Monday, October 6, 2008

What Makes A Good Logo?

I was perusing some old issues of The Hockey News this morning. They're from almost a decade ago when I used to have a subscription. I was looking at the logo rankings for 1999 but something stuck out. I came across an article that has just as much relevance here at Icethetics today as it did then.

Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, is a great artist and a huge hockey fan — the essence of Icethetics. For those who don't know, he designed the Edmonton Oilers' third jersey logo you see on the left.

McFarlane was interviewed for this piece I was reading and was asked what he thought would make a good logo. So he came up with five guidelines. You can read the article below.

There's something about the Huntington Blizzard's logo that gives Todd McFarlane a chill.

Turnabout is fair play because McFarlane has been giving readers of Spawn comic chills for years. The Calgary-born artist has created a multi-million dollar entertainment and production industry sparked by his skill at drawing riveting images.

So, who better to evaluate logos than McFarlane? A self-professed hockey fanatic, he jumped at the chance to offer his two cents in THN's seventh annual minor pro hockey logo ranking.

In discussing the logos, McFarlane spawned five guidelines:
  • Cartoony characters with hockey paraphernalia are silly. "A Solar Bear with RayBans? A Stingray with a stick? Why not have a Pirate with a knife instead of a stick in his mouth? So many of these logos would've been better if you get rid of the stick."

  • The primary logo should be clean and uncluttered with words. "I'm pro image. Keep the city and nickname in the secondary logo or on a shoulder patch. The words are bigger than the icon in a lot of cases."

  • Ditch the cartoon characters. Consider the audience. "Two groups of fans attend games: children and adults. Kids are outnumbered five to one and it's the adults who buy the merchandise. They're more likely to buy if it's a cool logo. Plus, it's hard to determine what's cool for kids. What's cool for a seven-year-old is definitely not cool for a 12-year-old."

  • If you have to sell out and go with an animal caricature, "pick something menacing. Not a fish or a bird or a puppy. Be intimidating. Or at least be regal rather than dumpy."

  • The logo should be big and bold. "You should be able to distinguish it even from the nosebleeds or on TV from your couch. Too much detail just adds to the clutter."

—Brian Costello

By the way, I'd link to this article if I knew it existed somewhere else in cyberspace. I literally retyped it from the old worn newsprint where I read it.

So, all you graphic artists out there, keep these tips in mind, not only when designing logos for the IceHL, but in all your future designing ventures.

Now, I'm not done with McFarlane yet. THN got him to make a best/worst list of minor pro logos for the 1999-2000 season. That would include the AHL, IHL and ECHL. I've built graphics so you can see the logos and make your own judgments.

McFARLANE'S BEST: Huntington Blizzard (ECHL), Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL), Houston Aeros (IHL), Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL), Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), Chicago Wolves (IHL), Louisville Panthers (AHL), Florida Everblades (ECHL), Pee Dee Pride (ECHL) and Michigan K-Wings (IHL).

McFARLANE'S WORST: Greenville Grrrowl (ECHL), Toledo Storm (ECHL), Dayton Bombers (ECHL), South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL), Saint John Flames (AHL), Hershey Bears (AHL), Mississippi Sea Wolves (ECHL), Trenton Titans (ECHL), Jackson Bandits (ECHL) and Mobile Mysticks (ECHL).

I wonder what he'd say about the Stingrays today and how his best/worst lists may have changed in the last 10 years.


FlyersGuy said...

I don't know. I actually like the St. John and Hershey logos (grrr), even though I'm a fan of the Phantoms. I own twenty-some McFarlane hockey figures, by the way, and this guy is a genius.

Wozniak said...

i did a post similar to this a while back but instead of using imagery related guidelines i used design guidelines (size, shape, etc) and did it for several sports. I think it was for the "Millers" in the IHA project.

I fully agree with McFarlan on his points, especially the simplicity one. And in my opinion, whoever did the Grrrowl, aproved the Grrrowl...and lets include the person who created the name...they should never be allowed anywhere near a sports team at any level ever again.

Anonymous said...

I always liked the hershey bears and trenton titans. Bandits look like an ok logo. How is the huntington blizzard his favorite? It does exactly what his guidelines say not to do, use too many words. It should just be the flake and an H for the logo to represent the city and team name. There's no need for the B to represent blizzard since the snowflake is already doing that. He contradicts himself.

Anonymous said...

McFarlane ranked the old Toledo Storm logo as one of his worst. That's fine, the logo was universally hailed as the most awful logo in all of sports.

What did they replace it with? The Walleye, a Giant, Cartoony fish. Holding a stick, no less. Can't win for losin'.

Dandy said...

He does contradict himself a bit with his best pics, however he has excellent points in the article.

It also depends on the market. NHL teams typically do not put their city/team name in a logo, whereas many semi-pro and minor-pro teams do because fans just don't know who the teams are.

The Hamilton Bulldogs logo is great and fits McFarlane's points perfectly.

Anonymous said...

"The primary logo should be clean and uncluttered with words."

8 of his top 10 are cluttered with words.

"Cartoony characters with hockey paraphernalia are silly"

That accounts for the 9th choice. Still the Bulldogs' logo meets his criteria!

Anonymous said...

