Never underestimate the importance of a magic marker. Designer Matthew Wolff never will.
While working as a freelance designer, Spark Creative House called on him to help lead the logo design for a brand new Major League Soccer franchise in Los Angeles. His mind racing with ideas, Wolff was struck by one in particular—the one that serves as the central component of the Los Angeles Football Club’s first-ever mark—which came while he was waiting for the bus. That’s when he pulled out a blue magic marker and started sketching. “It was the moment I realized the wing could be the crossbar of the A,” he tells HOW Design.
Beginning a Sports Logo Design with a Blank Slate
In the world of top-tier sports logo design, having a completely blank slate—or sketchpad, in Wolff’s case—proves a rarity. New teams at the top of major sports leagues are few and far between. Sure, franchises refresh their brand and some clubs may move cities, but in those cases long traditions often come into play when crafting an updated brand. It wasn’t so with LAFC, a completely new expansion team for MLS expecting to start play in 2018.
Wolff says it was a great way to start a project.
“They didn’t really have a creative direction,” he says. “It was a completely blank slate. There was zero in the way of branding. It was a blank canvas with the pressure of all of Los Angeles to represent. At first, it can feel completely overwhelming, but creatively you can do anything. You can start the history.”
Having worked previously in-house on the brand new New York City Football Club logo, he says he knew the power of the NYC. And, therefore, the power of the L.A. “I knew how strong the two letters would be, how much they mean to the city,” he says. “To have that in the heart of the crest front and center was a very important element.” Plus, you can pull those letters out and put them on merchandise for an ever-shifting use.
With his self-constructed L.A. as central, Wolff wanted the lettering to have an Art Deco and Aztec feel to it. He chose House Industries’ Neutraface for the font of the words Los Angeles Football Club. He then turned the crossbar of the A into a four-pronged wing in a “aha moment” that solidified their placement. He says the flow of the wings—a design decision Spark and Wolff came up with together—represent positivity, movement, speed and the prevalence of so many cultures. Of course, L.A. being the City of Angels came into play too.
To keep the Aztec-inspired winged L.A. in an “unmistakable soccer look,” Wolff sifted through a slew of different shield shapes before settling on the same shape used by the City of Los Angeles in their seal.
But there was another major tie to L.A. that Wolff pushed to make: black and gold. While LAFC had used black and red in early marketing before any logos or official announcements were made, Wolff fought for gold (red remains as an alternate color, along with gray, to keep the black and gold from becoming “stale”) throughout the design process. The gold stands out as unique in global soccer, the MLS and an incredibly crowded L.A. sports market. Plus, how fitting for a city full of glitz and chic?
“Gold is unique,” Wolff says, “and embodies Los Angeles with the Hollywood glamor.” Added together, Wolff says the main effort was to keep the shield, the type, the colors, the wing and the monogram all simple. “There are a lot of overcomplicated logos in sports,” he says. “I think less is more, especially with crests.”
Wolff says starting fresh, he could have put anything in that LAFC crest. Good thing he had a blue magic marker on him when the right idea came.
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