Thursday, January 30, 2014

It is that time of year when the toughest of them all, stand in front of an audience of millions for the greatest challenge of their careers. Many have spent a lifetime to get to this moment. Few have ever made it to this arena. I'm talking about the Superbowl. And while there is a football game at stake here, behind the scenes, there is much much more. This is as much a day for the players as it is for the advertisers.

Even the NFL logo breaks the rules
But instead of looking at the commercials, which I know most marketing blogs will do, I'd like to look at the NFL teams. Each NFL team is also a brand and has a logo which it uses to unite the team. We see these logos plastered all over the home-town cities. Just take the public transportation, flip on the TV, or even look up and you'll find a flag. Marketers will tell you, the best logo works on any media. A flag is one of the most difficult media to work with. But, unlike football, the rules are simple.

So I am going to hold my own season challenge to see which NFL football team has the best logo for a flag. Feel free to throw a flag on the play as you see it in the comments below. But for now, buckle up for the NFL Logo playoffs.

A quality custom logo flag meets three simple rules. There are exceptions. We will get into some of those later...

  1. Simple, easy to identify design
  2. No words or letters are preferred
  3. Three colors or less
Like I said, there are exceptions, but these are the guiding principles any vexillologist (flag-expert) will tell you. These elements are what a skilled designer looks for in a flag. If you can effectively communicate on a flag, you can effectively communicate on virtually any media. And a flag is one of the best and most ancient practices to promote brand and unity.

Rule 1 Cuts: Simple, easy to identify design
Now for eliminations. While all NFL logos are very well done, there can be only one. So let's cut to the chase. Which NFL football teams break rule #1?

 Baltimore Ravens Logo - difficult to reproduce, more than three colors, and the letter "b". While it is a nice logo and by most all standards makes a great flag, we are looking at the best of the best.

 Jacksonville Jaguars have a very similar issue as the Baltimore Ravens, the logo is just too complicated to reproduce.

 The Buccaneers logo is even more complicated than the Ravens or Jaguars! But they recently changes to the sword with a flag. this is also a bit complicated.

 A logo within a logo is a very difficult design to pull off for a flag. While many of the designers may have not been thinking about their logo on a flag, the goal is always simple, straight forward communication. The Washington Redskins have two logos, both of which are complex.

 The Tennessee Titans logo almost made the cut to the playoffs, but the stars in the ball of fire, five color design and the "T" which also resembles a stake just makes this logo too complicated.

 The Philadelphia Eagles have a great logo, but it is difficult to reproduce and could easily be simplified and the four-color logo reduced to three colors. This was also a close call for the playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings logo is a five-color triumph to the Scandinavian ancestry, however, the logo is very complicated. And so it does not make our cut.

Rule 2 Cuts: No words or letters are preferred
In round 2, we will look at the words or letters. A flag is an in-motion piece only controlled by wind. Words can get lost on the canvas of a flag. If you want to be the best, you have to get rid of the mess.

The logo image is simple enough, but it may be too simple for the Kansas City Chiefs. Without the words, the image might be undefinable. For that, this is follows rule 1, but is an exception in almost the opposite way. The logo is too hard to recognize. Regardless, the overlapping letters and word "CHIEFS" makes this logo not suitable for flying.

 Not only do the Giants have a complicated logo, they have large text and small text. The quarterback buses rule 1, the "Giants" and small "ny" abuse rule 2, and the flag has five colors, abusing rule 3. If this were baseball, 3 strikes would really mean something.

 The "turn a word into an object" never works on a flag. And although the 3-D effect is cool within a simple three-color logo design, this logo falls short, clearly violating rule 2. A "jet" is a great iconic symbol that could easily be drawn, produced and applied to all types of media.

 This is a great logo save for one detail, the small "Steelers" words. On a flag, this would disappear. This is a great example of four-color design made to really highlight three-colors, so it would pass rule 3 even though there are four colors.

 Who doesn't like the Raiders logo? But unfortunately the "Raiders" in this flag forces me to give this the boot. It also breaks rule one, as faces are typically too complicated. The eye-patch and simple three-color line drawing allows this logo to get away with a lot. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to make the logo playoffs.

San Fransisco was almost an exception, but stacking letters are difficult to read. This design does not indicate 49ers or any other association for the team, so we had to pull it.

Rule 3 Cuts: Three colors or less
While many of the above flags failed to pass the test for more than just one rule, there are some flags that would have been great, with fewer colors.
Carolina Panthers have a great logo. The drawing is simple, yet clear. But the four color logo could be dropped to three. 

The Long Horns logo is also a work of art, but the gradient in the background makes the logo break the color rule.

