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. 


Helmet


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. 


Jersey


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.


Pants


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. 


Conclusion


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.

Jan 30, 2015

Case Study: Orlando City FC Lions



When Orlando City Soccer got the news they would be moving up to the MLS, the club knew they had better get their logo game on par with the rest of their soon-to-be Pro soccer competitors. To achieve said goal, they hosted submissions from a number of local agencies. One of those agencies was Three21 Creative, who I worked with on this proposal.

Time Table

The first obstacle was the schedule. We had about a week and a half to put together a package presentation with a kick-ass logo. This was made more difficult because I was doing independent design work only “part time” while holding down a full time position at J. America. I would come home and work 2 to 4 hours each night, plus a weekend. The downside of that is I didn’t get a lot done in 1 day, but the upside is I got to pick up the project each day with a fresh perspective. Having some time away from a project is important because when you come back to it, it’s easier to see mistakes and where it needs to go next.

Deliverables

The most important thing to accomplish was the design of the primary logo. The whole project would be for naught if the primary mark was weak. On top of that, we also wanted to submit a secondary logo, word mark, home and away uniform, and an idea for a marketing campaign.

Goals


The main goal here was to keep the things that would work for the team in the MLS and evolve the identity to reflect a sense of pride, professionalism, and MLS quality.

We decided to keep these things:

1. Lion theme.
2. Shield containing shape.
3. General color palette though, there was room to explore new colors.

Immediately, I decided to change these identity characteristics

1. Use 1 lion instead of 3 for stronger, simpler design.
2. Change “Soccer” to “Football Club” for more European brand.
3.     Add a star to represent a USL championship

If I had to do it again, I would have left the soccer moniker because it seems MLS fans do not want a European football brand after all, but instead prefer the straight forward American terminology of “soccer”. With such a tight deadline, there wasn’t any time to research this type of thing.

Colors


I instantly hated the red, gold and purple colors and wanted to change them. After discovering this picture of the Magic Kingdom, I thought it could work wonderfully for the soccer team. We could keep purple and gold, but replace the red with light blue and make a fresh palette that was a subtle nod to the city’s most recognizable landmark and brand. I also liked how it was an aqua color and could be representative of water, which covers central Florida with all the rivers, lakes, ponds, and pools.

Although I made a concept with those colors, the red and purple started to grow on me. I realized the problem was the specific swatches, especially the gold they were using which was really tan. I selected new swatches that worked better with each other and were more attractive, starting with purple. I wanted the purple to be a medium value; something that wasn’t too annoying or feminine and not so dark that the jerseys might look blue or even black when players started to sweat.

While the gold Pantone might be considered an “old gold”, a flat brownish color, I imagine it changing to a metallic gold or even a gradient whenever possible. I would love to see a metallic ink or nylon thread used on the uniforms.

Type


I usually like to use 3 fonts together for sports projects. That will give me a nice headline font, logo font, and something to use for general purpose.  I first chose Onramp because “Lions” looked great in it and had a wide, modern look that I thought I could warp easily over the shield and not be too tall.

The supporting font is Bebas Neue chosen because of it’s contrast to Onramp (taller and thinner) and common qualities with the shield (tall straight sides and gentle curves). They also pair well because they’re both mono-weight, so I wanted to bring in one more font that was mono-weight, but this time with more roundness for contrast and something I could use in more varied ways. With Gotham having so many weight options, it was the perfect finishing touch and can be used in any application.

Primary Logo


Going with a single lion design presented a new challenge. How do I make a unique, original lion logo? There are soooo many I have seen, it will be hard to do something new. I started gathering all the lion logos I could find from Behance, Dribbble, and Google images. The goal here was not to copy what had been done before, but to use these references as a “what not to do” list.

After some consideration of doing a full body lion, I decided it would be best to do a headshot and crop it into a shield. This would be a more pleasing composition and better reflect the old logo.

I made sketches of lions trying to infuse more Florida personality into it. I was close to doing a forward facing lion with palm tree leaves in the mane, but thought that would be too cheesy. Maybe it would work for the USL, but not the MLS.

I wanted the lion’s face to show a certain amount of confidence and personality. With the mouth closed it would have been boring and with him roaring would have been over the top and cliché’. I thought the subtle growl was just the right spot and turned about 7/8 to create a little more depth than he would have if just a flat side profile. I was able to get some valuable feedback on twitter to flesh out details in the face that finished it off nicely.

The shapes in the mane were drawn hinting at the idea of water (if i went with blue) or fire (if i went with red) as some organic, free flowing shapes that were in motion rather than just being hair. The white highlights are drawn according to the star being the light source.

I felt the old shield didn’t communicate the right personality visually, or our goal words or "pride" and "professional". The lines needed adjustment, so by giving the shield tall straight sides it accomplished that. I kept the bottom and top of the shield lines the same, but the new taller shape was much stronger and masculine.

The decision to play with the key line and blend the lion’s mane into the shield was purely aesthetic, but it provides a unique execution and a memorable element, it makes the lion feel a bit larger and not so constrained by it’s borders. This is an artistic decision and shows why graphic design is not just “problem solving”. At some point, you need an artistic spark, and some sexiness.

Secondary Logo


This logo would be a supporting mark that would be seen on the sleeves of the jersey and on a lot of apparel. I wanted this logo to be more Orlando specific rather than nickname specific so I felt a circle, or an “O” would be a great base to start with. With more time this would have been a great logo to develop further but I was really up against it at this point. It couldn’t be a great logo, it just had to be good enough for now. The stripes I used here I planned on using on the jersey all along as a mnemonic devise that would always make it read as the Orlando soccer team’s logo and not some generic Orlando mark.

