They’ve got billionaire backing, star swagger and a swanky new arena. Unfortunately they also have the formerly New Jersey Nets’ playing roster that went 22-44 win-loss in 2011-12. That inspires about as much excitement as their meager new visual identity.
To my eye the new Nets logo falls flat. It’s definitely from the ‘less is more’ school. But sometimes less is not really enough.
The NBA has balls – lots of them
For a league where ‘Amazing Happens’, the NBA has few amazing team logos.
The Brooklyn Nets’ logo is a basketball in a blank shield. Not only is it bare and bereft of imagination, but in a league where almost a third of the teams have a basketball as their primary logo it defeats the whole purpose of branding, which is all about marking differentiation.
Just as in advertising, the best logos are built on big ideas. They don’t have to be fancy, but they do have to have a presence that imprints itself on the imagination. Think of the Dallas Cowboys’ bold Lone Star, the Green Bay Packers’ giant G or the Yankees’ elegantly entwined NY. Yes, onfield success has immortalised these marks, but they were made of the right stuff to begin with. Is the Nets’ generic B in a basketball outline big enough to one day inspire a similar reverent awe? Don’t bet on it.
White Hipsters Can’t Jump
Probably the greatest failing of any logo is for it to be dated the instant it’s created. The new Brooklyn Nets badge smacks of ‘Hipster Branding’, a twee design trend that echoes the less shouty, more innocent, commercial art of yesteryear.
At best such logos are austere. At worst they’re a retro rehash, a style suited for designers who can’t really draw. Heavily reliant on generic ‘found’ clip art doo-dads, naked straight lines and vintage pre-packaged font kits, it’s a style that often confuses laziness for minimalism. Sure, this too-cool-for-school look might sum up Brooklyn’s arty enclaves, but shouldn’t an NBA team exude energy, not arty understatement?
“Where Brooklyn at?”
It’s no surprises that the Nets would go for an all-black-everything look. The Black Album is one of part-owner Jay-Z’s finest works, and the team is clearly making as much play as they can from this association. Like all of New York’s boroughs Brooklyn is steeped in hip hop folk law, and the first round of Brooklyn Nets team gear from adidas makes plenty of hackneyed shout-outs to this heritage.
The Nets’ #HelloBrooklyn Twitter hashtag is borrowed from Paul’s Boutique, the legendary 1989 album by Brooklyn natives (and die-hard Knicks fans) the Beastie Boys. Clearly the Nets are casting themselves as the urban upstarts of the NBA.
In 1990 hip hop was a subversive fringe dweller, and it turned the Raiders logo into the badge of the outsider. In a way the Brooklyn Nets are the reverse-Raiders. Hip hop is now subsumed into the entertainment industry, with Forbes magazine listing Jay-Z’s net worth at $460 million.
Today hip hop is delivered down from the boardroom, not up from the block. Lacking the character of the gritty Raiders logo, the clean cut, corporatised Nets logo probably sums up exactly where hip hop is at in 2012: safe, sterile and flavourless.
Unlike corporate logos, fans literally live in their favourite sports logos. We dress up in them. They’re on our cars, our house keys, our phones and desktops. Sometimes they’re even in our haircuts. We want our team’s logo to be exciting and inspiring because it represents us. Sports logos do their job only when they are loved, and I can’t see much to love in the Nets’ creatively emaciated new visual brand.
Top 5 Australian sports logos
Aussie sports have a way to go yet before they can stack up against the best from the US. Not many have that magnetic quality that makes American team logos icons of world sports; that big idea that makes a brand really stick to the imagination. But there are some good eggs in the basket, and here’s five recent designs that really caught my eye.
1 Hawthorn Hawks
It’s hard to think of a sports logo redesign that was as instantly embraced by supporters as Cato Purnell Partners’ Hawks rebranding.
Strong and authoritative, I know of at least one AFL club that held this as the benchmark when undertaking their own somewhat less spectacular logo overhaul. Expect to see this one stay around for a while.
2 GWS Giants
There was some small-minded ridicule amongst rival fans when the Giants unveiled their big G. Uncompromisingly simple, it’s a stark departure from the more illustrative logos commonly held be Aussie sporting teams. As with other aspects of the club’s setup, they seem to have looked to the US college system for inspiration with this letter- based design. I love it. Bold and dynamic, it’s got enough assertiveness to be a real icon in the years to come once GWS’ onfield results catch up to their enormous potential.
3 Parramatta Eels
After an ugly misfire, Parramatta have gone back to basics with this retro revival. Safe to say, there can’t be too many better looking eel logos in world sports. I particularly love how balanced the shield is, and for mine the clean Futura Bold type of the outer ring never seems to date.
4 Canterbury Bulldogs
This is the template that sports teams will turn to when trying to better incorporate their history into their logo. A massive improvement on their old bubble-dog design, this shield beautifully incorporates every facet of Canterbury’s visual identity. My only gripe is that the ‘Bulldogs’ script is perhaps a wee bit bland, but overall it’s a fine logo that’s full of class and dignity.
5 Wollongong Hawks
Full marks to the Wollongong Hawks and the design team at WISDOM for last season’s really contemporary rebranding. The rendering of the Hawk’s head is full of character, and the subtle fades and colour transitions are world class. Just one thing – drop ‘NRE’ from the title – Nothing devalues a team more than overtly making them the property of a sponsor.
Th main piece first appeared on Anthony’s website. The breakout on 5 Australian logos was written for SBI.