The Cardinals logo is one of my favorites. The bird is well defined and easy to recognize, yet simple at the same time. But it is a four-color logo and thus does not make the cut to the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins logo is not my favorite. But I must admit it is a great logo. This is a nice example of overlapping symbols producing a dramatic overall effect. The sun and the dolphin is a great symbol of freedom from perseverance and effort. But the four-color logo lets me take it out of the finals.

The Denver Broncos have a fantastic logo. But the colors are too complicated in an unnecessary way. But I love how the horse also looks like a football. Nice touch. Wish this one stayed on, but it is cut due to color and rule 3.

So which NFL football logo is left standing?
So what team logos made the final 12? We will be putting these logos head to head with each other. 
1. Buffalo Bills

2. Atlanta Flacons

3. Chicago Bears

 4. Cincinnati Bengals

 5. Cleveland Browns

 6. Dallas Cowboys

 7. Detroit Lions

 8. Greenbay Packers

 9. Indianapolis Colts

 10. New Orleans Saints

 11. Seattle Seahawks

12. San Diego Chargers

PLAYOFFS! First Round:
 Bills vs. Browns
In this competition, the Bills take home the victory as they have a more stylized logo with a simpler but still very clear symbol of the buffalo with the red stripe. The logo also describes the team. The Browns logo is a really nice three-color design, but does not really describe the team and is more complex.
 Cowboys vs. Chargers
This is a very close match up. The chargers logo takes home the victory for me because it describes the team. However, the cowboy's logo is creative as it both describes the cowboy mentality as will as the great state of Texas, the lone-star state. The iconic star has been used as a symbol in many flags throughout flag history. The charger symbol is unique and very identifiable.

Flacons vs. Bengals
 Two animals face off in this game. The Falcon is a symbol that is easy to replicate and apply to any kind of media, particularly a flag. The Bengal is also very well done. They both are a three-color design. But the complex lines on the Bengal make this the looser in this match up.

 Packers vs. Seahwaks
Greenbay breaks the mold here. The letter becomes a symbol. The stylized "G" is well done and while it is not a symbol representing an animal like the Seahawk, it is clear and well designed. The Seahawk not only represents the team's mascot, but it also shows the unique Seattle style of art which is influenced by the Inuit people. The three-colors on the Seahwak logo is very admirable. For these reasons, Greenbay comes up short in this game.

 Bears vs. Lions
Both of these logos are great. But the Lions logo is better. The complex design of the Bears logo makes it difficult to reproduce and could get lost on a flag. However, the Bears logo breaks the mold of rule #1 because the complex design is done in a ways that allows the eye to focus and easily see the image as one piece rather than a series of complex lines. The Lions logo has the right amount of space and lines to make it perfect for a flag.

 Colts vs. Saints
This is another close match. The victor of which is very difficult to say. The Colt shoe is creative and also represents many common cultural ideas (for example, luck). The Fleur De Lis is an iconic symbol that has a history well beyond our nation. In this match, the saints take home the victory. But it is a close game. Really too close to tell. The Colts get extra points for a two-color design... the only two-color logo in the NFL.

PLAYOFFS! Second Round:

Bills vs. Falcons
The Bills will take this one. While the Falcon is a strong icon, it will not fill the flag as well as the Bills logo. Close match, and I like the Falcon logo more, but I have to give it to the Bills.

Lions vs. Chargers
The Chargers can not be stopped. The logo is perfect for a flag and is an unmistakable unique symbol. They just have a really strong brand here. The Lion is great, but just not great enough.

Saints vs. Seahawks
This is a very close match with completely different style custom logos. The Saints logo doesn't fit a flag very well because it is tall. On the other hand, the Seahawk logo long. The Seattle Seahawk logo is creative, unique to the area and well done with just three colors, but the same can be said for the Fleur De Lis. I'm going with creativity on this one. The Fleur De Lis is a symbol used in many places to mean many things. But the Seahawk is unique. Seattle wins.

 Bills, Seahawks, and Charges
 Out of all the NFL teams, three remain as the best custom logo for a flag. It is not easy to choose between these three as they all are very good. But we must have a victor. The game must go on! So we will look at all angles and determine the winner. Both the Charger logo and the Bills logo is appropriately sized for a flag, so we will eliminate the Seahawks.

Between the Chargers and the Bills... final game! The real logo playoffs. Both logos are very good. They follow the flag rules, they communicate for their team and they have a uniqueness that makes the brand powerful in the market. The logos are a great dimension for a flag and have wonderful attractive colors. I'm going with the Chargers though. The logo looks not only like a bolt of lightening or a charge of electricity, but it also resembles a spiraling football. On a flag, this in-motion signage is very effective. The Bills flag is a very close runner up. But second place doesn't get your name on the trophy.

San Diego Chargers win!