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Friday, June 4, 2010

Later, Gator

The alligator is the official Florida state reptile, and it is the nickname of the University of Florida athletic teams. With more than one million gators being such a ubiquitous presence in the ponds, marshes, rivers, lakes and swamps throughout the Sunshine State, that’s only fitting.

And with the 2010 Baseball Winter Meetings coming to Orlando, Florida this December, it is equally apropos that the brand identity system that Studio Simon created for the event should center around these menacing predators and their wetlands environs.

With representatives from close to 200 major league and minor league teams attending, the Baseball Winter Meetings are one of the biggest events in professional sports. This is the eighth straight year that Studio Simon has developed the Winter Meetings identity, which includes a triumvirate of event marks for the Meetings, Trade Show and Job Fair, as well as a comprehensive style guide complete with all of the creative elements that the Meetings’ coordinators need for signage, displays, apparel, brochures and all other event-related collateral material.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poster Boy

6-4-3 double plays. Dizzy bat races. Walk-off home runs. Funeral giveaways. Game-saving catches. Biscuits and Lugnuts.

The delightful amalgamation of our national pastime and quirky entertainment is what makes a day or a night out at a Minor League Baseball game one of the most enjoyable experiences for sports fans and families alike. You get talented professional athletes playing in intimate ballparks, hot dogs and cold beers at affordable prices and a furry mascot in oversized shoes taking a pratfall to lose a race around the bases to a five-year-old.

For seven of the past eight years, Studio Simon has been called upon to capture the unique flavor of The Road to the Show in the poster art we create for distribution to all 160 affiliated clubs for display in, and sale at, their stadiums. This theme art is then applied in various forms by the league throughout the season for use in their marketing materials and other print collateral.

Approachable players happy to sign autographs, seats close enough to the action that the first base coach can smell the onions on your breath, and often times a fireworks show to boot. We love this game, and we look forward to bringing it to life in visual form each season!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

That ’70s Cap

Shag carpet. The AMC Gremlin. Pong. The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. There are some things that are certainly not worth bringing back, but Studio Simon does not consider the yellow-crown, black-visor caps worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1970 through 1975 to be among them.

So when developing the brand identity for the Bradenton Marauders, the new Florida State League affiliate of the Pirates, Studio Simon was hoping to resurrect the look of this icon of ’70s baseball headwear, and presented it as an option for the club to consider. Much to our delight, the B-Bucs brass liked the idea, and included it in their on-field uniform system as an alternate cap.

We love the hats, but the pullover crew neck jerseys that those early-’70s Pirate clubs wore are best left on mothballs!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Anchors Aweigh

Avast, me hearties—today’s the day fer which all ye landlubbers been a-waitin’! Th’ Bradenton Marauders be playin’ their first e’er game on this eve, with the lads sportin’ fine Inaugural Season patches on their port-side sleeves.

Arrrgh—enough with the pirate-speak! I don’t wish to hornswaggle you, but I’d rather dance the hempen jig than try to keep that up for an entire post! So let’s just go with the King’s English...

Our initial development explorations for the Bradenton Marauders included, amongst other nautical-themed directions, one with a ship’s anchor that the client very much liked. Though they ultimately chose to make the black-bearded rogue (seen here in the January 10 Game Faces post) the visual focus of their new team identity, we nevertheless were hoping that we would be able to incorporate the anchor somewhere.

The opportunity presented itself when we were looking for a way to hold all of the disparate pieces of the Inaugural Season logo together, and the shape of this particular seafaring device suited our needs perfectly. By stylistically handling certain elements in a consistent manner—the weather-beaten 2010 banner ties into the BRADENTON banner, the white highlights on the anchor suggest those on the face of the pirate character, the same yellow outline contains both the primary and commemorative marks—we were able to achieve our goal of ensuring that this particular extension of the brand fit together seamlessly with the rest of the system.

Friday, April 2, 2010

One and Done

When the Seattle Pilots joined the American League as an expansion team in 1969, little did they know that their new brand identity would have but a one-year shelf life. Due to poor attendance, anxious creditors and lawsuits delaying construction of a new stadium, a group led by current Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig purchased the team and moved it to Milwaukee, where they were renamed the Brewers for the 1970 season.