Marketing



After trying a few different things for billboard designs and logo mock ups I wasn’t so happy with the color anymore. I thought I would just try something really different and take 2 colors and make a gradient. After blending the red and purple and getting a really great mix it seemed “hot” and had a lot of energy. Placing some fire and smoke textures on top of it really finished it of nice and made a very attention grabbing design. It was also branching off the lion's mane shapes; the abstract flames.

When thinking of a campaign slogan for the team I immediately was drawn to “pride” because a family of lions is named as such and it’s one of the key words we wanted to reflect with the identity. I arrived at “CITY PRIDE” and I really liked it because it blends the team name (Orlando City) with the mascot concept together well.

Uniforms


This is another part of the project that really deserves much more time, but for the proposal it had to be quick and dirty. A traditional, simple soccer design was in order and I did nothing too fancy; just used the 3 colors I had while emphasizing purple. The stripes run vertical for the same reason I made the primary logo tall and straight, just reflecting those same ideas here on the jersey.

Conclusion


Orlando City did not go with our proposal. We were extremely time crunched and some pieces just needed more time devoted to them. That said, I am so happy how the primary logo came out and feel it is my best work. I wasn’t upset or too disappointed by not having my logo selected by the team because I knew I gave it my absolute best and don’t think the primary logo could have turned out any better.  You just can't worry about things you can't control.

Jan 26, 2015

Graphic Language: Graphic Artist



I’m not a rock star. I’m not a design guru. I’m not a Photoshop Wizard or an Illustrator SamurAi. I don’t really know what I am honestly, but I know I’m not any of those things.

I despise the terms “consumer”, “storytelling”, “problem solving”, “content” and “creativity”. Especially content which just means “things and shit” and creativity which is just “making things and shit.”

I’m not like most designers. I know most designers feel they’re not like most designers, but most designers are the same thick-frame glasses wearing, Starbucks drinking dorks sitting in offices filled with the same IKEA furniture. And they say shit like like “what problem do we need to solve and how can we tell this story in a creative way?”

That’s a graphic designer, and maybe even a very good one, even some I know and like very much. (don't take offense to my attempts at humor) But it’s not me and we certainly don’t believe the same things about design. I believe good art is well designed and good design is artfully done. I believe good design should be interesting, beautiful, entertaining, expressive, emotional, or informative and so should be good art. Anything else and you’re just wasting time conjuring a bullshit reason for it’s existence. It’s about expressing ideas, messages, and thoughts that make us feel understood, feel pride, or make us laugh, or angry, or shake our beliefs, or make us feel connected to something. There has to be a reaction from the audience. Well, at least that’s what I believe and no doubt, most designers will disagree.

So, what does that make me? Because I’m certainly no graphic designer. I’m not a problem solver or a storyteller. Brand Moore Art isn’t just a play on my name; it’s a statement. I’m just doing my best at branding more art.

I like designing because it lets me explore and express many different emotions, personalities, histories, cultures, and ideas. It allows me to bring people together and spread messages and products I care about or at least that I think are interesting.

In the end, maybe I’m wrong about it all. Maybe design really is just about solving stupid problems and spreading stupid content to stupid consumers. And if my design career goes down in flames for it, it will be a fire fueled by an independent spirit and a curious mind and because I thought things could just be better than what they are. I thought things could be more expressive and original and beautiful. In the movie Midnight In Paris, Gertrude Stein says “The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence”. Yea, I think I like the title, Graphic Artist.

Jan 13, 2015

18 And Life



I don't write about football. This is a blog about art and design. But, today I write about my all time favorite player, because I believe I have seen him play his last game and because what others will write, won't be the whole truth.

Peyton Manning is the most accurate QB I've ever seen play and undoubtedly the most cerebral. Sportswriters who never played the game and armchair quarterbacks who only see ESPN highlights and read ProFootballTalk articles will say his arm strength wasn't good enough, or his spirals were not tight enough, and that he can't win the big game even as a Super Bowl MVP and 6th all time for playoff games won by QBs. They'll say he chocked in the playoffs, even though his worst post season performance is only 49th worst all time (worst performances came from Staubach, Tittle, Brady, Marino, Elway, and Favre twice).

Manning has shattered record books and leaves a football legacy as one of the best to ever play and yet somehow will be remembered underrated, because its not the coaches and players, or anyone with decent football IQs that write the history, it's the sportswriters who never played the game and the armchair QBs who base their opinions on ESPN highlights and ProFootballTalk articles.  But when I talk about Peyton, it will not just be about what he did on the gridiron.

Manning is the kind of person we should all want to be. That is why I would never trade him for another as "my QB". It's been a privilege to watch him play and an honor and inspiration to know him as a man, though only from afar as a fan.

He has an appreciation for football, his opponents and teammates, and fans that has kept him humble and thankful. That is very hard to come by in professional sports, especially with someone who has had so much success. He writes hand written letters to retiring players, takes time to meet fans face to face because they asked him to, and built a children's hospital in Indianapolis. You certainly never had to worry about him raping someone (Roethlisberger), beating someone (Peterson/Rice), or wild'n out in the club (Manziel). And this is only the tip of the iceberg of why people love him and why he will be so missed.

While others will go on to talk about whatever misconception and half truths they want about him as a player, I will always talk about him with a sense of pride, respect, and gratitude. There are other players with more trophies but none I could ever feel the same way about as a person. That's how you leave a great legacy and how you win in life. And I have truly enjoyed having Peyton Manning as my quarterback.