THE BULLDOGS RULE! Can't wait to watch Max Pacioretty this year :D They have one of the best logos ever.

Tom said...

I think it comes down to a few simple rules:

Symmetry - Even if it's not a perfect geometric form there should be a general sense of symmetry to the logo.

Boldness - Clean lines, primary colors. It should be something you can quickly draw with a pack of basic-8 crayons.

Characters - Full words aren't automatically bad, but the Boston "B" and Montreal "C" are much more recognizable. Every part of the logo should be meaningful.

Those three rules alone reduce the pool to the simplest, most attractive, most practical logos.

KP said...

It should probably be pointed out that he was one of the co-owners of the Oilers when that logo came out...I'd say that goes beyond just being a hockey fan.

Veritas1325 said...

I actually like the old Trenton Titans and St. John Flames logos, although they were wordy. Otherwise, I think he was right on with his view of the worst logos.

Lucas said...

Guys you have to realize that a lot of Minor League logos have the team name in them, he didn't have much to choose from.

Anonymous said...

Still the ones he said were good aren't much different than the ones he said were bad for the same reasons.

The Source said...

Hey man any reason why the Leafs haven't made the jersey announcement yet?

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh is in violation of the 1st, 3rd, and 4th guidelines, yet it still somehow managed to win the best center ice logo tournament...

cptjeff said...

Good guidelines, but not absolute rules. In ther news, a secondary logo I'm working on right now has words in it, but they're minor compared to the logo.

By the way, I'm using a gray background for an off white edge, presuming that off white falls within the white edge guideline. That okay?

Ogre said...

Frankly, Seth's wrong. A good logo epitomizes the team name, and be discernible from other teams logos. That's all. I would prefer a Pirate with a hockey stick in it's mouth to one without. You know why? Because it's not for a comic book, it's for a hockey team.

cptjeff said...

Ogre, the logo is going to be displayed on the front of a hockey player holding a hockey stick. Shouldn't it be obvious enough it's for a hockey team?

I cannot think of one logo that sticks out in my mind as great that has a hockey stick or a cartoon character. Not one. (BTW, if you're going to say Penguins I hate that logo)

Habs, Blackhawks, Bruins, Whalers... No cute cartoons, no hockey sticks.

Think about a few logos from other sports. Yankees. Is there a baseball? Dallas cowboys- is there a football? Patriots?

A good logo is one that people will remember the team by. Not a logo that has to remind people of everything about the team, including what sport they play.

Dandy said...

This is a hard one to debate.

I agree that a logo should be strong enough to not *need the hockey stick, however I can see using the stick in cities where hockey is not well known.

A lot of the recent markets in the south used the hockey stick. Mind you, the stronger logos usually do not have a stick but the San Jose Sharks have a great logo and one of the top jerseys in the NHL.

Basketball uses a lot of basketballs and nets in their logos and they are quite nice.

Ogre said...

Yankees' logo has a baseball bat. Patriots and Cowboys have crappy logos. Penguins, like it or not, is a logo that works. Same with the Capitals. Same with the Sharks. And the Canucks stick in rink. How about the puck in the Hurricane? Stick in the Hurricanes secondary? You're going to be hard pressed to find someone who likes the current Ducks logo more than the old Duck mask with the cross sticks behind it. And if I'm wearing the jersey just around campus, no, people don't know what it is. Like it or not, people wearing merchandise is about how most of the teams get their recognition these days.

cptjeff said...

The thin is, I can't recall a single basketball logo. Could be I care nothing about the sport, But I can recognize logos of teams I know nothing about in other sports...

The only one I can think of is the Celtics shamrock...

And really, I love the Sharks Uniform, but I don't think their logo is that great. Not bad and the current one is an improvement, but I don't like the concept.

Of course, I also loved the modernized penguin, so take of my opinions what you will...

Bryan said...

Ogre, i like this ducks logo, 8/10. The old one, 2/10 at best. Done.

Bryan said...

As in the current logo, when i say this ducks logo.

cptjeff said...

Ogre, I was thinking of the NY, which is the yankee's better known logo as it's the one they wear on the field.

And in some cases, it's good. Mainly when it's an integral design element rather then something an animal is biting in half (stupidly common in minor leagues).

If it's in there just to be in there, it's the kind of thing McFarline is rooting against.

It's also a lot better for alternate logos then it is for primary IMO.
As for the ducks, I like their modern scheme more then their old one. I can't prefer their current logo because they don't have one. If it was just the D I would say it was better. The old one was interesting but not professional. It looked like something a minor league team would wear, and it would be a good minor league logo. Fun, great for kids and local entertainment.

But as a national brand? current setup is much better.

Again, this is all my opinion, for what it's worth.

Wozniak said...

not to throw fuel on the fire but the old patriots logo had a football and the 3 point stance.

Damme said...

I have nothing against a stick, puck or a goalie mask in a logo, if it blends well to it. Sharks, Penguins, Trashers and Mighty Ducks for example are great logos with hockey equipment.

Rome said...

The Toledo Storm were proud of having the worst logo in all mankind, and actually reveled in it.

Also, the Patriots' old logo did have a football in it. In fact, it was a Minuteman ready to hike the ball.

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