Another Look at the Brooklyn Nets' New Look

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Yesterday, we featured two informed perspectives and one un-informed perspective on the new, Jigga-branded Brooklyn Nets logo. Both perspectives were, on balance, pretty negative. Friend of the Classical and regular contributor Eli Neugeboren, who also happens to be a professor of graphic design, had a slightly different take.

I teach graphic design in the Advertising, Design and Graphic Arts school at the New York City College of Technology, a CUNY campus located at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on the corners of Jay and Tillary Street. So when The Classical asked me to write a bit about what I think about the new Brooklyn Nets logo my first thought was to defer to a higher authority on Brooklyn, and see what my students thought about it. Michael Garcia, a first-year student from  Brooklyn said, "The Nets are supposed to rep for Brooklyn, and this doesn’t rep for Brooklyn." That might well be that, but I think there's more going on, here.

Initially, I didn’t much want to like the new Brooklyn Nets logos and branding package. But each time I look at them I like them a little more. The first thing I noticed, and probably the first thing you'll notice, is that they are simple. Very simple: black and white, a condensed san-serif font. This is in stark (and one can assume deliberate) contrast to nearly all other sports logos, as well as the rest of the ancillary graphics that go with sports broadcasts, arenas, marketing and advertising: beveled edges, shiny and overly textured surfaces, gradient-imbued interior spaces. The Nets logos and identity are spartan and restrained.

I think this is both a nod to the current trends in hip-hop fashion, led by brands like Jay’s own RocaWear and Jeff Ng’s Staple line—simple graphics on large fields of color, distinct one or two-color logos, the latter possibly due to the basic economic fact that startup tee companies can’t spring for more than one screen. It is also a nod to the current trends in the Brooklyn design scene—a throwback that looks like what is being produced by Jon Contino and his XVII Clothing line, Jessica Hische and the Pencil Factory, and Dana Tanamachi and her gorgeously rendered chalk drawings—a throwback to hand-drawn work.

These types of designs have come about as a rejection of what computer graphics programs have done to homogenize the look of creative production. Logos created in programs like Adobe Illustrator often look, not surprisingly, exactly like they were created in Adobe Illustrator. That's not a compliment, really: those types of logos always make me think of the “Poochie” episode of "The Simpsons"; they are overdone and focus-grouped to the point that they lack any personality or sense of distinct place, like the smell wafting out of a Subway sandwich shop. Like Poochie, they're antic and dull at the same time, and like Poochie seem doomed to die on the way back to their home planet. Or at least they don't work.

This isn't quite that. The fact that Hova was able to be a focus-group of one, and is a Brooklyn native gives these logos a gravitas that no other logo in sports possesses. Designers like those listed and many many more have tapped into Brooklyn's current DIY zeitgeist (see also: farm-to-table, hand-crafted pickles, that sort of thing) and a clear desire and ready market for objects and images that have a bit of humanity in them. By stripping the logo of the usual trappings and visual language of sports teams, Jay and the Nets have separated themselves from the pack.

This is the idea, at least, and it's a good one. The problem comes in the actual execution.

Upon closer inspection these logos are sloppy, and seem like they were rushed through approval. If one of my students had turned these in I would have sent them back to the drawing board to correct things like the awkwardly distorted “S” at the end of Nets in the shield logo. The word Nets follows the curve of the top of the shield, but why not have it stretch at the top and follow the sides as well? We are left with two awkward empty spaces in the corners. We are also presented with two different typefaces—one for the word Nets and one for Brooklyn. There is a newspaper headline-type of feel to them and it may be that these are manipulated or derived from a face like Aksidenz Grotesk. This is a great display face but it seems like it lacks personality and any uniqueness that the famous Dodgers “B” has. At least it’s not Comic Sans.

The logo also seems to be trying to hearken back to some of the logos from the Negro American Baseball League; the Birmingham Black Barons’ logo consisted of three chunky white B’s on a black field, for instance, and the Chicago American Giants’ logo had an interlocking C and A in white also on a black field. There may be a nod happening here or there may not, but it falls short because these designs are so neutral. When they are dressed up on some of the merchandise, and paired with other type and images, they still seem very stiff and out of place. The ball logo is a bit more mutable than the shield, but they both seem out of place, and overshadowed by even a simple script “Brownstone Ballers”.

There has also been a lot of discussion around the fact that Jay has said he designed these himself—he didn’t. He did art direct, and being the client he had final say-so on it, I’m sure. It was designed by Timothy P. Morris. As a designer, all other aesthetic considerations aside, I feel obliged to point that out.

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Comments

So are we going to get a new Nets logo every couple of years as the trends in street fashion change? I'm really looking forward to players in backwards uniforms when we return to the Kris Kross days.

The idea was good and headed towards what I prefer in a logo, the literalness and starkness of a buffalo and two sabres, but this just doesn't say Brooklyn to me at all. Plus I can't imagine the Nets not in red, white and blue.

Judgement should be held until we see the jerseys.

My level of "General Excitement About Jerseys" is at a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 right now, when it normally is only hovering around a 5 or 6 (peaking at 8.5 whenever Golden State rocks the throwback retros).

If they manage to screw up the home White-on-Blacks, then, I will be pissed.

TheBlackFalcon.net

This is basically what I was dancing around with my take yesterday. (This is J. Applegate)
I’m glad someone with real design chops like Eli could confirm some of my impressions.

One critique though- It seems contradictory that something so “classic” is also very trendy- but it is.
So where it may have some gravitas at the moment- what about five years from now when the graphic design world has moved onto something else?
Futurism instead of nostalgia- etc… How will the logo read then? Or are those things actually fundamentally timelessly “Brooklyn”?

I think a truly great design would not be focus group Poochie cool, but it wouldn’t be current trends cool-kids cool either. It would represent the place, but also the team timelessly. Is this logo about 2012 Brooklyn or is it about the Nets? Where are the Nets in this? …and if we’re saying that it’s a brand-new identity for the Nets- isn’t it contradictory to go with something that looks so old?

I'm excited simply to see a movement away from the non-linear, bright color-saturated flashiness of the 90s and mid00s.

The retro, geometric, simplistic, faded style of the 70s seems to be what we're moving towards, and I couldn't be happier (much like The Classical's logo itself).

Feel free to critique that. I am no artist.

I agree with this. It's an improvement aesthetically compared to other recent designs. But it's also a step backward in the sense that it's a blatant play to retroism. So while it's not bad, it's not exactly exciting either. How many times can you go back to the same well? At some point people need to take the risks to do something new or we're all just living in the past. (Design-wise at least, which only matters so much...)

But give me this over timeless mush like the Thunder's whole thing anyday.

May I also please request similar articles by graphic designers about the two best logos in modern sports history, namely, the Miami Dolphins and Toronto Raptors.

What makes these logos so great? Is it the dolphin wearing the football helmet and the raptor wearing the sneakers? I suspect so, but would love for a professional to confirm it.

I like this guy's comment

These two articles have been really excellent, particularly in making me consider what constitutes a good logo and what works and doesn't work, for me, about these Nets logos.

Agreed, I had no idea so much was at play.