The Detroit Lions unveiled their new, revamped team logo this week, but I have a strange feeling of dejá vu, as the artwork looks oddly familiar to me.
When the Lions unveiled their new logo and uniform Monday, president Tom Lewand called a couple of kids up from the audience and gave them new t-shirts, along with a brief explanation as to why one of the oldest franchises in the NFL decided to update their decades-old brand:
“I want to thank you guys in particular because ever since you guys have been born, we haven’t been very good,” Lewand said to the kids. “But we’re going to change that for you guys. The Lions don’t want to abandon the brand they have built over 75 seasons in Detroit. But after more than a half-century without a championship, going 31-97 over the past eight years, including the NFL’s first 0-16 season, they want to look to the future.
Part of that is an updated look. The new logo actually looks like a leaping lion — with an eye, teeth and claws — instead of just an outline. The new uniform looks like the old one, only with curvy numbers and streamlined, consistent stripes. The circus letters are history, replaced by a custom-designed font.
“It says to everybody else who’s looking at us, ‘Don’t forget about Detroit,’ ” Lewand said. ” ‘We’re tough. We’ve got character. We’ve got motion. We’ve got animation. And in contrast to the old lion, you might not want to take on this one.’ “.
Animation is the key word here.
Am I the only one who sees Disney’s “The Lion King” in this new artwork? (see main image at top of page) Whether you see Mufasa, Simba or Scar, I’m convinced there was some serious influence on the designer(s) by that lovely, warm-hearted movie.
Which leads me to my next question: so, THIS is the new, tough Detroit Lions? Based off a warm-hearted, animated film? THIS is supposed to strike fear into the competition? THIS is the big change the team needed to shed last season’s record-setting horrific 0-16 record? THIS is the logo that says, “In contrast to the old lion, you might not want to take on this one”?
Um, I hate to tell you this, Mr. Lewand, but this new logo, the one you hope will inspire fear in the eyes of your competition, the one on which you have likely spent a fortune of money that Motor City probably didn’t need to spend right now in this current economy, the one that will cost even more in all of the reprinting, re-stitching, re-painting and re-posting of it on top of the old one - really isn’t that different for your original logo. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s basically a slight modification to the old logo - and actually looks more generic - more USFL if you will - than the original does.
In fact, those “circus” letters are actually a variant on a very old and very classic font called Thunderbird - and they’re more of an Old West style font than a circus font (yet after Las Vegas’ Circus Circus co-opted a bolder version of the font, I can understand the reference). Although I suppose with the way the Lions played last year, clowns are probably heavily on Mr. Lewand’s - and all of the Detroit faithful’s - minds right now. Personally I already miss the classic feel of the old Thunderbird font, but I can understand why the decision-makers felt more comfortable with dramatically changing the font than they did with dramatically changing the graphic. Logotypes (fonts) have always been the red-headed stepchild of logo graphics (marks), so changing that must have been a no-brainer. Too bad. As the new “brand” now looks more like something we’d see in the Canadian Football League - or even the recently folded NFL Europa.
You want a great example of how a team updated their image in a good and dramatic way? Take the New England Patriots, who revamped their brand back in 1993 - taking a very dated image and modifying it - while still maintaining the core essence of the brand - turning it into something that said: “We’re tough. We’ve got character. We’ve got motion. We’ve got animation. And in contrast to the old Patriot, you might not want to take on this one.”
Gee, that worked pretty well for that team, in hindsight.
Change is good. No, change is great. And I actually applaud the Lions for turning to a re-branding effort in order to help alter a now-embedded perception of what this age-old team has become over recent history. But come on. This isn’t a re-brand. It’s a re-tooled piece of vector art - nothing more than a designer taking a low resolution jpeg off the web and recreating it cleanly in Illustrator - with a little added definition to the final artwork. Artistic License if you will. This is not a rebrand. It is not a modification of a brand. It is not an improvement of a brand. It’s a meek attempt at going through the motion of doing something new, when deep down I’m guessing that Mr. Lewand never really intended to change the logo in the first place. Which means that after all of the hoopla surrounding the big re-branding of the NFL’s venerable Detroit Lions, the circle of this logo’s life has, well, come full circle - right back to where it began.
Oh, yeah - with a brand spanking new logotype. Sorry. I almost forgot about that.
Having now seen the “new” look - and with the benefit of hindsight - had I been asked, I would have advised Mr. Lewand to save all of the money this project has - and will continue to - cost him, and instead, donate it to team owner William Clay Ford for him to invest in a better, greener car design over there at the Ford Motor Company. I think all of Detroit - and the rest of the country for that matter - would have benefitted far more from that in both the short- and the long- run, than from Mufasa on a helmet.
I wonder if Elton John will write the team’s theme song? I mean, come on. If you’re gonna go, you might as well go all the way, right?