Leave it to the pros


Several months back, the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets unveiled their new brand identity, designed by non-other than Jay-Z, to a fair amount of “meh” reactions. The blog-o-sphere was alight with commentary and, of course, redesigns, the best of which were by designer Andrew Guirgis, who took the idea and added the polish and finish that many of us, at least in the design-world, feel that the new logo lacks.

So, let’s discuss for a moment: first off, it’s not a bad logo & brand identity. The stark palette of black & white is a bold choice, and the overall cleanliness and simplicity of it is actually quite refreshing in relation to the loud, angled, aggressive and overly dimensional logos that are commonplace among modern sports teams. It certainly is retro-styled, which is also unusual for a major sports-team’s main mark (not just for “throwback Thursdays”). It’s clean, simple, and — yes — bold, so I applaud them for taking the new look in this direction.

However, there’s something underwhelming about it, something missing — It’s a little… flat. I mean no disrespect to whomever designed the logo (I know that Jay-Z is a regular reader of this blog, sorry to break this to you this way man), whether it was actually Hova pushing pixels around in Photoshop, or whether his “designer” role was really more of a directorial role (as one might suspect). It just feels as though it lacks finish, lacks polish. It’s missing the extra “pop” that takes an good logo and makes it great. It’s almost slavishly styled after its retro-inspiration (50’s era subway signs), so much so that it doesn’t feel modern, it’s not transformed into something new, something unexpected. And there’s a few weird technical question marks, such as the way the “S” in Nets was altered to fit the space, the seemingly inconsistent use of typefaces, and the awkward lock-up of the “shield” with “BROOKLYN”.

Granted this is a LOT of scrutiny to put this logo under, but it IS for a major, multimillion dollar franchise, in a billion-dollar industry, and is being not only backed but produced by a major media and entertainment figure, so the scrutiny seems justifiable. That being said, it’s like they dialed the logo up to 8 or 9 , and didn’t quite push it to 10 or, as Nigel Tufnel would point out, to 11.

This brings me around to my point: leave it to the pros! I’m speculating that one of two things happened here: IF Jay-Z actually was the one to put this artwork together, he would have been well advised to consult with a professional designer. If it was a designer (or design team for that matter) that was working under Hov’s direction, then I suspect that they weren’t given the creative authority that they needed to create a truly professional mark. This seems like — either way — a situation where the “pros” — in this case graphic designers (you know, the ones with experience, training, and innate visual sense) didn’t have their hands fully on the reigns. And if that’s the case, I feel the final product has suffered as a result.

What can we learn from this? Well, for our first scenario, there’s a real lesson of “let the designer’s design” — this isn’t to say that only GRAPHIC DESIGNERS® should be allowed to touch sacred pixels. Of course not. But on a major project that’s tied to a major business venture, it really is best to let a professional handle things, even if just at a consultant level. Your logo reflects who you are as an entity: don’t let it scream “my brother-in-law’s cousin designed this!!”.

The second, which is one we deal with quite frequently, is to properly define the roles of client and designer at the start of any project or relationship. As a client, it’s important to let many of the visual / strategic / execution – related decisions be made by the designer. But of course, this will only happen when the client trusts that his or her designer is making these decisions with a true understanding of the client’s goals, and isn’t steering the client towards a direction that isn’t inline with these goals.

Put more simply: the role of the client is to clearly express the goals, audience, tone, approach and philosophy behind the desired logo (or website, or campaign), and the designer’s job is to listen, absorb, reinforce, challenge and, ultimately — translate these ideas into visual communication.

What do you guys think? Love the new look? Or do you feel that it just could have been… better? (the one on the left is the official logo, the one on the right is a redesign by Andrew Guirgis)