Flash forward to 2010, when professional baseball will once again see a new brand identity quickly come and go—but this time the short life span of the logos and uniforms is a matter of planned obsolescence.

The last-minute nature of the Oneonta Tigers’ relocation to Norwich, Connecticut—a move that was only officially approved last Friday—did not leave the New York-Penn League club the necessary time to properly explore comprehensive re-branding options and include their new fans in the process. So the decision was made to go with a temporary identity for 2010 only, conduct a name-the-team contest during the season and unveil a new, original moniker and look for the 2011 campaign.

For the Connecticut Tigers’ interim identity, the team asked Studio Simon to develop a monogram that would tie into the classic look of the parent Detroit Tigers ball club. But other teams have previously run into trademark-usage roadblocks when attempting to use letterforms that were too similar to the Cincinnati Reds-owned Cooperstown Collection insignias shown above, so employing a standard Old English font was out of the question. Instead, we developed a custom C, stylistically culled from the distinctive shapes and forms of the time-honored Detroit marks.

So this season, you will see the C-Cats players pursue their goal of one day playing in the major leagues at Comerica Park while sporting attire that mirrors the traditional Tiger togs that have remained largely unchanged from the Ty Cobb era to the present day—just don’t get used to it!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blue Man Group

“Hey blue—you're missing a good game here!”

“You couldn’t make a call in a phone booth!”

“How’d you get a square head in that round mask?”

Since the dawn of baseball, umpires at every level have had to endure being the objects of such ridicule, and discourteous witticisms far worse. Their reward? Expletive-filled rants spewing forth from the mouths of irate managers, deep bone bruises courtesy of 100 mile per hour foul tips off of inadequately protected appendages, and living out of a suitcase, away from their families, for six months at a time—all while only receiving notice if they happen to mess up!

They indeed have a thankless job, and, until recently, these arbiters of balls and strikes suffered the further indignity of not having a logo that was representative of the professionalism they display or the respect they deserve. Knowing a thing or two about toiling away in anonymity, Studio Simon stepped in to right this injustice.

Initially, the client was of the opinion that a depiction of an umpire should not be a part of the new Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation identity, likely due to their dissatisfaction with how this particular element was rendered in, and was not well-incorporated into, their existing logo (seen at right).

But here at Studio Simon, we thrive on solving creative challenges, and felt that we could capture, with the type of simplified, stylized iconography necessary for such brand marks, the authoritative nature of this highly-skilled fraternity of men (and, in about half a dozen instances over the years, women) without having them come across as churlish or aggressive.

After the three different directions shown above were presented, we were asked if it would be possible to marry the one featuring an umpire with the typographic treatment from another. This “Frankenstein” approach does not always work, as meshing disparate elements that were not originally designed to coexist can sometimes be tantamount to mixing oil and water. But in this case, we were fortunately able to fulfill a request that was, as it turns out, an excellent call!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Surf and Turf

“Let’s go surfin’ now,
Everybody’s learnin’ how,
Come on and safari with me!”

For this New York-born, New Jersey-bred boy, those lyrics, and others just like them from the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer” double-LP, painted an enticing picture of a far-away, sun-drenched Eden. Those words proved to be so irresistible that, not long after college graduation, I packed up my drawing table and whatever other belongings I could jam into my Audi 4000 and pointed the nose of my car in the direction of the setting sun in search of the mythical sand and surf of Southern California.

Though I never did buy me a Woody (or even a pair of Huarachi sandals, for that matter), I did spend my fair share of weekends soaking up the rays from Malibu down to Coronado Beach, and was totally stoked whenever I got the opportunity to incorporate my adopted lifestyle into my work.

I lived on the West Coast for 17+ years, so when the NFL called and asked to see San Diego-specific directions for the Super Bowl XXXVII logo, I was on it like wax on a shortboard, with no research trip necessary. Naturally, concepts explored and presented included several focusing on surf culture, plus others featuring other nautical themes and SoCal’s Spanish mission-style architecture.

