May 1, 2015

Graphic Language: Practicing In Public & Re-Branding Re-Brands

Twitter is great for sharing thoughts, but not so great for conversation and discussion. Maybe I’m long winded or just enjoy a good rant, but the reason for this post is to express my own thoughts and expand on those of others I recently read in a twitter convo. It involves the subjects of personal re-brands, practice, sharing your work publicly, and the annoyance it causes others.

The original tweet was an expression of annoyance at those redesigns of NFL helmets as an NBA team, Marvel hero, Star Wars things, or alternate what-evers; deemed a “waste of time”.  (2 RTs and 12 favs.)

I do agree, mostly. The popular helmet designs at question are a waste of time for seasoned designers. There is nothing we can learn from them, there is little thought put into them, they’re very poorly crafted, and just down right ugly. weather or not they have value as entertainment, or as an experiment, however was the basis for the discussion that ensued. I think because there is nothing designers can actually get out of it, it is not entertaining for them. It seems to be for others who don’t care so much for design though and only view it as a novelty.

Thrown into the mix was the re-branding of re-brands in a designer’s own style, or “what they would have done”. This sort of thing pops up a lot after logo releases, like say for a popular Presidential candidate.  

It is something a lot of us roll our eyes at. but, I’m guilty of doing it myself. After the Brooklyn Nets revealed their new identity I took a shot at refining the logo in what I thought was a more “Brooklyn style” and posted it to dribbble. Only speaking for myself, it wasn’t an attempt to “show up” the designers of the actual logos, but to see what I could do with the clear direction the team was heading, and see if I could execute on that concept a bit better - a personal challenge. But, it easily comes off as a “I can do it better than you” kind of move. I think that’s the annoyance others find with it, especially if that designer can’t actually do it better.

Moreover, the point would be raised that one’s opinion of a logo doesn’t matter and is akin to “I don’t like what George Lucas did to Darth Vader so here’s how he should look”. A good point. One’s aesthetic taste doesn’t matter, especially if you’re not trying to actually make it better, or fix problems and just making it different. This reminded me a lot of New England Patriots concepts where for some reason someone thinks it is a good idea to put the Patriots in a red jersey because they like the way it looks. It’s not good, and that move in particular is as dumb as you will find in sports concepts because of the messages and connotations that come with it. “Looking good” or “better” is a fallacy. 

Another designer brought up the point that these attempts at re-brands of re-brands can be an exercise of skill development. That’s what I was going for with my own Nets logos, or at the very least an exercise to compare myself with what others had done with the same ideas. The learning would come in the comparison.

I think it is a good exercise. I also now see how annoying it is to others when shared publicly because it can come off pretentious. 

Don’t confuse these things with personal work or well thought out re-brand projects. We’re talking about reactionary, 5 minute work here. Personal projects are vital to any portfolio. If you’re not doing the work you want to do for clients, then you have to do it for yourself. Then projects of similar work will follow.

Doing “re-brands of re-brands” can be worthwhile too, but I think it may be best if we’re just changing styles and aesthetics to keep it to ourselves. If you’ve actually fixed something and made it work better however, that is important. That is something that should be shared because then, you’re spreading knowledge, not opinion. 

The next point made was to live and let live; we don’t have to look at these things that suck, so what’s the harm? I also agree with that, which is why I never RT the things that suck and am very conscious about the things I do share. If it comes from my twitter feed, it’s because I either think it’s great or funny. I encourage sharing of work from anyone, but I support the cream rising to the top. 

I think these things get to us though, because they become popular and spread all over the internet. They’re picked up by ESPN even, all the while those of us who know better are left scratching our heads and wondering why the really good stuff we see doesn’t get nearly the praise it deserves. I think that’s the real cause of annoyance - the world is unjust. 

“They’re more a training/practice exercise than anything”. The alternate helmet design trend is more about attention I think. That’s what I used it for when I did mine, which was a tongue-in-cheek response to the first group of terrible helmet designs. I have over the years designed my own NFL uniforms (for about 30 teams) and most had never been seen until I put out that graphic. I put it out online as a joke, but thought if it were to gain any attention, I would want it directed to the Creamer concept boards. There’s actually a lot of good work being done there and if my designs could potentially garner any attention, I wanted it to represent the CCSLC. There was nothing more to learn here, it was just an entertainment piece. 

