As you know, if only because he is so good about reminding us, Jay-Z is more than a businesman/business, man. He is, in no particular order, a precision-calibrated money-making device custom-designed to give us New Watch Alerts at appropriate moments, still a very good rapper, and someone who—in a way that's less rareified than you might expect—actually participates in the cultural life of New York City. Because he is rich enough and grandiose enough—and because oligarch-style multi-SUV security caravans are so hot right now among New York's paranoid plutocrat superclass—there is a significant buffer between his city and ours, but the two often exist in something like the same space: Jay-Z also goes to shows (especially rock shows, for whatever that's worth) more often than you'd expect, and eats at really good (and not really expensive) restaurants in Brooklyn exactly as often as regular New Yorkers would if they could, say, get into Lucali without ever having to wait. This is all to his credit.
But, of course, Michael Bloomberg famously rides the subway—sometimes, or used to, or...anyway, he would, if it wasn't so full of, like, people who keep looking at him, like he's in a zoo for Successful Innovators Who Get Results Even Though No One Appreciates Them In Their Own Time Of Course for chrissakes so increasingly no thanks, and he takes the helicopter. Our Most Successful Individuals have their quirks, but various unpleasant trends have conspired to place them, on balance, someplace very far from the rest of us; this does to the brain about what you'd expect. If Jay-Z is a bit less grandiose and a bit more human than the average member of the ultraclass, he is also prone to overreach and cynicism and the sort of self-misapprehension that comes with just making it, and making it, and making it some more. We should maybe consider ourselves lucky, then, that Hove stopped at merely designing the new logo and picking the color scheme for the Brooklyn Nets. He could've opened a winery, or an island nation. All of us got off easy.
And yet, what did we really get, besides a heaping helping of bad vibes over the franchise's last seven years, a throwback-y black-and-white color scheme, and a bare-bones logo that looks, if not quite amateurish, at the very least like something a rapper might have his assistant knock out? Well, a bare-bones logo that looks like something a rapper (or his assistant) might have designed. There's something to be said for it, actually—"It's muted, a little retro, almost a tiny bit McSweeney's," the Journal's estimable Jason Gay writes. "It could be much worse. At least 70% of the NBA is worse. If nothing else, the low-fi Nets look is a successful break from the very bad modern habit of designing sports logos like they're for outlaw rebel Jet-Ski teams." But there are things to be said against it, too. "Avoiding weakness is not the same thing as having strengths," as UniWatch's equally estimable Paul Lukas puts it.
And anyway, being better than the Toronto Raptors still-hilarious logo doesn't make the Nets logo a winner any more than Jay-Z is somehow a better rapper just because Ray Benzino continues to exist. My biases on the Nets are clear, and clearly owned: they helped me grow up, they made me happy and sad in that fan way, and then they helped me understand the coarse, stupid grown-up world. So of course the Nets logo looks stupid to me: cynical and hackish in equal measure, as is the fashion with this clumsiest of organizations. But I also don't know what I'm talking about on this particular topic. So I asked a pair of The Classical's artist buddies, David Rappoccio and Joseph Applegate, for a more informed opinion on the new Nets logo.
Successful people can develop the sort of hubris that makes them think they’ll have the same success in any medium, and non-successful people working in that medium really revel in pointing out all the atrocious flaws in these laughable vanity projects. I’m not really a graphic designer, but I am wildly unsuccessful in general, so I think I’m within my rights to say this logo, supposedly designed by Jay-Z, isn’t very good.
But I get it. Graphic design is an insular world. You can pick apart the technical details of a design as much as you want a la “the generous kerning throws of the balance of the implied white space,” or whatever laughably fake designer-speak you can come up with on your own. But in the end the people that appreciate those kind of things make up a small minority of the audience, although in Brooklyn they are probably better represented than in other markets. Basically, I really don’t think these things matter in the bigger picture.
So: I think the logo is uninspired and anachronistic and somewhat poorly constructed. I also think it will sell like crazy. There's even something bold about going the nostalgic route with something that has little actual heritage. This logo looks like it might have existed since back when the (imagined) 1910 Nets played in the Redhook YMCA and there was social dancing at halftime. Which is not a bad idea, since that heritage look will always have a market, if only because it classes up the choice that a given grown man or woman is making to wear a pro team's merchandise. And this is true whether it’s based on any real world history or not.
Once something becomes classic it exists somewhere beyond the reproach of modern criticisms. The new Nets logo is an (arguably) competent facsimile of a classic design, and reflects something the owners and fans probably wish were so: that theirs is a team with a history and a backstory that doesn't involve a few decades in the suburbs.
It's about as pedestrian and safe as a sports logo can be. While it's passable, certainly, it doesn't feel like there's much inspiration behind it, nothing feels special or unique, outside the odd color scheme. I'm not sure what the thought process was for a black and white logo, either. Almost all pro sports teams have about 3 colors, and when I first saw the logo I literally googled it to make sure I wasn't getting a de-saturated version and it was indeed black and white.
Outside the color, the design feels like it was designed by committee. I know supposedly Jay-Z did it, and maybe he did, but whatever the case it just feels so safe. There is no sense of depth to the logo at all, no gradient or anything. The font, especially on the "B," is dull. It needs a flashier font style, an outline, anything, really, other than some generic B. To compare it to the classic Oakland Raiders logo, which is a classic black-and-white logo (and just about the only one I can think of), the lines here are too clean, and devoid of personality as well as color. That Oakland logo, while B&W, is a drawn face of a pirate. The lines are a little uneven, the face a little ugly, but it works because it gives the face personality. And a face is far more interesting than a ball.
I looked up previous Nets logos, and I actually like their previous one. It was essentially the same shield logo, but at a third degree angle, had color, and best of all, had a ring around the lower half symbolizing the hoop the net/Nets hang from. With the new one, they took a good logo and simplified it, too much. It needs more color, more exciting font, something more creative than a shield with a ball on it. That ring on the last logo was a small thing, but it added so much.
This is pro sports: your logo needs to be deceptively simple, not actually simple. The more you stare at most team logos, the more you discover. Little lines, small colors, maybe some hidden elements. The longer I stare at this the longer I feel like I got a free Valium subscription.
That said, I like the alternate "circle" version. It reminds me of the Bruins logo. That one could still use color and is too simple, but it has an inherently old school classic feel to it that works wonders above the main logo. I spent two minutes in Photoshop adding a ring and a better, sporty font to the logo. I wouldn't say mine is all that good, but it's at least more interesting to look at than a shield with a ball on it. Almost anything is more exciting then that.