny Canuck. Luongo's Olympic mask played on the lumberjack idea with an illustrated lumberjack. I am a big fan of the subtle aged texture Luongo incorporates as some of the backgrounds on his headgear.

In Other News… The Jets broke out their seldom-seen green pants again, but with their white jerseys against the Pats… Looks like Eastern Washington's red field is catching one with one Texas high school… Possible new uniform for Purdue football next year. Is it permanent, or a one-and-done? We'll find out… Memphis and Atlanta wore colored uniforms at home on Monday… Oregon's court doesn't look as good in game action… Indiana is thinking of changing its school colors away from crimson and cream, but they wear crimson and white as it is, and were wearing red and white during the Bobby Knight era… The Cubs unveiled the memorial patch for Ron Santo… Air Force Academy has some pretty cool new hockey uniforms, although the wordmark on the front hem could be better… The Kings throwback uniforms look pretty cool, although the striping doesn't all match and that is a lot of purple…Pacers/Hawks ABA style uniforms? Well played Mesa ladies

Designer's Corner
This week's design stays in the college football world. I have always enjoyed the Tennessee Volunteers' color palette of bright orange and white. But the uniforms themselves are pretty basic. Furthermore, the helmet striping doesn't match the pant striping, while the jerseys have no stripes. (They tried matching the striping for one year in the early 2000s, but went back to their current/previous uniforms…) On the away uniforms the numbers have a black outline, while nothing else does. Needless to say, the Vols could use a lesson in consistency.

My concept draws inspiration one of my favorite parts of Tennessee football: their checkerboard endzones. More on that later. The logo set starts with the Vols' iconic T. In addition, black has been completely removed from the identity package (except for one set of number, but I'll get to that). The TENNESSEE and VOLS wordmark were developed from the proportions of the T logo, giving the type a uniquely Vols feel. The O in VOLS pays homage to the Tennessee flag. Back to the uniforms, I made use of the checkerboard pattern on the sleeves, as well as the pant and helmet stripes. In addition, a sublimated checkerboard pattern appears on the front and back numbers. (It's easier to see enlarged; just click on the image to do so.) I added orange pants, which are the primary option for the away uniforms in order to draw more distinction between the Vols and Texas. Since Tennessee has no third color, I decided to create two fauxback uniforms. The first is a nod to the 1947 team, complete with orange helmets and contrasting black belt. The second honors the 1971 team, which the Vols did in 2004. The throwbacks contain black because their aesthetic is based more accuracy, meaning certain details do not match because they didn't in the past. Items like facemasks and shoes were seen as equipment, and weren't designed in the multitude of colors they are now.

Feel free to leave a comment on goalie masks, the Tennessee Volunteers design above, or anything sports branding related. Thanks to all who have commented as well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Styles

By Bowen Hobbs

Monday night, Auburn played Oregon for the BCS National Championship. In addition being a clash of very successful football teams, it was a clash of two aesthetics: The über-modern and the classic. Oregon being the talk of the season uniform-wise, throwing away pretty much every convention of uniform design and still coming away with a great set. Auburn, however, is for the purists. Good ol' fashioned stripes on the helmet, sleeves, and pants and standard block numbers. And while a lot of people associate classic design with "better", but take a closer look at Oregon's threads. You might be surprised how well-designed they actually are.


The Tigers stay true to their navy, white, and orange color palette throughout their unis, but their striping isn't as consistent. Their helmets start with a spaced triple stripe called a Northwestern stripe (a little hard to see with the black outer stripes, but this should work). And the jerseys continue with that trend. But then the pants have a pro stripe.

I personally think striping should be consistent throughout the uniform. Ohio State and Florida are good examples in college, and the Detroit Lions do a great job on striping consistency in the NFL. Ohio State and Florida both keep the striping consistently colored regardless of background. And yes, Florida's helmet fits, with the outer orange stripes blending into the orange helmet shell. Detroit opted to swap the blue center stripe for silver on a blue background. Even the Packers, despite their two separate striping patterns, consistently apply the styles, designating the pro stripe for the helmets and pants, which are always yellow, and their signature stripe for use on green and white backgrounds.

Back to Auburn: if they switch their pant stripe as has been rumored, then they will have good, consistent uniforms. Nothing flashy or spectacular, but solid.


