Yesterday, the newly anointed Brooklyn Nets unveiled their new branding, supposedly designed by the king of hip hop himself, Jay-Z. Yet again with another new branding release there’s a whole lote of hoopla around it, including myself getting flack on our Facebook group for asking if “the new logo was made in MS Paint?” Normally I wouldn’t even think about the design of a basketball logo, about 99% of them are 90’s cheeseball horribleness filled with gradients and made up of gaudy tribal tattoo looking shapes. For the new Brooklyn Nets logo though, I thought there was a lot of potential that wasn’t met.
A For Effort
If I described the logo to you, I could describe it in a really appealing manner. I could say that the Nets are the only team in the league who wear only black and white. That’s pretty cool. I could say the logo is simple, that it uses a tall, sans-serif font. That the shield used is meant to depict the signage of Brooklyn from 1957. All of that to me sounds really awesome, like the contemporary idea of what basketball branding should be.
Unfortunately, the logo doesn’t hit the nail on the head. What could have been a beautiful, simplistic mark is just… mediocre, not to mention awkward. The area to the left of the N isn’t great, but couldn’t it have curved with the shield? And the area to the right of the S is one of the most awkward negative spaces I’ve seen in a while. The S itself is stretched and distorted in a way that I wasn’t sure was possible. The widths of the lines that makeup NETS goes from thick to thin and the spacing between the letters isn’t even.
Then you have the Nets/Shield logo sitting precariously on top of the word BROOKLYN, which really makes me feel uneasy. Doesn’t it look like it’s going to tip over? I think it’s also a bit weird to have the letter B on so many things. It doesn’t look like B for Brooklyn, it looks like B for Basketball. Makes it seem like you’re learning to spell, not rooting for your favorite team.
What could they have done differently?
So that’s what I see is the problem, so what’s the solution? I decided to turn to Brooklyn based artist Jon Contino for help, as he’s about the most “New York” kind of guy I can think of. I love Jon’s work, his style is extremely influenced by New York, so in my mind he’s a perfect fit.
As you can see above Jon took just about the same approach but gave everything balance, a sense of heritage and consistency that works. I mean, this is what you get when you let a seasoned designer do their work. Personally my favorite is the version with the black ball and NETS in the reverse, it looks pretty great. Here’s what he has to say about his work:
The new Nets logo is something I was really happy about and really disappointed by at the same time as soon as it appeared online for all to criticize. I know that branding is all about “too many cooks in the kitchen” when it comes to mega-franchises like a professional sports team, but the idealist in me still thinks that every logo should be incredible and awe-inspiring. I don’t know…I’ll be a kid at heart for the rest of my life and expect magic around every corner. With that said, Bobby approached me yesterday and said, “I want to address this whole Nets logo, can you spare a few minutes and come up with what you think would be your solution to this logo?” I’m a sports guy all the way, I’ve always been a massive fan of athletic logos and the awesome history behind them. This was the perfect opportunity to flex the muscles I’ve always wanted to since the little league days.
To start things off, my time was extremely limited and my style is obviously not your typical swoosh-bang-wiz sports logo aesthetic. I’m not getting paid for this job, so I made it a little more personal than I would if this were an actual client of mine. With that out of the way and no-holds-barred, I wanted to take the solid concept behind Jay-Z’s logo and run with it a little further. Over the years, I think I may have become more familiar with classic New York design than anyone. It’s been an obsession of mine and I could probably teach a four year course on it by now.
From what I’ve read, the branding was based on 1957 New York City signage and from what I saw, there is aspects of it that still exist in the logo, but they have been modified to look a bit more modern. I went old school with it. All of the lettering matches similar font styles to that of subway tiles from 1950s New York. The B in Brooklyn for instance has that huge, bottom bowl and the tiny top. The Os are big and fat and nothing feels like the Helvetica subway map we’re all accustomed to. The next step was moving into the mark itself. I chose to do a slight restyling of the typical Brooklyn sports “B” and apply it here. It’s not just for the Dodgers, it’s been used for almost everything Brooklyn for over a hundred years. I wanted the B to be symmetrical so the counters could play around with basketballs, lettering, mimic subway signage, or whatever when the time comes to animate it in the arena or on TV. I took a more classic approach to the basketball itself and faced it head on as opposed to a three-quarters view in the current incarnation. Again, this has a more classic feel overall which is allowed by my non-existent client (the best kind of client when money isn’t involved!) I loved the black ring around the logo, so I thought it was important to keep that the same. The shield however was not something I thought was that important, nor did I think it looked very good. I played around with an actual basketball net to fit it in, but the whole thing looked too forced. I stepped away from that and concentrated on the basketball itself. The next step was applying the word “NETS” in a way that it could stand alone without feeling awkward. I dropped it in the basketball and added some rough spurs that connected to the lines in the ball itself. Those of you familiar with basketballs know that when the lines connect, they make this slight bulbous area that almost feels like the crossing of a chain-link in a fence. That also solved the problem of having to outline the type so that the line work didn’t cross over in an awkward fashion.
From there it was just adding a little finesse and making it come together as a solid brand. Of course if I handled this as a real project, it would be weeks of work, the lettering would probably be cleaner and make a bit more sense, and the lines would match up in a more stylistic way, not to mention the application to jerseys, hats, tees, etc…but we all know this is for fun and can imagine all the cool things we would do if we had control of the design of a sports team.
By the way. The original choice for black and white is completely bad ass and everything I would’ve hoped for in this logo to begin with. The color scheme alone makes me still appreciate and like the original just as much as ever. If you can only take one chance, make it a good one and make it count!!!
Overall, I think I was expecting more from Jay-Z. He’s an artist and a perfectionist. You know he’d never let a track that wasn’t perfect on an album, so why should this be any different?