The best point was made next, that the re-branding craze as “mine is better than yours” is pointless and perhaps harmful, because the actual designers of the official piece probably didn’t get to do exactly what they wanted to do either. So much design is done by committee and approved by those who don’t know anything about design. Meanwhile, some dork with Ai trashes the firm/designer with his re-brand. 

That is all true, a lot of design happens that way. It happens with me sometimes and when it does I take the Aaron Draplin approach. I’ll try to talk clients out of bad decisions and lead them down the right path and explain the reason I do everything the very best I can, and in the end if they want something stupid, they’re the ones that have to live with it. On to the next one.

I wish I were more like Paul Rand so I could fix that. We all should be more like him. He said he would do one logo for a client and that was it. You get one thing and it will work. you can use it or not, but you don’t get to make revisions or request. The solution will work and that’s what you get. Designers should design so clients don’t get design designers will re-design. 

A clear line was made next. I saw a separation between professional and amateur, neither being right nor wrong, but definitely coming from different experiences. On one hand the professional made the case that sharing your work for “likes” wasn’t the right reason to be in design, perhaps like playing guitar to get chicks doesn’t make you a musician. The other person sees sharing work on reddit as an acceptable platform and practice. 

There are a decent couple of design sub-reddits, but it’s not a platform for sharing good work professionally. It’ not where professionals spend a lot of time. not where clients go to find good designers, not a place for getting better as a designer, because its filled with amateurs sharing amateur work. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but these are 2 different worlds. You can play guitar to create music, or you can play for entertainment and attention. Neither one makes you a good or bad person, but only one makes you an artist. 

There is a paradox here. I believe you have to do good work and put it out there to get noticed. That’s why we do it, for attention. That’s why our portfolios exists. Attention, sharing, exposure, RTs, all bring more paying work of whatever kind you’ve put out there. But before you do good work you have to do bad work. When you start out, you’re going to suck. Your work will be terrible. I don’t even want to show you the stuff I did as a student, it’s really shit. But not everyone thought so and some people kind of liked it and paid me to do more things of the sort. Then I got better and the prices raised and the snowball rolled on from there. 

I think we should be practicing in public. Do some really shit work, put it online, on reddit even, and hopefully someone will tell you exactly how bad it is. Hopefully they don’t give you unwarranted pats on the back or leave blasé, fuck-head comments, but really tell you what’s wrong with your work so it makes you better - so you can transition from being a practicing attention seeking amateur, into a knowledgable, attention seeking artist. 

Apr 28, 2015

Graphic Language: Forward Movement & Application

Something that comes up a lot with sports logo design is forward movement, or the illusion of it. For instance, an argument is often made that a logo should face to the right to show forward movement because that’s the direction we read; left to right.

I don’t think that is necessarily true for logos. Forward movement can be shown in different ways because direction is relative. You can make something “move forward” and show it from multiple perspectives. The Bengals’ alternate logo for instance faces 3/4 to the left,  but we read it as the tiger focusing on what is in front of him because of the eyes. There is clearly a forward direction.

Similarly, the Eagles’ logo usually faces left, but the bird is clearly moving forward as the eyes and lines of the logo suggest. An eagle with it’s neck and head stretched forward would not be flying backwards.

More importantly, logos will often need to show forward movement when applied to opposite sides of an object and this is where the illusion of direction really comes into play. In football, most logos need to be mirrored to do this when applied to the helmet. It’s important that a football logo can do this because the helmet is the primary application of the logo; it is where the logo will be seen most often.

Any logo that is meant to show forward movement and be reflected on it’s primary application must also sell that illusion when it is mirrored. If not, the logo fails. It can still be good and serviceable, but never great design. The Bengals and Eagles marks are never applied to such an object, but a famous logo that is fails in one of it’s primary applications.

The FedEx logo’s arrow of course shows forward direction when placed on the right side of a truck or plane but when placed on the left, the arrow reflects and points backwards. It doesn’t matter if a logo works well on a flat page if it cannot communicate its message when applied to the things where people will see it most; where the logo is intended to live. This is why direction is relative and facing right doesn’t always mean “forward”. This is why the FedEx logo is good, but will never be great design.

