Apr 18, 2014

Unconquered Spirit - 2014 Florida State Semioles


"Ignition Tradition". That's the phrase Florida State University and Nike are going with for the 2014 season paired with some logo refinements and a lot of new uniforms. "New" is definitely the focus here. Everything has been tweaked and changed, and the phrase "Ignition Tradition" couldn't be more inappropriate. There's nothing here that suggest long school standards and values or bringing back lost items. The only thing that remains for FSU athletics is the color palette. But bad marketing line aside, Nike has finally done what they seem to only be capable of a few times a year; making a really good football uniform.

Helmet




I can't remember the last school to change it's uniforms to only have 2 helmet options, but Florida State shows good restraint. Having a primary to build your identity on and an alternate to keep things interesting is the right way to go about it. They're both painted with the "HydroSkin" finish from HGI which like many others now appears to be a metallic paint with a satin finish, though i'm still not sure if that's correct.

What will probably stand out to fans the most is the refined spear design. But then again, it's such a subtle change many may not even notice a difference. The lines are bolder, cleaner, and my favorite new trait is they cross each other in the back. The colors work best on the gold helmet, but even when they are reversed and put on the red shell it still works well enough even though what was highlights become shadows. A lot of type placed on helmet bumpers is unattractive but the new FSU marks work really well.

There was also a gold helmet with gold mask option submitted by Nike, but FSU elected not to use it. It can be seen in the promo pics and it was my favorite option as the gold mask added some simplicity to a uniform with a really intricate jersey.

Jersey





The basis for this design is still the Nike template style of fill-in-the-blank design. But, what they do inside of those jersey panels is very impressive. FSU has always had a unique design on their collars but it's never been any good. Nike took that idea and made a stunningly beautiful pattern for the collar and sleeves. There seems to be a level of thought and craftsmanship put into this jersey that Nike usually completely overlooks, even with Oregon. The way the pattern on the collar comes together at the front point and how it follows the sleeve/shoulder seem perfectly shows that.

We've come to just expect terrible number fonts from Nike now and this is not a beautiful, amazing font but it isn't the typical garbage either. I think it's just this side of acceptable. There are good weights, proportions, and curves in each number and the digits look pretty consistent. I'm not sure if the white outline is needed with a gold number here, it just creates visual vibration and makes the numbers harder to read.


The road jersey is exactly the same except for the body color being white and the number trim being red. The gold number is interesting and an unexpected choice against white but works well enough because the red trim solidly defines the number, making it easy to read at distance. The pattern on the red version works a little better because it appears to "fade" into the jersey where here there are solid blocks of color.



Of course, there has to be a black alternate and I'm not opposed to that idea, but the design really falls apart here because all the gold in the Native pattern has been replaced with black. This creates so little contrast that you can't read any of the shapes or designs and the gold number just screams for attention. The palette itself is really nice, but the way the colors are used makes for a confusing, inconsistent and unattractive jersey.

Pants



It seems Nike is favoring solid colored, stripe-less pants this year and I am in favor of that. It's a good decision with this intricate jersey and carries a really nice rhythm with the helmet and large gold numbers. This isn't the smallest size you will see the new logo, but in this application it embroiders really well and looks great on the pants hip. A hip logo is always a very nice, subtle detail on a pair of football pants when you don't need a stripe or pattern of any kind, and keeps it from being completely boring as well.




Overall


The black jersey and pants options bring the whole set down for me, but the primary options, even with the red and black helmet make for a really interesting and unique uniform. That's something that I don't say very often about college football uniforms.

Grade: A-

Apr 14, 2014

The New U - 2014 Miami Hurricanes


The U have traditionally been a school that pushes the envelope on uniform design and usually wear a design that is unique to them. Still, there are some elements in each version that we recognize as Miami elements, especially the number font. So, when Miami goes to a new design, we expect to see those two things come together; a fresh take on traditional Hurricane design language. Nike takes another shot at it for the 2014 season.

Helmets



Miami now has 4 helmet options, 3 of which are white. To me, 4 different options are fine as long as they're different enough from each other to justify having that many. Only changing face mask colors is not a good reason for having this many. It is the least important part of the helmet (color wise) and only changing it's color makes for a confusing set of helmets. There is no reason Miami couldn't have chosen the matte white helmet with the gray Flying Ibis logo to have either a gray or green mask, which would make that helmet design a cool, special novelty instead of a stagnate indecision.

Still, the execution of those 2 helmets is quite nice and I really like the chrome-color logo decal.  There is also a "classic" helmet design which is unchanged from last year and should remain as the primary helmet.


