NHL All-Star Logo Embraces Tech Dominance of San Jose with ‘Energy Wave’

Tech permeates all things San Jose. As the home of some of the world’s largest technology companies, the concept of creating a National Hockey League All-Star logo without embracing technology simply didn’t fit San Jose. So, the design team of the NHL and Franbrandz did more than embrace tech: they let tech envelop them.

Tech, But Sideline the Circuitry 

Early in the process of designing a logo for the 2019 NHL All-Star mark, the team at Fanbrandz, led by Bill Frederick, mocked up a couple of directions for the look, something tech-focused to celebrate Silicon Valley and then a direction that latched onto the historical nature of mission-style architecture.

NHL sketches

“Very quickly the (host team) Sharks said they didn’t feel the mission aspect was the right way to go and that they were all about tech,” says Paul Conway, NHL vice president of creative. “The conversations we had coming out of that meeting was how do we convey tech since we didn’t want to go down a path of old tech of motherboards and circuitry. In this day and age with cloud-based tech and apps, we were intrigued by that approach.”

Conversations turned into sketches. Sketches turned into an excitement. Soon the NHL and Fanbrandz had an app tile mocked up. Even after a series of explorations in how to convey the idea of an app, the tile shape proved ubiquitous, Conway says, leading the team to a square tile serving as a “nice holding shape that lends itself to tech and Silicon Valley.”

NHL sketches 2

The Wave

With the shape set, the team still needed to convey the energy and excitement of All-Star. That’s where Frederick created what the team calls the “tech energy wave” across the bottom of the mark that ends in a translucent shooting puck. Looking at how tech companies convey their new technologies helped inspire the new look. “How do you put this in a visual?” Conway asks. “This 3D energy wave felt right to us. It had energy and motion.”

And needing a wave much larger than for just the main mark meant the team needed to extend the “graceful shapes” much farther outside the logo. The team spent weeks getting that just right. “There was a lot of ‘no, not yet,’” says Conway. “There was a lot of back and forth to make sure it was balanced and maintained a twisting motion.”

During the process, the team felt getting the tech energy wave right was the key to the entire design. “It is so unique, it is proprietary to our logo,” Conway says. “When you start peeling elements away from our primary mark to create a system of secondary marks and background patterns, the energy wave had a lot of legs. The colors and the facets gave a lot of energy to it. It is very vibrant and people like it because it is a fresh look.”

An Eye-Catching Departure

With the tech industry as a whole embracing clean colors, negative space, uncrowded marks and simple type, the NHL wanted to enjoy that simplification, a bit of a departure from ambitious logos of past years.

Still, though, the square shape and energy wave needed a few fun extras, whether shark fins punctuating the “A” in the simple typography or the red pill box on the upper right mimicking an alert badge and holding the year.

NHL_AS19

“The idea was to catch people’s attention and bring them to the mark,” Conway says. “The red box catches people attention and is a nice holding shape. The ‘aha’ moment was seeing all the components together and how simple they were.”

Frederick agrees. “I think the notification bubble on there was the cherry on the top that really pulled it together as a concept,” he says. “The energy wave was the heart and soul. The construction of the puck and transparency to it gave it legs and a program that expands into a lot of applications.”

On the typography, Frederick says they took inspiration from San Jose-based companies, emulating their simplicity. “It should be kind of straightforward,” he says. “We didn’t want to get too tricky, but by adding the shark fins in the A it is a nice nod to the Sharks.”

The teal and black colors offer a direct tie to the Sharks, using the team’s heavily used color system in the logo. The red, orange and yellow serve as contrasting colors to give designers freedom when it comes to building out a mixture of secondary marks, wordmarks and backgrounds.

Never Forgetting the Fundamentals

Throughout design, the team maintained a hierarchy. The NHL shield logo sits atop the logo, off-center so the mark can live in the middle of the ice rink without interrupting the center red line of the playing surface. From there, the year, All-Star type and “San Jose” type come next, above the energy wave that can serve as the bottom of the design container. Branded versions include the Honda logo across the bottom encased in black.

As the NHL welcomes a new season and looks forward to its All-Star celebration near the end of January 2019 in San Jose, the league will do so with a fresh mark that embraces all things tech. With an energy wave and all.

Tim Newcomb covers sports design for HOW. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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