Apr 24, 2015

Repairing The Dallas Cowboys Uniforms

The Dallas Cowboys are widely considered to have one of the most timeless and loved uniforms of the NFL. An untouchable gridiron classic that no one dare alter, on par with the New York Yankees' pinstripes. The uniform is absolutely a classic, but only because it's been changed so little over 50 years, not because it is without flaws in which there are many. This is my attempt at repairing those flaws and giving the 'Boys a uniform that is worthy of their incredibly rich history.

What Stays


The helmet is perfection. It's traditional stripes and classic star still work on all modern helmet designs and needs no alterations. Changing the helmet actually would be equivalent to changing the Yankee's pinstripes so we're not going to do anything dumb here. The silver paint, gray mask, stripes and logo all need to stay.

White Home Jersey

Other teams wear white at home often but the Cowboys are the only team whose white shirt is the official home color. I'll keep that important brand identifier in this concept. I'll also keep blue as the road jersey and since the NFL allows 1 alternate jersey, i'll keep that for a throwback option.

Basic Uniform Composition

I'm going to change the stripes on the sleeve, but I'm going to replace them with different stripes. There will be the same stripes down the pants too. No need to do too much with this uniform and we want to keep all the classic stuff that still works.

The Issues

Home Jersey Stripes

This home jersey is where most of the mistakes in this uniform are. The sleeve stripes are printed and have a nasty, cheap look to them. I'll replace the ink with fabric and sew the stripes on like a real NFL team. I'll also drop the black trim from the stripe; theres no reason for black to be anywhere in this uniform.

Mixing Blues

The helmet features navy blue, which is the official team color but the rest of the uniform is dressed in royal blue elements. This was done in the 1980s to be a better read on TV but is no longer an issue. The team needs to pick one blue that is different from the Panthers and Lions (other silver and blue teams) and use it consistently.

Silver-Green Pants

This was another Tv read decision that is dated and butt-ugly. Like blue, The teams needs 1 matching silver and it needs to be used consistently. They actually do have a gray pair that matches the helmet well but is never worn with the white jersey; always the blue.

Blue Road Jersey

The blue jersey doesn't need a lot itself, but it looks like it belongs to a different team when paired next to the white. I'll eliminate the unnecessary strokes around the numbers, which make them harder to read, and use the same stripe pattern from the white.


  • Establish consistant color palette.
  • Create new jersey stripes that work on all modern cuts and apply to both road and home jerseys.
  • Keep what works, while creating a modern and timeless Cowboys uniform.

The New Dallas Cowboys

The stripes extend slightly past the torso seems of the jersey, ala' the Browns and Seahawks jerseys. Doing so breaks the expected cropping of stripes within the sleeve seams and allows for them to be a more prominent element on the jersey. Size and positioning of the stripes is crucial; I didn't want a stripe that would get cut off with shorter sleeves or have some kind of 49ers abomination. The stripe has to be the same on every player.

Never do this to sleeve stripes!

I took cues from Oklahoma State like the angle cut on the ends of the stripe. It is reflective of the ends of a star and fits perfectly on every player's sleeve. So taking the shape and outlines of the Cowboys' star I created a sleeve stripe of similar fashion.

I added the same stripe to the socks and ideally they would be the same size as the jersey stripes. It could be a hard element to control though because of the stretching and scrunching that goes on with player's socks.

Most teams have word marks above the numbers but I wanted to keep the jersey as clean as possible. It is a detail that further signifies the link to the team though, so moving it to the back of the collar let's us keep that nice detail but use it in an original way. The word mark has also been redesigned; more on that in a moment.

A few teams have used this old block number font but it's pretty synonymous with Dallas. Roger Staubach wore it all through his Dallas career and it's not been used by an NFL team since. Bringing it back would give Dallas it's own number font unique in the league and be a nice throwback to the past.

I've also trimmed the numbers in silver which I imagine being a metallic nylon thread. it could also be used on the jersey stripes, road jersey numbers, and maybe the socks.

Someone close with the Cowboys once told me he wanted to change the word mark and saw an evolution being like modern muscle cars. Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers have all retained some of their classic visual cues but styled for modern taste. He saw a new Cowboys word mark being the same way and I wanted to go a little in that direction too. Too much styling wouldn't be necessary here, the uniform is very simple and blocky and that should reflect in the rest of the identity as well. I think simply choosing a better, modern block font is a good solution.

