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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