Most talked about sports logo designs — that doesn’t mean best logo design, imply favorable reviews or necessitate classic longevity. It simply means that for whatever reason — for better or worse — this list of sports logos has given people something to talk about.
We tracked down three of the top sports logo designers in the industry and design directors from major North American sports, and asked them all to weave in their opinions — and they had plenty, we assure you — about this list of the 10 Most Talked About Sports Logos. Here we go:
Iconic New York Yankees Team Logo
The dream of every sports team: Have your team logo become synonymous with your city, just as the New York Yankees’ interlocking “NY” has turned into an international symbol for both New York and the U.S. Making its first appearance in baseball in 1909, the symbol was actually designed in 1877 by Louis B. Tiffany for a medal for a NYC policeman shot in the line of duty. The Highlanders, as the Yankees were formerly known, adopted the interlocking look, replacing their separated “N” and “Y.” Now the design is arguably the most recognized sports logo anywhere.
Charlotte Hornets Logo
The power of teal—with purple, no less—took charge in 1988 when fashion designer Alexander Julian sent the sports design world in a new direction with the Hornets basketball team’s teal and purple color scheme. By default, the Hornets logo took off on merchandise, outselling every other NBA team within seven years. The power of teal expanded in the NBA—even to Detroit, of all places—and took hold on the West Coast with the San Jose Sharks in the NHL. The forerunning use of teal and purple from 1988 has Charlotte fans hopeful in 2013, now that Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan has announced a name change, back to Hornets. Teal and purple may soon follow.
Cleveland Browns’ Unofficial Logo
There’s no logo here. None. How can that be? Sure, the Cleveland Browns have had various images attached to the franchise over the years, but the Browns have no official logo, prompting television broadcasters to use the team’s helmet—an orange hat with a brown and white stripe, void of other embellishments—as a logo. Even the players aren’t so sure what the future of the team should look like. So, as sports logo designer Todd Radom points out, is no logo really a logo for the Cleveland Browns? And will it last?
Brooklyn Nets Logo: Love it or Hate it?
Sports logos can define culture without any color at all, part of a current move toward simplification of sports logo design, says NBA vice president for merchandise Christopher Arena. The Brooklyn Nets offered up the NBA’s only black-and-white logo in 2013, a visual tie to the borough’s 1957 New York Subway signage. With some influence exerted by minority owner and pop culture icon Jay-Z, the design riffed off emotional ties while attempting to create a new “simplistic and cool” culture-defining icon, says Fred Mangione, the team’s marketing head. Going sans color—not to mention sans personality, especially in the font—got folks talking, though. The lackluster effort was deemed dull and boring, but the simplification (over simplification?) was the purpose. Love it or hate it, the logo screams Brooklyn. And that sells.
Hartford Whalers Logo Design
Defunct since 1997, we still see the Hartford Whalers logo throughout hockey and beyond. More than a link to nostalgia-driven fanship, the Whalers logo symbolizes a fan base stripped of its team. Plus, as Radom says, designers just love it. Created in 1979 by Peter Good, the logo shows all that is good with negative space, using a “W” and whale tail to create a negative “H,” all three key elements of the team. And nothing more.
‘Who is That Player’ in the MLB Logo
No, that’s not Harmon Killebrew on the Major League Baseball silhouetted logo, even if the 1968-designed logo from Jerry Dior spawned a similar NBA logo, which is modeled after Jerry West. That “who is that player?” argument, along with the logo serving as a trendsetter in league logo design, has kept people talking about the mark originally designed for a MLB anniversary. The ambiguity of the mark, allowing the batter to be any MLB player, also serves to give the design longevity.
A Templated Logo Design: Super Bowl
In 2010, the NFL created a fully templated Super Bowl logo, eliminating distinctive regionally favorite colors and instead anchored every Super Bowl logo since on a nearly identical “brand” look, something Major League Soccer has mimicked. For the NFL, the Vince Lombardi trophy sits atop the game’s corresponding Roman numerals with the game’s stadium in the background. All in a gradated silver, the same silver year after year, an aggravatingly bland look void of inspiration. “I sure hope that this trend doesn’t spread for the sake of fans and designers,” says graphic designer Bill Frederick. It certainly proves an interesting choice on a grand scale.
Chicago Bulls Symbolic Logo Design
For Michael Jordan fans everywhere — we’re talking Kim Jong Un and fans throughout Asian countries — the “red oxen” look of the 1966-designed logo was a worldwide phenomena in the 1990s, especially in China where the Bulls took on an entirely different persona. Designed by Dean P. Wessel, the powerful red bull with horns not only signified dominance on the court, but expanded American culture in new regions. The use of the bull, a popular symbol in Asian countries, gave this logo and U.S. pop culture integrations not seen before. “Once a team begins to win championships, a logo takes on a position within a community that is almost untouchable,” Arena says. “What may have been ‘simplistic’ becomes ‘iconic’ … what once was ‘basic’ becomes ‘classic.’”
Washington Redskins Disputed Logo
The Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves aren’t too far different, but the controversy surrounding both the name and logo of the NFL’s Washington Redskins only grows with time. “I would assume (the Redskins’ ownership) wouldn’t want to have a racist brand, but at the same time emotionally and financially they have a lot to lose if they abandon that mark,” Rickabaugh says. Hence, the Redskins’ logo turns into a cultural lightning rod for how sports can define — or steer completely clear of — cultural responsibility.
London Olympics Logo Design
Bombarded with overwhelming negative reaction when it debuted in 2007, well before the 2012 London Olympics, the mark designed by the firm Wolff Olins only gained respect for its ability to serve its purpose during the games. “People’s initial reaction was so negative, but once I saw the application during the Olympics I was a convert,” Rickabaugh says. When Wolff Olins started designing in 2006, they focused on an off-kilter look that could stand across social media, traditional media and every other imaginable application for an Olympics logo, all while not looking “official” or blending into the background. The big vision — and we mean vastly new — for the logo took heat at first for its angularity and non-traditional colors and shape, but some say it proved its worth during the games, showing that sports logo design must be viewed in a broader context.
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