Interview with The Sports Design Blog's Steven Little

September 22, 2011

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georgia tech

There's a whole community of great designers on the web who are helping record the history of sports design. One of my favourites is The Sports Design Blog run by Steven Little. For us sports nuts and graphic geeks his site's a fantastic reference tool and a critical take on what the big leagues are putting in the park design-wise. I wanted to get to know I bit more about Steven and what sparks his passion for sports design. Luckily he was generous enough to share some his thoughts... read on!

Hey Steven, tell us a bit about what you do for a living.
I'm a web designer for NCAA.com, so I design anything for that site as well as the March Madness on Demand video player and mobile apps.

What team/s do you follow?
I went to Georgia Tech, and that's definitely the team I follow the most; mainly football and men's basketball. I grew up an Iowa State fan, so I still root for the Cyclones. I've been a big Packers fan my whole life, and living in Atlanta long enough has got me interested in the Braves, even though I don't follow baseball that much.

What is it about sports logos that inspired you to write a blog about them?
Sports logos and uniforms are at the intersection of my two passions – sports and design. Sports are what I spend my free time watching and reading about, and design is what I love to do. Landing my current job just piqued that interest in the niche of sports design, so I thought I'd share some of the things I always found interesting.

I've seen sites that rate teams' uniforms and talk about the changes year-to-year, but I hadn't really seen anything that looked at sports and design as a whole and provided knowledgeable insights in an unbiased way. Sharing opinions on designs is inevitable on a design blog, but I didn't want this blog to be nothing but my personal opinion or uniform rankings.

Was there a logo that really captured your imagination as a kid?
I don't know that there was a logo that really did as a kid because I wasn't really into design yet. I do remember, being a Utah Jazz fan as a kid, that I thought the old Jazz logo with the "J" as a music note with a basketball in it was clever. I remember thinking the Washington State logo was a clever way to make a mark out of the school's letters. And when I first saw the Minnesota Wild's logo, I thought it was neat how they made the head out of a nature scene basically. Those last couple go against the simplicity that I've since learned works best, though.

What's the secret to a great sports logo?
I haven't designed any real sports logos, so I don't know that I have the secret. From an identity design standpoint, something that's simple, clever, unique, and scalable is probably going to be successful. It needs to fit within the sports category, but more importantly fit the culture and personality of the team/school and its city. The fewer the details, the better, which also helps with scalability when the logo starts getting shrunk to fit on website scoreboards, etc.

Is there one logo that you think is just perfect?
I don't know about perfect, but there are definitely some good ones. I think the NFL has the best design overall; the Texans, Falcons, Patriots, Eagles, Broncos and Seahawks' logos are pretty great. And I'm totally biased, but I thing Georgia Tech's "GT" is a great lockup of the two letters. Some other good letter-based logos are Hawaii's "H" and St. John's logo with a hidden "T." Texas' longhorn is also a really strong mark.

What logo would you most love to redesign? How would you improve it?
I mentioned that I love Georgia Tech's "GT," but I would love to redesign their wordmark. It's not used a ton, but you still see it from time to time, and it's so dated. I'd love to bring it into the 21st century and use gold, white, and navy, Georgia Tech's true colors, instead of yellow and black.

Another thing that bothers me is when teams don't really have a logo at all. Like the Cleveland Browns. They use an illustration of their plain orange helmet as a logo. That's not a logo. So I'd love to design them a real logo. They don't even need to put it on their helmets; they just need to have one.

There are lots of other teams that could use updates, but those two would top the list for personal satisfaction.

What's the biggest mistake that franchises make when they revamp their brand?
Hmm... I don't know what the biggest mistake is, but one thing that doesn't make sense sometimes is drastic change in colors. Updating to be better shades of a team's colors is fine, but changing the palette completely doesn't usually make sense, and most teams that do that end up going back to the team's original colors anyway.

Another mistake is following trends too closely. You don't want your brand to fall behind, but doing everything everyone else is doing will lead to frequent changes and a look that gets dated quickly. Like when most expansion teams in the 90s used teal and/or purple. They thought it was the cool thing to do at the time, and almost all have now done what I mentioned before and changed their color palette entirely because that trend now looks dated.

Name your all-time top 5 team logos from any era.
This one's tough. I've never actually sat down and thought about it before, but here's my best attempt in no particular order (all current logos):

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Houston Texans
  • New England Patriots
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Texas Longhorns

Thanks Steven!

http://www.thesportsdesignblog.com/

http://www.stevenlittledesign.com/

Thanks to Chris Cremer for the GT logo

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