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Before the Sacramento Kings of the NBA decided to modernize a classic logo design, the team first needed to realize it was in love with the classics.
As the Kings underwent a complete rebrand this spring in preparation for their move into a new arena ahead of the start of the 2016-2017 season, all identity options were on the table. A new nickname? Possibly. New colors? Up for debate. A new suite of marks? A certainty.
What the Kings fell upon was a complete retooling of a mark once lost to history and with colors that brought the franchise’s 30-plus years in Sacramento full circle. The new logo embraced Sacramento as the Kings and emblazoned their team identity by merging the past with the current with the future.
The Kings haven’t always been in Sacramento. And they haven’t always been the Kings. But they have always been associated with royalty. The team was originally The Rochester Royals, but changed to the Kings upon a move to Kansas City. When the franchise moved to Sacramento in 1985 they retained the Kings nickname, the red and blue color scheme and the mark in play since the 1970s that featured a half basketball on the bottom with the word “Kings” in white amidst a red crown. That mark lasted until 1994 when a lance-filled shield-style logo took over, complete with purple and shiny silver.
Chris Granger, Kings president, says when the team moved to Sacramento in 1985 the city was transforming “with a new sense of community spirit.” And as the Kings look to remake their identity, he says, “Those things are happening again.”
But getting to a new mark required the help of RARE Design, the same firm that assisted the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets with the NBA’s most recent brand identity updates.
Rodney Richardson, as Alex Kramer writes on the Kings’ team blog page, of RARE didn’t even know he was recreating the past when he sketched out a basketball with a crown in the early stages of brainstorming, saying it didn’t take long to figure out his design team was doing something inherently part of the Kings’ past.
Even with the fresh look of an old style in mind, the team still went through the process of reconfiguring the current logo, reinventing the team altogether and even exploring a new identity fully. But everything came back to keeping the Kings and modernizing an old logo.
“Overall we were looking for something that was cleaner, more modern and bolder than what we’ve had in the past,” Granger says. “You see that manifest in the typeface that we think is clean, bold and strong.”
The purple—which first appeared with the team while in Sacramento—has grown darker and a little richer. And the silver has given way to granite, a tie to the fact that the team’s new arena has a foundation formed from the granite of the Sierras. “It is a nice nod to what’s happening to our physical life as well as what’s happening in the brand identity,” Granger says.
The crown itself has thicker crevices in between the peaks for strength, overall bringing a wider and shorter top with more definition. The basketball on the lower half includes broader channeling.
It wasn’t just the primary mark that underwent an update, though, as four secondary logos all took shape too. One simplistic logo gives the Kings the option to have just the top of the crown, while another replaces the reverse “Sacramento”—it is in white amidst the purple crown—and the “Kings” under the crown with “SAC,” a logo that resonates as a trendy option for the new-look team.
The other two marks incorporate a lion. Sacramento, with its purple and obvious tie to royalty, also has a strong regional connection to the word pride. The team’s Slamson the Lion embodies both a sense of royalty and pride, all while holding the added bonus of serving as the king of the jungle.
The roar of the lion, a tie to the roar of the Sacramento crowd, considered one of the loudest in the NBA, furthered the decision to play up the lion as a secondary mark, one with a full-body lion dribbling a basketball and another with a crowned lion head merging with a basketball similar to the primary design.
For the Kings, 2016 will serve as a year of modern transformation, from its new arena to its new marks. Modern transformation, just like 1985.