The surf board solution shown above was a favorite of mine, as well as of the Executive Art Director of NFL Properties at the time, Brad Jansen. Although that logo was not chosen, we were fortunate enough to have another Studio Simon direction—one depicting San Diego’s historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse—selected to be the official mark of SB37.

With the SB36 logo already under the Studio Simon belt, it was a bodacious feeling to rip a second Super Bowl logo in a row. The Beach Boys weren’t kidding when they said, “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world!”

Monday, March 1, 2010

¿Tiene Leche?

If you lived in Tulare County, California, where there are more cows than people and approximately 50% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, you might know that the headline that accompanies this post is Spanish for “Got Milk?” Perhaps you might also think that “Vacas”—Spanish for “Cows”—would make an excellent name for your local baseball club.

That’s what the Visalia Oaks were thinking when they were looking to take their brand identity in an entirely new direction and wanted a team name that tied in to the local dairy industry, yet was also unique to professional sports. In fact, that idea gained enough traction within the ownership group that Studio Simon went so far as to actually flesh out a primary logo for this direction.

We felt that we hit the bullseye with this one, and indeed, for awhile there, it looked like the Visalia Vacas would join another Studio Simon client, the Golden Baseball League’s Long Beach Armada, as one of the few United States sports teams with a Spanish sobriquet. But alas, the team ultimately decided to put the Vacas name out to pasture and went with Visalia Rawhide instead.

We didn’t have a cow about the change, however, and our work was not for naught. The handsome Holstein in the Vacas logo was used as the inspiration for the team’s new mascot, Tipper, and, with a few modifications, some of the artwork made its way into the youth mark we developed as part of the Rawhide identity system.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Job

Christmas? We recognize the allure of waking up to find scads of presents under a fir tree in your own living room. July 4th? Grilled meat, cold beer and fireworks certainly make for about as good of a national holiday as it gets. Thanksgiving? Sure, we love loosening our belts a notch and watching football as much as the next guy.

But when we’re talking about a packed ballyard trimmed with red, white and blue bunting, an immaculately-manicured, green-striped lawn stretched out wide before our eyes and a man in blue yelling “Play Ball!” before the start of the very first game of a brand new baseball season, now that’s a day!

For all of us who are baseball fans, Opening Day is indeed a highly-anticipated event, but here at Studio Simon we also look forward to it from a sports branding standpoint. On top of the Opening Day marks we have already created for numerous professional teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1996 through 2001, this season marks the fifth straight year that Studio Simon has developed the official Opening Day logo for Minor League Baseball.

In addition to its use on a wide range of materials by the league itself, the OD10 logo is distributed to each of the 160 affiliated Minor League Baseball clubs for on-field and in-stadium applications, as well as for any and all of their merchandise, marketing and other collateral needs. Millions of fans see it, so it has to be special—every bit as special as the day itself!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Higher Power

“Why are we learning this stuff? I’m never going to use any of this in real life!”

It is safe to say that I am not alone in having had those thoughts while sitting in one class or another as various teachers droned on about things like reflexive pronouns, ionic compounds and logarithmic equations. But recently, I actually had the occasion to apply some of my secondary education to a sports branding project.

When developing the home cap logo for the Walla Walla Sweets (see January 20 Game Faces post), we realized that any interlocking, stacked or side-by-side WW treatment would appear derivative of the existing logos used by the city’s high school and college teams. So we decided to go back to school ourselves.

Recalling the lessons in exponentiation that we first learned oh-so-many years ago in math class, our solution was to raise the letterform to the second power for a new twist on traditional baseball headwear logos.

The W with the superscript 2 turned out to be a hit, with the first shipment of caps quickly selling out. It turns out that it’s hip to be squared!

(Special thanks to the Walla Walla Sweets’ Brett Axelrod for the photo.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The New Black

Over the past five years, Studio Simon has developed the graphics for more than 20 different Louisville Slugger TPX baseball and TPS softball bats, including the last five incarnations of the Omaha, a favorite of top college players since its debut in 1999.

The latest in the line was unveiled on Sunday, and it is notable more for what it doesn’t have than what it does. Whereas most bat artwork is intentionally bright and eye-catching, the new, limited edition TPX Omaha Silhouette stands out due to its unmistakable absence of color.

