Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Football as Football re-imagines (American) football team logos as (European) football team logos. It's a huge improvement.
Did you miss a playoff berth in your fantasy-football league? If you did, and you're anything like the losers in my fantasy league, then you're looking forward to an off-season full of self reflection and personal improvement. For some of you, it will come to nothing: you'll draft LeSean McCoy again no matter how far his fantasy star falls.
While the better players in your fantasy league pursue playoff glory, here's something to keep you distracted: Football as Football, a graphic-design experiment that re-imagines (American) football team logos as (European) football team logos.
Over the course of this grueling season, six designers and coworkers based in Minneapolis re-created all 32 logos for every team in the NFL to resemble the logos of European soccer clubs. In fact, the designers made 4 sets of all 32 logos, one to mirror the style of each of four major European soccer divisions: German, English, Spanish, Italian. So there's an Italian version of the St. Louis Rams logo, plus Rams logos done up like English, Spanish, and German soccer teams. That's four new logos for a team the world doesn't need in the first place.
Did you even know there were four European soccer leagues? Trick question! There are more, apparently. France, neglected in this thought experiment because America, has two leagues and a logo style all its own (it is probably very aloof). Europe boasts such a diversity of soccer leagues and teams that they cannot all be counted. At least, that was the impression I got from the part of the the recent USA Today explainer on European soccer that I skimmed.
Some of these logos are genuine improvements on their American counterparts. (Not any of the faux–Cowboys logos, mind you; that original blue star is one of the NFL's most noble and least-changed designs.) Note that there is no European vision of the Washington football team logo that can fully scrub away the racism that owner Dan Snyder insists he will never abandon. But the European logos are far less racist than the depiction of Native Americans that Washington, D.C., football fans (and Native Americans) are forced to endure now. It's a start.
In recent years, the NFL, which cannot be counted on to make the right decision no matter what the stakes, has opted for highly animated logos for NFL branding updates. One designer, Mark Verlander, has done much of the recent graphic work for the NFL, designing logos for the Houston Texans, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Cincinnati Bengals as well as wordmarks for the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. (Verlander has also done design work for the NFL Network and ESPN The Magazine.)
There's nothing wrong with Verlander's work. But the proliferation of throwback uniforms—from the jerseys worn by fans to the ones used by players on the field—suggests that there may be an appetite for different approaches to team designs. Pentagram studio designer Matt McInerney may be best known to a certain stripe of design fan for making a set of minimalist NFL logos. While these designs were a big hit among fans, they're unthinkable in the NFL, which insists on a singular branding vision for the entire league (one that's entirely too Disney).
To be sure, the European leagues cited by Football as Football are every bit as uniform in their approach to league design as the NFL. That's why there's a German soccer-club style that can be differentiated from an Italian soccer-club style, after all. And I think I get it: The Italian logos look kind of like badges, while the Spanish logos are more like crests. Meanwhile, the English logos are more animated, like the NFL logos. So the Spanish version of the Buffalo Bills logo taps the city's flag for inspiration, while the English edition relies on an especially lifelike Buffalo compared to the other three.
It's wishful thinking, but a team's logo ought to be more intimately tied to the city that hosts it. A less centralized approach to graphic work for the NFL could lead to designs that better reflect the cultures and histories that distinguish one football town from another. (Ask any fan: These lines are as old as any city.) Who could say better what a team's logo should be than a designer who lives in that city and roots for that team?