The new MLS logo was unveiled on Thursday. As a graphic designer and U.S.-based football fan, I was eager to see what my home country’s league had come up with.
My response: deflated excitement.
To be sure, the new MLS logo is better than the old, which was overly masculine, dated, and didn’t reflect the growth of the league.
The fact that the MLS undertook a rebranding project is a sign of its commitment to growing—and supporting—the league in years to come.
The new logo is modern and uses clean, bold lines. The font isn’t the awful 3D shadow nonsense that so many sports franchises in the United States try to employ on the theory that it imparts strength and appeals to the predominantly male audience.
Everything about these efforts makes sense – but the result is disappointing.
Look, I’m not bashing the logo purely for the sake of it. I love football and I love good design, and I want so badly for the MLS to get it right. In many ways, it does—the typography across the clubs is superb and the move away from a male-centric look is smart. But here are three specific reasons why the new logo leaves us lukewarm:
1. The ‘tail’
Ah, the tail. Called a “slash” by MLS, it is inexplicable. Located on the lower left side, one could suppose the tail represents a foundation or a past—both legitimate attributes—but instead of being a visual foundation, it leaves us thinking “unfinished.”
According to the MLS, “The slash refers to soccer’s speed and energy. The slash begins outside the perimeter and drives upward at a 45-degree angle to illustrate both the nonstop nature of our game and the rising trajectory of our league. It bisects the crest to create a “first half” and “second half.”
All right, I can get behind the “upward trajectory” and “nonstop nature” ideas, but the tail is, shall we say, leaving something behind. It’s a Tail Fail.
2. Generic does it`
Every good logo should leave you with an impression once you view it.
The problem with the MLS logo is we’re not sure what impression to have—and that is not what a brand should do.
According to the MLS website, which provides call-outs around the logo (one of which points to the stars and says “Stars”), the three stars represent the pillars of the brand: For Club, For Country, For Community, a slogan that was nicked from a tifo made for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Portland, Oregon.
These are lofty ideas, but I would never have gotten that from the three stars if I hadn’t read up on the meaning. I worry that this credo will be lost on most people.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the explanation of the shield-shape, which is fairly standard in football club logos. The MLS describes the “perimeter” as “representing the lines that mark off the field of play.”
All I can say is, what?
3. The club crests
This is where the MLS really lost me. The new logo has been extended throughout the league with each club being given its own version. I can only imagine a club’s reaction upon receipt was, “Um, thanks? But what is this? We already have a logo.”
These weird club versions dilute the strength of the main crest (always supposing it has some) and creates confusion. Are the clubs expected to use these crests? Where? Why? Why not unify the league with one logo? Now the clubs must identify with a whole new logo that has no appeal outside of its area.
Sports Illustrated reported that MLS marketing officers said, “The rebrand is about more than the logo…
“It’s part of a more comprehensive system designed to bind together the league’s website, mobile and broadcast platforms, as well as events like MLS Cup, all of which will carry the new look next year. The crest is easier to animate, recolour or deconstruct.”
All of that is true. If those were the only aims put forth by the MLS, they have succeeded.
As I said, the new logo is a step in the right direction and certainly better than the old. But the passion that exists and is building in the United States for the beautiful game demands a logo that captures our hearts and energy, and this one doesn’t quite do that.