The other option is an orange shell with gray mask and Flying Ibis logo set to "multiply". It's hard to make out what is going on exactly with the paint and decals here. From best I can tell, it is painted with metallic orange with a satin clear coat on top. The Ibis logo also appears to be painted with a darker color orange. Whatever the technique is, the mask appears to be treated the same way with a silver paint and satin clear coat. I believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done something very similar with their new helmets.

Jerseys



The jersey colors are what we would expect from the Hurricanes with an addition of Nike's anthracite as a 4th option. The first thing I notice is design elements on the orange and white jerseys do not cross over to the green and anthracite options, but that is a passable decision as the green parts are the same across 3 color options and the anthracite version is going for the "black out" look.  It's not the way I would like to see it, I think orange shoulders and stripes on the green and anthracite jerseys would have a more consistent and overall better look, but i understand decision.


The Flying Ibis logo makes an appearance on each jersey's sleeves and as far as sleeve art goes, this logo feels right at home there. It's not a very clear or readable logo, it's more of a pile of stripes and shapes but that's what appeals to me about it; it works more as a pattern.

The number font is the same from last year but it has been vertically stretched which makes it fit on the jerseys better and making the player appear taller. There is an addition of a stroke around the numbers though, which i like less. There is nothing in the uniform that is treated with a double stroke and the numbers feel a bit out of place because of it.

The poorest design decisions follow the standard Nike fill-in-the-blank process that is far too common now. This includes the alternate colored sleeve panels and the stripes across the front that just follow the harsh angles of the shoulder/chest seams. Like so many designs before, the small sleeves appear to be stitched on without any thought as to how or why it should interact with the rest of the jersey and it's elements. The stripes across the front on last years design had curves and flowed down the jersey really nicely. That element was repeated on the pants as well. The 2014 design looks like a cheap knock-off and it's odd sharp, upward angle doesn't have any unity with the rounded numbers, the primary logo, or the long, flowing Flying Ibis. It is the opposite of what stripe should actually be. It is constant decisions like this from Nike that bring all their designs down not only because they look very cheap but they also are looking the same as each other. Nike is doing thoughtless, lazy, generic designs and the worst part is a school who is known for unique uniforms now has a Nike "template" that was already done by their least competitive competitor.


Pants


There is a pair of pants to match each jersey and the Flying Ibis makes another appearance on the hip. There's not a lot to talk about here but it is nice to see Nike use some restraint and just go with a solid color pant. I think it's a good decision because there is a lot going on with the other pieces this allows your eye a sort of resting place and you're not overloaded with colors and stripes. 

Overall Design

It's close enough to what you expect from both University of Miami and Nike. As far as appealing to fans and players the uniform should do that, but there are plenty of details that designers and uniform geeks will not like. And it's OK to be irritated by them because Nike of all companies should be better than that, but it just fits into the status quo for them. There's not much that will be considered classic or timeless, but it's not intended to be either. When they change again and dump this design I think it will be forgotten and never brought up again if only to say "remember when they had the Ibis logo on the sleeves?". It's not unique or good enough to be anything more.

Grade: C+

Apr 7, 2014

Return To The Scene Of The Corn


It's 9:10 AM and I am sitting at Orlando airport. I will be boarding a plane to fly to Indianapolis soon. I spent the last week and a half at Three21 Creative and during that time decided this is not where I want to be. It's not where I need to be. We part ways on good terms, but for right now Orlando is not the place for me. It's beautiful here and this city is going through so many improvements, it's going to be a hot spot in a few years.

I spent the first 20 years of my life in the midwest trying to get out. I finally moved to Orlando at near 21 and this has been a place that represents independence and freedom for me and has been the place of many good memories. Orlando is a place that fully supports the lifestyle I love too. I feel most at home and at peace when I'm on a beach (only 40 miles away), I would love to learn to surf, I look like a tourist when I walk around because I'm always starring at the palm trees; I never get tired of palm trees. Now, there is a part of me that wants to be with friends and family and in a place that is more "true to my roots". Not forever, but for a while. I just need to hit the "reset button" on a few things.

I'm trying to plan my next move. Tampa, San Diego, Denver, Austin, Portland, Phoenix, or even Orlando again in time are all possible destinations. Maybe even Columbus again, it's an underrated city and I've made many good friends there. But that is probably jumping the gun a bit. Until then, I am focused on freelance design and enjoying the summer with those closest to me.

Mar 15, 2014

Case Study: Buccaneer Identity Fixes

I normally don't get into "fixing" the latest identities and logos, but with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once being one of the best NFL identities and now one of the worst, I couldn't resist the urge to do something in my own image.  This approach is about preserving what was good from before, applying the few new ideas that work, and bringing it together in a tasteful way.