The alternate throwback option is the same design that is now their standard alt uniform from the Don Meredith days but instead of a blue jersey, they go white now.

Apr 15, 2015

2015 Cleveland Browns: Orange Is The New Browns

Earlier this year the Cleveland Browns revealed their new logos, an event which was preceded by lots of excitement and followed by lots of head scratching. While we were lead to believe a “new logo” was on the way for the logo-less franchise, what was delivered was only a slight update to the classic stand-by helmet graphic featuring a brighter orange and a brown face mask. Classic Browns!

// 2015 Logos //

So, there will be no new noteworthy primary logo, but there are plenty of other identity changes to talk about. The new font blends modern and classic football elements together with hard angle block cuts and rounded edges. Neither stand out as being out of place and works well for the word marks. One color word marks are the norm now in the NFL, but Cleveland’s is a vast departure from the early 21st century marks by Mark Verlander (Falcons, Cardinals, Bengals, Texans) which were wide and appeared cut for “speed”. The Browns’ are heavy and tall, and feels appropriate for the Brown’s brand.

That’s not the case with the new Dawg Pound mascot, however. While executed well enough for what it is, what it is isn’t what it should be. Let’s recap what the Dawg Pound is all about.

It was started back in 1985 when the Browns defensive linemen took on the attitude of “dawgs” and compared QBs to cats. After a sack, the players would bark. The fans would adopt the term which probably fueled their love for the team (and hatred of the others) even more. the Dawg Pound section is famously known for throwing dog bones, batteries, and eggs at visiting teams. It was not a nice place to play for the opposition, and the franchise has tried to keep some of that spirit alive today by promoting the team as “Dawgs” and the term Dawg Pound itself.

What the Browns and/or Nike felt was best to represent this in 2015 is a puppy. A cute little ankle biter of a bulldog that you’d be more inclined to play tug of war with over a sock than be intimidated by. Again, I have nothing bad to say about the design execution, but the personality of the mark is totally off. For a game played by 300lbs men, modern gladiators, who try to physically dominate one another, they being are represented by a puppy. 

The brown swatch (developed by Reebok) stays the same, but the new orange is brighter and more red. The Browns’ website claims it “matches the passion of our fans and the city”. (and that’s not even the worst of the copywriting in the release). That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is a more intense and energetic color.

With the move to this new orange and addition of the puppy mark, it’s clear to see the Browns have shifted their focus on a younger target audience, and let’s not forget the modern uniform design as well. The NFL as a whole is marketing for youth and at this point we can see its teams and Nike are on board with that as well. I believe it’s driven by a decline in football participation below the NCAA level and if the NFL can’t hook players by participating in a dangerous and potentially life threatening game, then it will hook them as customers and merchandise buyers - as soon as possible. The identities are no longer being designed to truly represent the city, team, game or players, but to make the younger audience want to buy things. This new brand positioning is key to understanding why this new identity is designed the way it is.

// 2015 Uniforms //

Nike’s current track record for NFL uniform design is pathetic. I’ll give them credit where they deserve it. The new colors for the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Seahawks are beautiful. The Vikings’ uniforms are for the most part tasteful and appealing. . . and that’s where I run out of compliments. 

So anticipating the Browns’ uniform reveal, you have to hope for the best but expect a new level of worst. That said, I’ll say right away, the new Browns uniforms are not the worst in the NFL, and there are actually elements I like very much. 


The helmet didn’t change much. Add the new orange shell and brown mask and from afar you would say nothing else changed. But, the finish is satin, which is to be expected these days, which always pairs well with the newer uniform fabrics. The stripe may have been adjusted to be a bit wider than before, and one thing is clear upon closer inspection - Nike can’t resist using texture whenever they can. Within the brown stripes is a carbon fiber pattern, a texture theme that carries over into other parts of the uniform. 


Browns equipment manager Brad Melland had said the new jerseys fit tighter around the upper body. I’m not sure what adjustments Nike made, but they’re just alterations to the Elite 51 template. No NFL team has yet adopted Nike’s latest template, the Speed Machine, that Oregon, Ohio State, and a handful of others wear on the college level. 

NFL jersey rules permit 1 alternate jersey to be worn twice a year and for Cleveland that will be the new orange option. The new jersey color is maybe the most exciting change for fans but there are far more details to take note of.