Had Darth Vader had this enticing black-and-shades-of-black beauty to offer, we’re certain that things in a galaxy far, far away would have played out quite differently, as Luke Skywalker would most definitely have turned to the “Dark Side”!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A River Runs Through It

An effective brand identity accurately reflects the nature of the product it represents, so it is appropriate for many minor league baseball teams to have logos featuring characters that visually embody those clubs’ family-friendly ballpark experiences. But that’s not the only way to go.

In anticipation of their move to the new ballpark that they will be sharing with the University of Oregon, the Eugene Emeralds, the Northwest League affiliate of the San Diego Padres, were looking for a brand update, with traditional baseball sensibilities, that would capture the natural beauty of their home in the Emerald Valley.

The Ems knew one thing for certain: they wanted their lettering to be a script. Discussions with the team regarding other possible elements for the primary logo kept returning to the Willamette River that winds through town and the city’s most prominent, fir-covered, geographical landmark, Spencer Butte.

After developing a custom cursive that would be unique to, and own-able by, the club, the challenge was to take all of the other ingredients, simplify them down, and consolidate everything into a clean, cohesive logo where it looks like they were meant to be together all along.

No angry acorns. No whimsical wascals. Nevertheless, a professional set of marks and a brand system with a local connection, deeply rooted in community identity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It’s alive! It’s alive!

an·thro·po·mor·phize verb. To ascribe human form or attributes to an animal, plant, material object, etc.

I first learned this word back in high school, when we were reading Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” in which the main character turns into a cockroach. I have since had numerous occasions to not only use, but actually employ, that term, as Studio Simon has been called upon to develop sports identities featuring bat-toting and stick-wielding canines, felines, pachyderms, crustaceans, fish, fowl and insects, not to mention storm clouds, lightning bolts, hammers, nuts, socks and even fish hooks.

So when we were recently asked to design an identity celebrating the Walla Walla Sweet, considered by master chefs and produce consumers alike to be the finest sweet onion in the land, I summoned Igor and together we descended the steps leading down to our creative laboratory, eager to give life—sweet life—to this deliciously edible orb.

The Sweets will begin their inaugural season this summer in the wood-bat West Coast League, whose teams’ rosters are comprised of top Division I college baseball players. Though these particular Boys of Summer may be amateur, the operation of this new franchise is anything but. The ownership group includes Seattle Mariners’ minority partner John Stanton and former Major League all-star Jeff Cirillo, and the front office is headed by Zachary Fraser, the former general manager of the Orem Owlz, one of the Minor League Baseball affiliates of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Recognizing the benefits any organization derives from a professional brand identity, Fraser said he made it his first priority to contact Studio Simon once he was brought on board. Less than two months after the new identity was unveiled, the team had already sold out its premium Diamond Seat and Field Box season tickets—2-1/2 weeks before the team even launched its ticketing campaign.

“I receive 3-4 compliments about our brand identity every day,” Fraser said in a recent e-mail. “People here have a renewed sense of pride in ‘being from Walla Walla’ and feel like this brand is a positive representation of that.”

We certainly prefer that kind of response, as opposed to the possible alternative of torch-bearing townspeople storming our castle!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Marauders Set Sail

When the Pittsburgh Pirates recently purchased the Class-A Sarasota Reds, they brought Studio Simon on board to help them navigate the brand identity development waters in their quest for a unique identity that would thematically tie their new Florida State League affiliate to the parent club.

We worked together with the Pirates’ front office on every leg of the creative journey, starting with name exploration for the new club, which would be relocating to the Pirates’ long-time Spring Training home in Bradenton, FL. Due to the timing of the sale of the team, the project was done on a more condensed schedule than usual, but aside from a brief delay when we had to drop anchor while the trademark attorneys were doing their thing, it was smooth sailing all the way, and the new Bradenton Marauders primary logo was unveiled by Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly and other team officials on December 15.

It has always been my goal to have the work Studio Simon does stand apart from—and above—the competition. For any of the identities we develop, whether or not this goal was achieved will be determined by how that identity resonates with the fans. The poll shown below, which ran on Minor League Baseball.com the day the new Marauders identity was unveiled, has me feeling pretty good about the job we did on this one!