Primary Logo



I do like their new skull and swords design, but where I feel the new logo really fails is in the flag. I brought back some of the waving and tearing aspects of the previous version and kept some of the characteristics in the skull and sword as the new version. The colors are 200c (red) and 10398 C (pewter) and throughout the new pieces i've eliminated the tangerine orange except in the football of this logo. Reason being i think a silver, pewter, red, and black palette is enough to pull off the "badass pirate" theme and the orange just gets in the way. There's no reason to hang onto a color from an identity we're trying to bury anyway.

Word Mark


The word mark is made of some traditionally "western" fonts, Clarendon and LHF Boston Truckstyle,  but felt they still fit in with the pirate theme. The goal here was to just simply have a better font family than what the Bucs actually selected and do something that would work well in the end zones and on the front of a jersey.

Field Graphics


I like to do things that are more original and interesting with end zone art most of the time, but this is an identity that doesn't need to do anything flashy to make it special and unique. The strong color palette will always be recognizable and different from all the competition and with a stadium like Raymond James that has an actual pirate ship sitting in it, that's where the focus should be, not on field graphics.

Uniforms




The uniform design is about retaining what is good and what is still strong, and adding just enough to make it a truly unique uniform in the NFL. I love the idea of an oversized logo on the helmet because this is a logo that screams "CHARGE!" through a cloud of cannon fire smoke. The finish would remain satin with the mask being silver (NOT chrome).

The thought process on the jersey is the same as the field graphics. You don't have to do much with them because of the strong color palette. The numbers would be a metallic silver on the red jersey while on the white have a silver border. I think the pirate ship logo is too tall and narrow to really work on the sleeves so i simplified that idea and focused only on a sail design to wrap around the sleeve.

The pants have a stripe that is reflective of the blade of a sword, the silver part being the same material as in the numbers and is outlined in red on the bottom edge as any good used battle sword would be. The socks only feature a small line of red running down the leg. I felt a stripe on the socks wouldn't be cohesive with the rest of the uniform, but wanted to do something just a little bit different from everyone else. Black cleats would be a must for this identity, allowing your eye to focus on everything above the knee, rather than some flashy, unsightly kicks.


With the numbers being treated in silver material and a huge logo on the helmet, i felt the font just needed to be a regular, tough football font. Nothing really special needs to happen with this, because there are other elements being applied that really make a visual impact.


Mar 12, 2014

Hoist The Colors! - 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers



The Buccaneers’ battle flag logo is one of my favorites in all of sports. So when news broke that it would be getting a face lift, I feared what happened to the Panthers and Jaguars, would also happen to the Bucs.  I don’t think the logo has improved over the old but thankfully, the helmet came out pretty freakin’ sweet.


Primary Logo


I have mixed feelings about the new logo. The short version is I really like the new swords and skull (though they are a bit too detailed), but like the old flag. I think the details of the logo should be fine in reproduction, but worst case scenario is you drop some of the shading for embroidery and you don’t lose anything important. It is a cleaner, more refined rendering and I’m okay with that, but the charm of the previous version was the rough edges and shapes. The swords are nice enough, resembling a Spanish cutlass.

The ends of this new flag deviate from the style of the rest of the logo. Things become much more random and complex where they don’t really need to be. It makes for an odd look, especially when they’ve cleaned up the black lines/tears through the rest of the flag. it has lost it’s “waving in the wind” look and there is no dimension to the flag, while the art inside is very detailed and has shading to provide form. The skull and cross swords look a bit large for the flag, but that isn’t a major issue for me. They could have been better if they were skewed a bit though, so the tips of the swords are of a more equal distance to the top of the flag. It’s just not playing with the motion of the flag enough.

The brighter red is certainly a good choice with everything about this helmet getting louder, might as well make the red louder too. If I could change just one thing about it I would drop the shading from the skull and swords. That simplification I believe would add greater visual impact to the logo and look more authentic to pirate flag history.


Secondary Logo (right)


The new ship pairs well with the new primary’s style, but the rendering isn’t as good. on the ship’s hull and water there is a good amount of dimension, each part having nicely defined form while the sails are a solid red from top to bottom and appear unfinished. It’s almost the same disconnect the primary has with it’s elements. I really wish they had put pewter in the ships hull highlights instead of red. That would get all the team colors in the logo, and kill the domination of red. I don’t feel this is a very attractive logo and will probably have some limited use, but because it’s a secondary logo it dosen’t have to work everywhere anyway.

Word Marks


It would be impossible to create a word mark that wasn’t better than the previous but this one still isn’t very good. The font’s biggest issue is that is doesn’t have any unity of the primary logo. The font is very ridged and geometric and the A doesn’t improve it enough. It also looks like it’s right out of dafont.com with a quick drop shadow placed behind it. It’s cheapness comes from the crazy angles going all over the place and the space between some of the letters really call attention to themselves.