I was concerned the new orange and an emphasis of it would make the Browns look more like a college team than an NFL franchise and seeing the orange jersey and new orange pants does remind me of Bowling Green and Clemson. I could not anticipate the large word mark across the chest though. Nike has boasted about the design decision as unique to the NFL. That it is, but that doesn’t make it a good design decision. Because no other NFL team has such a large word mark above the numbers, it makes the element reflective of NCAA and High School uniforms. It makes the Browns new jersey scream “not an NFL team!”. This was not an opportunity to do something new for the NFL that works; the connotation is that it looks more at home on a field with Oklahoma or Texas A&M than in an NFL locker room. 

The alternate stitching in the jerseys is interesting and almost likable. I’ve even done designs myself with numbers that had contrast stitching, so there’s something to it that I think can work well if done carefully. Doing contrast stitching like this throughout a whole football jersey is overkill though. Sorry Nike, it doesn't reflect “the craftsmanship of Cleveland”, it just highlights all those ugly seams that cross the jersey like a roadmap of Boston. 

There are a couple of details I can say I like. I like the number treatment with a “top shadow” which was used on the uniforms long before. I even like the chain mail mesh that is used for the number fabric, which is a subtle texture that really adds some visual interest to the jersey without being too distracting. And the new number font is done really well, by far Nike’s best number font they have introduced to the NFL.

I think the new stripes that cross over onto the torso panel of the jersey and cut to reflect the new type is a great addition. It’s actually an improvement over the previous stripe design, which was a solution for a problem that has changed in modern times. Those stripes were designed to go around an actual sleeve, and the modern versions of them have become hacked and shoehorned into new jersey “sleeves” which leads to abominations like the Lions and Steelers have now. 

Looking at the jerseys one at a time, i feel they each are OK on their own. If i can look past the bad word mark decision and ignore the contrast stitching, I would say they jerseys look really nice. The stripe is better and the choice of number color seems perfect. You dont see many color-on-color options and I’m pleased to see the brown jersey with orange numbers and the white with the new orange. each jersey’s numbers contrast well enough to read from the stands and look great.

But when you see them all together the contrast really jump out. Each number and word mark is a different color across the set. The stripe colors do the same and the white jersey is the only one where the Cleveland word mark is a different color than the number. (same goes for the name on back).

Besides the white not following the same word mark and number formula, it’s a contrast amongst the set that can either be loved or hated. I can’t say that it looks like a jersey is out of place or doesn't belong within the set, but it is a jarring sight to see them all together. It’s loud and brash. I think, for the target audience, they will be widely accepted.


Personally, I love the brown pants. Paired with the white jersey, it was one of my favorite uniforms of the previous design so i’m happy to see that option make a return. Of course you have to have a white option, and there is some history with the orange too, so throw them in. None of the colors seem too out of place. I don’t think having 9 different options for pants and jersey pairings is a good thing necessarily, it’s another thing that says “college team” to me, but at least the colors themselves do look nice.

The stripe down the leg is of traditional placement and seems to complete the design appropriately until you notice it runs into a BROWNS word mark that finishes the stripe pattern half way down the leg. It is at first a shock. Not the first time a word mark has been placed on pants in such a way but probably the first time it’s been done so prominently. At this point, I can’t make a decision on how well that works, but it’s not completely retarded like the Jaguars helmet, and maybe it will grow on me.

But taking the whole uniform in and seeing a sans logo helmet with the whole team name spelled out largely on the rest of the uniform just looks kind of comical. Maybe I don’t mind the jersey mark, and maybe the pants mark is actually kind of cool. But realizing the logo-less team has spelled out it’s name and thrown it at your face is kind of hard to not laugh at. The Browns have such a unique identity to start with. The colors, stripes, helmet, and now even the numbers really don’t require any other identifiers on the uniform to make it known who they are. I can’t help feeling the design is like telling a joke then explaining why it’s funny. “We’re the Browns. . . get it?”. 

I wish there was something to say about the socks, but sadly they never seems to be a discussion within the design process anymore. They’re solid topped in either brown or orange. How boring. 


