Mourning the 3rd Anniversary of the Death of Super Bowl Logos

Written By:  •  Friday, February 1, 2013

Superbowl logo history terrible templated design

It is rarely a wise idea to speak for other people. However, in this case it seems acceptable; the authors and visitors of this site love design. We enjoy the craft, the study, the research that goes into design. We pour over the lines, the curves, the individual elements. We linger on the colors, the palate selection, the main versus accent colors. We hold the logo in our hands, examine the balance, the depth, the weight.

But the NFL doesn’t care about personality, distinction, city pride, timeliness, or design. At all. They have stolen one of the most interesting pieces of their game that occurs off the field; the Super Bowl Logos.

This is not new. We are on our third straight boring templated logo for this Sunday’s “big game.” Its a shame, a design crime, that the masters of their craft are not allowed to apply their incredible talents to represent a year, a city, a venue, a worldwide phenomenon of  a game.

Dan Simon, designer of the Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVII logos, likened being the designer of the Super Bowl logo to being awarded an Oscar. Once you’ve been awarded the honor, you are forever known as a “Super Bowl logo designer.”

The NFL has killed the design community’s Academy Awards. And its time to change.

The 4th iteration of the game’s logo. January 11, 1970

In the beginning years of the Super Bowl, it didn’t even have its iconic name. During the AFL/NFL merger talks which began in earnest in 1966, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the game as the “Super Bowl,” combining the college year-end games term of bowls (originally named after the Rose Bowl, itself named after the bowl-shaped stadium,) and his daughter’s new toy, the Super Ball. (One can now see that Super Ball in the pro football hall of fame.)  Despite being called the “World Championship Game” for the first event, fans and players alike stuck with the catchier Super Bowl.

In the first 8 years, the logo for the game was simply a special font. Some very late-60′s and 70s looking, but just fonts nonetheless.

Beginning with the January 12th, 1975 game in Tulane Stadium, the logo began to take on hints of its location.

January 12th, 1975 showed this logo for the New Orleans game, the last in Tulane Stadium

 

Superbowl iii 3 logo patch

3rd game patch, with clipart football player.

This began a grand tradition of including the destination city in the design, which would continue to be more and more involved over the years that followed. A trend that continued as long as the NFL would allow it.

1982 started an 11 year run of logos that were all red and navy. Hooray, America.

The 1985 game, played in Stanford Stadium, started truly taking into design consideration the fact that the logos were being used as uniform patches. As you can see, the patches needed entirely new designs, incorporating the wordmark with extraneous graphics to make a patch design. This diluted the brand, and that’s something the league certainly would not stand for. So, the designs began to take on more of a shield look

 

 Location influences went from hinted at to really overt beginning with the logo for the Pasedena game in 1987. The rose was very prominent in the logo, in honor of the stadium, the Rose Bowl.

Super Bowl XXVI was the first to actually include a football, of all things. Funny thing is, NFL art director Brad Jansen originally included the Lombardi Trophy in the logo, not an actual football. He was told not to use the trophy “in any commercial way,” so it was changed into a football with speed lines. Funny how times change.

The 1994 game in Atlanta was the first logo in 14 years without any red in the logo. It featured a large peach, despite the fact that the state of Georgia is only the 3rd leading producer of peaches. But that’s an association state of Georgia promoters have chosen to promote regardless. It was the first in a get of logos that all had a similar look. Large connection to their host city, details dancing around the outside of the logo, bold bright, distinctive colors.

Assembly of Super Bowl logos from SportsLogos.net courtesy of SportsDesignBlog

Little did we know, but the 2005 game logo was the beginning of the end. All the following, before the chrome logos started, had a blue and a red star incorporated as a nod to the NFC and AFC. Otherwise, all the logos essentially featured the roman numerals and had very little other than a hint of the location in the design. The prime exception is the February 10, 2007 game in Arizona which had a shape that vaguely resembled the state and had distinctively Arizonian colors.

 

The last real logo for the big game was for the February 7, 2010 game played in Sun Life Stadium in Florida; Super Bowl XLIV. When released, feedback wasn’t overwhelmingly positive, but we in the design community didn’t realize it was the last we’d ever see. It should have been a time of celebration, to embrace the creativity, the greenfield possibilities, and the fun that was anticipating then seeing the logo.

Then the templatey, repetitive crap began. It isn’t that the logo itself is bad, its a well rendered logo, it does a good job of showing the metallic shiny goodness that is the Lombardi trophy. But why the same logo every year? The NFL has said that they wanted to stabilize their brand, provide consistency, and have one image represent each of their playoff rounds.

We discussed these reasons over the rich mahogany conference room table at the Worldwide Sports Logo Headquarters over this morning’s weekly meeting, and we’ve decided they are all garbage. They have killed the design, the personality, and the interest in the Super Bowl logo. In what way is that positive? Is what way does standardizing, boringifying, lamerificalizing the logo do anything other than make people completely forget each year, forget each logo, forget that each event should and does have its own personality?