So much to talk about with the Ducks. Let's start with color palette: The Ducks colors are technically emerald green and yellow. But the palette has expanded recently, adding black, silver, and grey. Further to that end, the Ducks unveiled a "bowl game" uniform that used no green, tons of silver and highlighter yellow. Well, like TCU, the Ducks weren't wearing quite what people were expecting. They switched to flat black/charcoal pants with the pattern from the carbon helmets set into the Pro Combat stripe area.

Honestly, I know the highlighter yellow gets a lot of flack, but it doesn't bother me. It's a shade of yellow, and with the number of combinations they have worn this year, they should have a little wiggle room. And the carbon helmets looked pretty cool too. But would it have killed them to use some green? Did the compression undershirts and pants have to be black? They could have been green. The carbon inlay could have looked very nice next to green on the pants. But that's the only flaw I saw in them.The numbers looked good with the subtle texture. And the shoulder wings are a signature element that I hope never goes away. Even the numbers are growing on me. I would also like to see the carbon helmet texture integrated with green for a hybrid look. But overall, I am still a big fan of the generation of Ducks uniforms.

In Other News… Miami University (in Ohio) has interesting throwback helmets for the GoDaddy Bowl… The Colts' endzones finally got four stars for the AFC logo endzones, but the A is still the wrong font. Just in time for the season to end… The Tampa Bay Lightning recently acquired Dwayne Roloson. Can you guess who his old team is? Luckily, the equipment manager found him a temporary mask until he gets his custom one… TCU's men's basketball team wore some interesting throwbacks last week…

Designer's Corner
This week's design comes from the bayou. The Tulane Green Wave have one of the most unique color palettes in all of sports: forest green and sky blue. I mixed silver into the scheme. But their logo doesn't do the color scheme justice. I developed a new simplified mark and custom typography. For the uniforms, I scrapped their boring template for something more unique. I created a sublimated wave pattern for the numbers and cap sleeve. In addition, the uniforms have options for two different helmets (silver and green) and two sets of pants (silver and white) in addition to a sky blue alternate jersey. To round out the set, I developed a fauxback that mixes elements of uniform design. The numbers on the helmet and grey facemasks complement the stark jersey design and the simply striped pants.

Feel free to comment on the uniform styles of the BCS Championship, the concept above, or anything sports branding related.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Take That, Nike!

By Bowen Hobbs

On New Year's Day Wisconsin and Texas Christian squared off in the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl. Except something was different. Leading up to the event, Nike had unveiled this uniform, which was similar to the Horned Frogs' 2010 Pro Combat uniforms. But during the Rose Bowl's media day, TCU players were wearing this jersey, which is their current home jersey (although it is almost identical to last year's Pro Combat jersey). Word on the street is Nike had a little chat with TCU, who was disappointed by the complete lack of purple in the new threads. So the two sides compromised, leading to the Horned Frogs wearing the new black jerseys and flashy shoes, but neither the frog-skinned helmet nor pants. Instead, Texas Christian donned solid purple pants and special purple helmets (I really like the added rose). Glad to see an agreement was reached between the two sides and TCU still got to incorporate a little red in their shoes to match the rose in the frog's mouth.

I have to wonder exactly how much say TCU had during the creative process. Their school colors are technically purple and white, but they have worn black and some silver as far back as the LaDainian Tomlinson era. As a graphic designer, I know you have to listen to your clients, even if you are convinced that another direction is a better option. Did TCU have a chance to preview the design before the unveiling? If so, why didn't they speak up? If not, were they given the opportunity? And if they weren't given the opportunity, why on Earth would Nike unveil a design nationally without the client approval? Clearly, a link in the client-designer communication chain was broken.