From what Nike has said about the process and general direction they wanted to take the new design, you would believe they felt obligated to honor tradition of a football team that resides in a blue-collar, tough-as-nails city. They’d make you believe there were elements here that are sacred and untouchable. That couldn’t be further from the result. It is definitely an evolution, not a revolution, but everything on the uniform has been changed. They couldn’t even leave the helmet stripe alone and placed a pattern on it. 

There are some elements that can last forever on the uniform, but the design as a whole is definitely not timeless. They replaced a timeless design that was only dated in ways where old elements no longer fit properly into modern templates (remember the jersey stripes) with a flash-in-the-pan, attention whore of a football uniform. Still, it’s hard not to like some of the flash. 

It is hard to like everything here though, because it's not what an NFL uniform or identity has ever been. Not until Nike arrived a few years ago. It's not representative of the Browns as we have ever known them. It's so much closer to an NCAA identity and makes me dislike Nike and the NFL even more for altering the brands in these ways. I do not believe this is good for the NFL, certainly not for sports design, I do not believe it is authentic or moral branding, and Nike's copywriting and public explanations for design decisions makes me think they're doing a lot of things just because they can, then trying to justify the decisions afterwards by making up a bullshit story about it. Good design starts with ideas and concept, but it's not terrible to just be honest and say "we did it because it looks cool". 

We have to remember why it is designed this way to fairly critique it. It is designed for attention. It is designed for sales to a young audience. It is not designed to honor the past or the city, that’s just a bonus if you can squeeze it in. So in that sense, this new uniform does what it was intended and that's how I have to critique it. There’s lots of options to play with in Madden, a new color jersey to buy, and it signifies they are indeed trying to be a modern team and carve a brighter future. Kids will love it. 

It doesn’t matter how much I like or don’t like it. I have to look at the design decisions and if they meet the goals set for it. I have to look at the craftsmanship and execution across the entire set, and how this design may work 25 years from now. As for the grade I give them based on all the above, well, at least they’re not the worst looking team in the NFL.

Grade: C-

Brandon Moore’s Uniform Grading Scale

A – Exceptional.  Design that is unique to the school and/or perfectly captures their culture/brand. May be a traditional design, but no mistaking for competitors. Technical craftsmanship is without flaws. 

B – Very Good. Design is appealing and appropriate. May be a template/colors that resembles competitor(s). Perhaps a slight miss on details and/or minor flaws in craftsmanship. 

C – Passable.  There are multiple issues that need to be addressed in the future, or have overlooked some details. Perhaps a bad branding move, but has a solid foundation with passable design decisions.

D –Poor. Poor design decisions, and/or poor craftsmanship in multiple areas. Will have to be redone, but there is something worth saving. 

F – Fail. Poor design, and poor craftsmanship through out. No cohesiveness between multiple uniforms and/or pieces. Nothing worth using again.

Feb 5, 2015

Graphic Language: Bad Publicity & Brand Destruction

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity”

"Bad publicity is good publicity"

These quotes are true if you don’t care about your brand. Your brand is what people think of you and what they associate you with. It is their opinions, connections, and connotations. If people are "hatin' on" and complaining about your product, about how awful it is, how low quality it is, and you think all that noise is a good thing just because its noise you're completely wrong.

If someone were to say “I just had the most horrible day ever thanks to Delta Airlines. First, Delta cancelled my flight. Then, Delta made me buy a ticket for another flight. Then, Delta lost my luggage and after landing we sat on the Delta plane for another hour waiting to dock and unload”.

How does that make you feel about that product? Sound like something you want to use/experience? Would saying "Delta" more times make it better?

You can’t go around ignoring the bad publicity and negative comments (if they're warranted) thinking just because your name is being said that it’s making you relevant or making a good impression.

It is building your brand though. Whatever direction it's going, it's always moving. If your publicity is crap, your brand is crap, and then no one cares about how good your product might be. Brand isn't everything, but it's almost everything.

Forget the hypothetical airline example. Just look at what has happened with SeaWorld. Since the documentary 'Blackfish' came out (highly recommended watching) the company has tried to shift their brand focus to the good things they do with rescuing animals and spin their Orca show as a way to protect the whales from the dangers of the open sea. It was not enough. 

The company has recently experienced record losses, laid off workers, and the CEO has stepped down. All of this from a film that shed light on the companies practices and redefined the brand in the public's mind. 

Bad publicity = bad brand.