The new logos could all have used a round or two more of revisions but I think they will serve their purpose. It will do what most logos always do, excite the younger fan base and piss off the older ones while becoming more and more accepted over time until it is changed again and that change most likely does the same thing. That helmet though is as tough as they come, and I cannot wait to see it on the field.


Helmet


The new helmet is painted metallic pewter that is a bit darker than the previous swatch with a satin coat on top. The silver (possibly chrome?) face mask completes a unique look that reflects things like cannonballs and swords or anchors. It just looks like something you would find on a pirate ship. Chrome plated helmets and mask like Indiana University or Oregon are total overkill and completely tacky. What the Bucs have done however is apply the finishes and colors very tastefully.

I always felt the logo was too small on the helmet and they have certainly corrected that problem. If there were ever a logo that should be oversized, the charging sword wrapped around the blade of a red pirate flag is it. It’s not a logo that should be treated as a classic, elegant mark like the Packers or Giants. This is a logo that screams “CHARGE!” and wants to run into battle with swords raised high through a cloud of smoke from the cannon fire! At first glance, it seems too large, but considering how the flag flows and wraps over the helmet with the vent of a Ridell RevoSpeed only cutting away red space in the logo, and how the sword is placed between the ear hole and facemask, I think the size of the logo needs to be just what it is taking into account all those obstacles of the new generation of helmets

If they wanted something that would make a visual impact and capture the attitude of a band of pirates charging into battle, they nailed it. I would rather see them lose the word marks on both bumpers, but that’s a small annoyance. This helmet already was a completely unique design with it’s pewter shell, but now it separates itself even more from anyone else in the NFL with the large logo. Like it or hate it, different is always good for business.



Jersey and Pants


Have you ever seen a design so bad that you actually busted out laughing? That was my reaction to the new uniform.  It is such a cheap departure from the Buc’s uniform that it looks like an AFL team trying to copy the Buccaneer look. There are colors, lines and angles going all over the place and feels so randomly placed.

After looking at the whole thing for a moment, it really reminded me of the Missouri Tigers road uniform. It is designed in the same manner, you just take your colors and start filling in the panels. The worst part of it is the laziness of the design. There is no craftsmanship to it or even a good idea of how the pewter and red (or white) should play with each other. The colors run to a seam on the front and back and look as though it’s 2 different jerseys pieced together as one held together by Tangerine orange. What makes the Titans jersey work in a similar way is there is a nice edge on both sides of the shoulder yoke and you clearly see how it was intended to curve and flow over the shoulders on the front and back. The Buc’s version is fill-in-the-blank design. Putting the pewter on the shoulders seems a bad idea to begin with as it dosen’t quite match the helmet and having this dark color on top of the player makes him feel top heavy. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of an ugly color to look at.



I try not to bash too harshly on the designs I write about and come at it as mostly a constructive critique. But, the number font is a fucking joke, and has been Nike’s biggest development problem for 2 years now. They used to do such great numbers (Cal and Minnesota) but recently have put out the most God awful numbers Pro sports has ever seen. I don’t quite get the “digital clock” look that most have compared to it’s just the “2” that looks that way to me, but the rest of the digits couldn’t be more disjointed or inconsistent, and actually appear broken. Just when you thought Nike couldn’t do any worse than the Vikings, Dolphins, Seahawks, Jaguars, or West Virginia numbers, here they come with the Bucs. They seem to get progressively worse. There’s no reason to put the ship logo on one sleeve (which I think is too narrow for that space) and the “BUCS” word mark on the other except, it’s something different that no one else has. I suppose I’m fine with that, I just wish they were better logos.

The pants stripe is just as unimaginative and disconnected as anything else; just take two blocks of color and run it to the seams. The Jaguars got the same treatment and the Missouri Tigers isn’t too far off, but that design does make sense and has a good flow down the leg. There’s nothing to say about the socks, they’re the same as most NFL teams’ solid block design. I’m actually surprised they didn’t throw a strip of orange on there.

When deciding what grade to give this uniform I have to decide if there is anything worth saving, because that’s the difference between a D and an F for me. Yes, I think the helmet is very good. I love the satin finish, the new metallic pewter, the silver mask and the idea of an oversized logo. That’s where it stops because theres nothing about the logos or the rest of the uniform that I think are better than the previous version, or better than any other NFL design at all, and there are even some AFL teams with better ideas and craftsmanship than the new Tampa Bay uniform. It’s hard to place in order how bad the Bucs, Dolphins, Seahawks, and Jaguars uniforms are but they are definitely in the same tier. With the exception of the Vikings (still not a great design, due to the numbers) Nike is failing to do anything that just doesn’t suck.  That’s not an aesthetic opinion, but a fact based on design principles and having a higher standard of craft. The worst part is, there is an audience for it and Nike will justify their designs by merch sales which will lead to more designs that are just as disappointing.

Grade: D-