extreme franchise makeover: logos edition

>> 3.12.2009

There's been a lot of handwringing about the Lions' new uniforms and logo. In fact, it's been bordering on great lamentations and/or gnashing of teeth. I won't pretend as though I am not right in the thick of the wailing masses myself; I've been all over the Internet uselessly commenting that this makeover had "better be good". I'm not sure what follows that statement . . . "or else, I'll REALLY be mad!"? "or else, I'll STOP FOLLOWING THE TEAM?"? Let's be real folks: if 0-16 only caused me to redouble my committment to supporting this organization, a bad logo isn't going to make me hock my gear in shame.  

The winner of the Detroit News reader contest for designing your own logo was announced, and somehow many people took that to mean that that would be the new official logo--which was bad, because it wasn't that good. Grady Jackson said he "liked the new colors", which of course sent a chill down everyone's spine. New colors? New COLORS? Visions of the Detroit Pistons in teal, orange, and disgusting danced through everyone's heads. Radio host Mike Valenti said he thought he saw the new logo yesterday, and it was "horrible" and looked cheap.   Brian VanOchten said the new logo should be "simple but modern, much more aggressive, but not cartoonish."  Whew, got all that?

Now let me put this forth: I am no Picasso. However, my mother was an art major, and has worked in advertising and media sales for nearly thirty years; so I know a thing or two about design, color, etc. Most football fans, however, do not. Fashion is not exactly tops on the mind of most gridiron fanatics. You don't see a lot of sports bloggers walking around their house with paint chips and a color wheel. Yet somehow, when this topic comes up, every monday morning quarterback sees fit to nitpick the work of a team of highly-paid people who spent four (or more) years in college learning about every aspect of what looks good.

Besides lack of experience on the subject matter, there's the matter of taste.  Taste is subjective, both amongst regular Joes such as you and myself, and amongst design experts. When Comerica Park was built, most regular Joes such as you and myself loved it. It was spectacular! All sorts of displays, attractions, faux-old-timey conceits, actual old-timey construction (note the use of rivets over hex bolts/nuts at many prominent beam connections), the statues of the Tiger greats, the ivy, the fountain . . . it's a jaw-dropping monument to both everything baseball is, and what we like to think it used to be.

However, when Ford Field was being built, I recall an interview with the design firm where their dislike of CoPa was verging on open contempt. I remember one guy saying, "Well, you're not going to see a bunch of huge plastic lions on the roof"--a dig at the outsized tiger sculptures prowling the rafters of Comerica. And sure enough, the smoothly arched aluminum roof, the classic brick facade, and the enormous ground-level windows of Ford Field provide a classic, timeless counterpoint to the spectacularly anachronistic structure across the street. And, most regular Joes such as you and myself love it! Two adjacent sports stadiums, two completely different styles, two completely different executions, and yet the same fans who helped pay to build both of them are equally happy with the results.  

The Detroit News fan contest shows exactly what happens when most of us are asked to design the Lions logo: we draw the best/meanest/fiercest Lion we can and then write "Detroit Lions" somewhere on there. Or we incorporate the Olde English D, because that's cool, and try to work a lion in there, because that makes it Lions--nevermind that we didn't like it when the Tigers had that D with the tiger crawling through it . . . do you see what I'm getting at here? Just because an athlete or broadcaster or whoever "likes" or "doesn't like" it, doesn't mean it is or isn't well done. I'm sure that when good old Bubbles was unveiled, as many disliked it as liked it, for no other reason than people generally not liking change. However, I do have faith that this makeover will be a positive one--or at worst, one that just takes getting used to.

Don't forget, when Bill Ford Jr. set the design goal for Ford Field, he said "I want to stand on the fifty-yard-line and know I'm in Detroit."  Sure enough, there are few stadiums in the world that more effectively evoke their host city than Ford Field.  Say what you want about the team.  But, in terms of the image, the franchise, and the marketing and promotion, Lewand and the Fords have always been consistent in what they want: classy, classic, strong, clean, and timeless. The Fords are not going to allow their billion-dollar franchise to get stamped with something "horrible" or "cheap". You all may well hate them for the product he's put between the lines, but Big Willie Style has always made sure that his branding, his image, and his money are well taken care of. We may not know what the changes will be, but I can guarantee that whatever they are, some will like them, some will love them, some won't care, and some will hate them.


Michael Schottey,  March 12, 2009 at 3:42 PM  

Google "Matt Zelley" and look under images. He came up with a nice logo and a uniform.

The uniform is a little "seahawkish" but its a great start using a darker blue with Honolulu Blue as an accent.

Ty,  March 12, 2009 at 4:02 PM  


Yeah, I've seen the Zelley stuff; it's really well done. I especially like the new font he used for the "Lions"--it kind of recalls the Ole Western Style font the Lions logo has always inexplicably been written in, yet is totally sharp and modern. My biggest problem with the Zelly logo was the way he had the right arm of the lion curving up, like he's about to bear hug or tackle something. That's not how lions' arms bend; it makes it look too anthropomorphic for my tastes. IMO, the Detroit Lion should look like an actual lion.

You're right that the uni he did looked too much like the Seahawks--but the idea of using the Honlulu Blue in tandem with a gray (and/or darker, grayer blue) would maintain an understated, classy look, represent a marked change, yet still say "Lions". That, IMO, is the direction the makeover needs to take.


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