[Editor’s Note: I was out of town with no internet access for the past three days and am still catching up on stuff, so Vince is gonna pinch-hit for today’s main entry. He’s got a really interesting topic, so check that out, and then I’ll meet you further down with today’s Ticker and other stuff. — Paul]
By Vince Grzegorek
A couple of weeks ago, the “hidden arrow” in the FedEx logo started a discussion in the comments section about sports-related design that make creative use of negative space or figure/ground ambiguity, so I asked Paul if I could whip up an entry devoted to that topic, and he readily agreed.
Judging by some of the posts from that initial discussion, more than a few people were unaware of the FedEx arrow (look in between the e and the x), so we’ll start with a few easy examples. Take the Big Ten logo, for example, which clearly displays the number “11” flanked around the letter “T” to acknowledge that the conference actually has 11 teams. Subtle? No, it practically smacks you in the face with the obvious. Give the Big Ten credit for trying to be creative because, like this logo, it ties together the name with some extra information about the product. It might take you a second to name all the teams in the Big Ten, but you certainly know that there are eleven of them.
But that’s the whole point of some of these more creative designs — to give you a little more information, to make the design mean something more. But not every example is so easy to spot. At first glance, the old Hartford Whalers logo clearly shows a whale’s tail and a green W. Look closer, though, and you’ll see that the white space forms an H, for Hartford. Another example: the Iowa Hawkeyes logo, where you can kind of see a lowercase i made up by the eye and jowl of the bird (although this is actually a repurposing of positive space) — a little too sloppy to be impressive to me, but still better than some uses of negative space by other organizations.
Then there are designs that aren’t necessarily built around negative space but still have hidden, incognito elements. One of the best examples, in my humble opinion, is the old ball-in-glove Milwaukee Brewers logo, which initially looks like just a ball in a mitt. On second glance, though — or at least when someone tells you what to look for — you can see the lowercase letters m and b, for Milwaukee Brewers. Another fantastic example is the old Vancouver Canucks stick and rink logo with the stick creating the letter C in the ice.
The Washington State logo that creatively forms a cougar’s head with a stylized “W”, “S”, and “U”, and the Falcons’ logo that forms the letter “F” fall into a separate but equally interesting category of design. [My own favorite for typographic cleverness is the completely ingenious Sun Microsystems logo, one of the last and best designs created by the late, great Paul Rand. — PL] Feel free to post any designs that I forgot to mention in the comments section, along with any corrections/additions to my very basic understanding of graphic design.
And now over to Paul, fresh off his Finger Lakes weekend getaway…
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Uni Watch News Ticker: I’ve been saying for months now that the Mets were a flawed team that would probably be picked off in the first round of the playoffs. Turns out I was half-right. … According to a small item on this page, many of the Rangers are so unhappy with the NHL’s new slim-fit unis that they’ve asked for oversized jerseys (with thanks to Jesse Spector). … Still more complaints about the new NHL jerseys can be found by scrolling down to the “Guaranteed to Tear” section of this page … Check out the striped shoulder yokes worn by Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas (great find by Warren Thompson). … According to an item on this page (scroll down the “The Red Tide” section), several Texas Rangers players are lobbying for the team to restore red as the club’s primary color for 2009, as was the case for much of the 1990s (with thanks to Jason Elliot). … Cool weekend for the Astros, who honored Craig Biggio’s final games by dressing like this on Friday and like this on Saturday. Plus he played catcher, complete with a personalized chest protector and uni-numbered mask. Note the circa-’97 Jackie Robinson sleeve patch, too. … Susan Freeman attended the Friday Astros game and notes that the giveaway throwback T-shirt was all wrong (incorrect stripe pattern, and the stripes should’ve gone down through the sleeves). She also reports, “I spoke with Woody Williams about how sweet the unis were, and he said, ‘Yeah, these are way better. I am so sick of those pinstripes!’ ” … Two items of note from yesterday’s Lions/Bears game (both courtesy of Scott Yager): 1) Yikes. 2) What’s the story here? Like, is the jersey bolted to his pants or what? … Here’s a purple uni even I can love. Can’t they just go back to that design? … High-larity. … A trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange apparently likes to wear a vintage football helmet (with thanks to John Muir). … Want to knit someone a football-related scarf, sweater, or whatever? Knitting blogger Holly Bee has matched each NFL team’s colors to specific yarns (as forwarded by John Kailukaitis). … No photo, but I’m told that Rashad Johnson’s “9” decal — the one that was knocked off his helmet a few weeks back — was still missing as of last Saturday. … Ken Clark was doing some research on his hometown of Tustin, California, and found this great 1926 photo of the local high school baseball team and this 1924 shot of the school’s football team. … Not sure if this has been discussed elsewhere, but John McClanahan sent me a note on Friday about LSU’s special Katrina uniforms, which were worn on Saturday: “I have an equipment manager friend who tells me that when LSU got the jerseys in, all of the single-digit players’ jerseys had a zero in front — 01, 02, etc. As of Thursday night, replacements for these jerseys had not arrived.” If the replacements hadn’t arrived in time for Saturday, the team was supposedly prepared to wear its regular jerseys with the white helmets and pants. But, obviously, that turned out not to be necessary. … Hey, speaking of that photo: Vince says, “Look at the tape on the LSU player’s hands. The right one has a horseshoe and the number 9, and it looks like the left hand has another horseshoe and another number. Is there any chance he’s honoring or paying tribute to Anthony McFarland, number 92 of the Colts, who’s currently on injured reserve but also holds numerous defensive records at LSU?” … Also from Vince: a very odd rear-jersey design; USF kicker Delbert Alvarado’s haircut message; tons of great White Sox photos here; Omar Vizquel’s orange shoelaces; and “What’s worse, Charlie Manuel in a wet T-shirt, or that Majestic logo on his belly?'” … We’ve talked a lot about MLB players wearing flag designs on their equipment. But Stuart Greenlee notes that Giants pitcher Travis Blackey has the flag of his native Australia tattooed on his forearm. … Here’s a facet of the pink knapsack ritual you might not be aware of: At the end of the season, the rookies burn the accursed thing (yet another contribution from Vince). … Josh Towers wore this cap yesterday, while the rest of the Blue Jays wore this one. … I’ll be discussing the new NHL unis on XM’s “NHL Home Ice” show this Wednesday, 11:05 a.m. eastern.