Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Evolution of a Bad Sports Logo

When a widely anticipated logo or other design becomes public, I've often wondered how it could have made it through so many stages without getting trashed. This is wholly dependent on the end result being even half as horrific as the London 2012 Olympics logo.

London Olympics logo 2012

From the initial development stages to the market research to the refining and presentations given to those involved in bringing it to fruition.

It all comes down to gutlessness.

Too many ass-kissers, sycophants and scared little yes-men to have the guts to stand up and say "That's a pile of steaming shit. Let's start again from the beginning..."

One tip-off that indicates there is some subconscious realization by those involved that their effort isn't quite as sterling as they'd hoped, is the amount of back-story required to explain the logic behind the tripe they've produced. If the initial reaction to a sports logo doesn't transcend some silly rationalization, it isn't going to resonate as a timely, effective and potentially classic look.

Professions and industries with little or no technical skill required, forces those involved to build-up some kind of cachet surrounding their efforts. Without the stern and earnest assurances at every turn that what they do involves a great deal of expertise, the "anyone could do it" tag would become a detriment to inflated fees. No doubt there are a large number of skilled artists involved in the design game but the prevalence of substandard and bland final results indicates that in fact anyone can do it, though many cannot do it well.

These factors conspire to allow numerous poor sports logos to make it into the public domain. Employees in other departments of a firm contracted to produce a design are unlikely to voice negative opinions, no matter how visceral their initial reactions may have been. They ask themselves "what do I know about this?" They convince themselves those charged with the responsibility are the experts and the accompanying narrative that surrounds the logo starts to work on them. Besides, they wouldn't want their criticism to give others the license to subject their own work to the same harsh analysis.

Those involved in the market research feel privileged to be asked for their opinions and believe in offering a positive spin. The project takes on a life of its own. It becomes the "baby" of the design team, validated by all those around them. And so it hits the general public and the jeering and laughter comes as a genuine surprise.

The arrival of high powered graphics design programs has resulted in even more pretenders in the industry. Look at many of the new NHL logos and you will see a look that was not possible a few years ago and many that simply don't benefit from the added effects. Many people seem taken in by the knowledge that they can do something graphically, without examining whether it actually looks good. This is the same mentality that hinders overly busy and distracting websites.

I can't imagine some of the new NHL logos and jerseys will be around in a few years (not all of the new jerseys incorporate new logos.) It's easy to praise long-standing logos as being exceptional. Familiarity and the fact that they evoke memories associated with the team all may colour a person's opinion on the matter. However, the clean, classic looks of many long time logos wouldn't have survived if they weren't effective from the start. Look at a team such as the Canucks whose long history of woeful designs is memorable only for their shocking nastiness. On the other hand, regardless of what you might think of the Leafs, it's hard to deny the aesthetic appeal of their logo.


Who signed off on the lettering?

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