But the TCU fiasco illustrates a larger point regarding Nike's design sensibilities: the extreme overuse of black, grey, carbon, and silver. This all started with Oregon. Remember them, that quaint little team draped in green and yellow? Well Nike got a hold of them, and black was pumped into the uniforms. The Ducks then went back to their colors briefly, but after that last stand the flood gates opened. With the last set, green and yellow went from school colors to possible colors. The team had four helmets the first year of the winged shoulder set, with one being green and another white. That meant there was also a carbon helmet and a black helmet. This year, Nike even went to the logical endgame of reducing the role school colors played and completely subverted the Ducks to Team Nike. And then there's the uniforms the Ducks plan to wear for the National Championship. Lots of white, silver, carbon, and… highlighter? Really? I guess when Nike runs out of grey tones, they start with neon hues. Seriously though, would Oregon yellow not have worked for this design? Would it have clashed with all of those greys? (I'm being sarcastic again.) Many of the Ducks more recent combinations look like they came out of a Nike cross country catalog.

And it's not limited to TCU and Oregon. Florida State has used black in their Pro Combat uniforms, Ohio State has swapped out their silver for Nike grey in 2009. And Missouri added dark grey to black that year. But the 2010 set is even more neutrally enhanced, with Boise State getting a silver jersey and Virginia Tech using a black helmet and everything else. Ohio State, naturally, went back to Nike grey for their 2010 Pro Combats, while the U of Miami, perhaps the school with the most interesting colors used black on their numbers. The Backyard Brawl showed degrees of Nike-ness, with Pittsburgh adding black for the occasion and West Virginia almost completely forgetting that they wear navy.

At what point will this black/grey/silver overload end? When will original color schemes, like Miami's green and orange or Virginia Tech's maroon and orange, be celebrated again? While I love some of the things Nike has brought to the uniform design table, like sublimated patterns on numbers (the frog skin numbers are growing on me), segmented gradiation, and Oregon's winged shoulders, their overuse of black, carbon, silver and grey makes those unique elements stand out less than they would if each team used its own, unique color palette. Furthermore, why would teams abandon their color schemes, a major part of their brand, and subvert themselves to Team Nike? It must have been an offer they couldn't refu$e.

In Other News…
Rounding out the bowl game action, the Badgers wore red pants for the first time in a long time. Pro: Upping the red was a nice tie-in to their Rose Bowl appearance. Con: They looked even more like Nebraska… The Washington Huskies went all-black in the Holiday Bowl… Virginia Tech wore their special orange helmets, as promised… The Mountaineers went to the Champ Sports Bowl, but left their school colors back in West Virginia (those pants stripes are awful though)… Also in the Champ Sports Bowl, North Carolina State brought enough red for two teams… As for Florida, their gator skin helmet pattern was so subtle, it was barely noticeable… I hadn't noticed, but Boise State's numerals on their bowl uniforms used a gradient. I thought it was just a lighting effect when I first saw the design… Also on those Boise State uniforms, the left side looked pretty normal, but the right side, with the blank helmet and close-cropped logo on the sleeve, looked pretty weird… In the NFL, the Jets waited for the final week of the season to go all-green… The Dolphins wore their teal pants against the Pats… The Saints went all-black against the Buccaneers… The Broncos were feeling blue about the season… And of course the Redskins and Giants fought in the Battle of the Stripe-o-Maniacs

Designer's Corner
This week, we go back to the Pac-10 (or 12 once this season is over). The Arizona State Sun Devils have an iconic logo, but the rest of their graphic identity is pretty bland. And the uniforms aren't much better. The black trim around the numbers is unnecessary, and the uniforms themselves could be used for any team with a quick change of the colors. I took some inspiration from their previous uniforms, utilizing a less-is-more approach and sticking with a general feel that Sun Devils fans have grown comfortable with. I did add some necessary detail, opting for a custom number font that is worked in throughout the package. For the logo package, I developed several marks that incorporate a large sun with the custom letterforms. The Es in the primary logo and wordmark are stylized into pitchforks. I have also kept Sparky the Devil, as he is simply too iconic to lose. Back to the uniforms, The stylized numbers are complemented by a simple, single-stripe theme that runs throughout the concept. Sparky stays on the helmets, but the ASU Sun logo appears on each hip of the pants, while the A-State logo is placed above the front player number. There are options for maroon pants and a yellow jersey. The fauxback uniform takes the idea of this classic helmet and mixes it with the Packers' throwback uniforms. The result is the ASU-Sun logo residing on the helmets and a large sun on the front of the jerseys for the player number to appear in.

Feel free to leave a comment on Nike's limited color palette, the design above, or anything sports branding related.