Why continue to change city locations? Why not build a Super Bowl stadium in the center of the country, in an empty field you can call Super Bowl City? Why not change all of the franchises to NFL Franchise 1 through 32, all in red, white, and blue, and wearing the NFL shield on all their shoulders? Why not? Because it would be lame. Just like these new ridiculous chrome template Super Bowl logos are.

I realize this rejection is three years late from the announcement that the logos were going templated. But the three years have made the sting hurt even more deeply. The bland look is boring us past sleep almost on to death. Its been grating on us for years now. The experiment is over. Its time to go back to the beauty that is a new, distinctive logo. Hire the best out there in the design world. Give an unknown their deserved design Oscar.

You’d think with how litigious the NFL is, similar to the Olympics officials, they should easily staunchly defend whatever design they came up with. You might think that they could defend the brand, defend a unique logo as easily as they defend the shiny phallic shaped template.

But you might also think that the movie Idiocracy is fiction. I say its a frighteningly accurate crystal ball of where the country is headed.

Article Categories:

Share This Article

Related News

About Author

JR Francis

JR Francis is an actor, writer, director, graphic designer, UX guru, father, comedian, and craft beer snob. You can reach him at jrfrancis@sportslogos.net or on Twitter @JRFrancisSLN*One of several full-time uniform reporters this site has including its founder, Chris Creamer, who started his site in 1997

  • http://ozloya.com oz loya

    ..where’s the city identity? where’s the flavor?

    RIP SuperBowl logos.

    • MF Cavalli

      Exactly!! Used to look forward to seeing the upcoming Super Bowl logo/patch. No more city identity or anything…BLAH! Such a shame.

  • Giordano

    I share the frustration and the lament at seeing the death of the Super Bowl logo. I remember being excited each spring waiting to find out what the new logo would look like. This standard logo is such a lame corporate move by the NFL that rekindles the “No Fun League” moniker. Hopefully they’ll learn how grievous their logo killing move was and restore this once great tradition.

  • http://ipgcomic.com IPGComic

    It’s not much but the Super Bowl has been making alternate logos that have similar designs to the old SB logos we loved.

    I can’t pull up the Super Bowl XLVI one from the site but the superbowl.com design is based more on the alt logo than the generic one.

    I know it’s not the same but…small victory and until they undo this mistake.

  • http://atombobmbikini.net Robert Ullman

    Roger Goodell seems to have a vendetta against anything but the blandest and corporate-looking identity for the NFL. Don’t forget he changed the Pro Bowl and AFC and NFC Championship trophies as well. A crying shame, removing all the quirky charm for the big game and replacing it with a wal-mart mentality.

  • TJFromToronto

    I say this without hyperbole: “Why continue to change city locations? Why not build a Super Bowl stadium in the center of the country, in an empty field you can call Super Bowl City? Why not change all of the franchises to NFL Franchise 1 through 32, all in red, white, and blue, and wearing the NFL shield on all their shoulders? Why not? Because it would be lame. Just like these new ridiculous chrome template Super Bowl logos are” is the best thing I’ve read, on any topic, in a very long time. I couldn’t agree more.

    • ingmar66

      Totally agree with your praise. Well written, JR! The NFL should be very much ashamed of itself. Even UEFA soccer, in all its corporate blandness from a design point of view, has a distinctive logo for each Champions League Final venue.

  • Kweku Dadzie

    Great article, especially the hyperbole that sits above me. Two issues: Super Bowl 40′s logo was the start of the short blue and red star era, but it still had host city personality. The steel plate look and the odometer boxes for the word “Super Bowl” were a nod to Detroit’s history in the auto industry. Also, Super Bowl 42 was played on February 3, 2008, not February 10, 2007.

    • John Z

      You beat me to it…

  • Ethan Day

    Should this site launch a contest for alternate super bowl logos?

  • musyarofah

    NFL should be ashamed with UEFA Champions League (sorry for bad english :) )

  • Doug

    Actually, the logos do change as the background stadiums are usually shown. Personally, I like the new one and don’t mind the template being reused.

  • Jimmy Kemp

    That is the NFL for you, No Fun League. It sucks, the Super Bowl logos unique designs were great, such a shame now. Just another reason why I am becoming less of an NFL fan.

  • John Z

    Minor correction… that logo for XLII was played 2/3/08 in Arizona, not 2/10/07.

  • Garrett Konrad

    This standardized system will either end next year for their “epic” Super Bowl in New York (I hope it snows ridiculously) or for Super Bowl 50.

    • Michael Q.

      The 50th would be Super Bowl “L”. Can you imagine what the logo would look like if they keep the same system for that?

  • Rich

    I would have loved to have seen what the future New York Super bowl logo would have looked like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.vitello Alan Vitello

    I agree. The NFL has gone in the wrong direction with its Super Bowl logos. Pete Rozelle knew what he was doing. He was from an advertising and PR background. Roger Goodell is a lawyer. ‘Nuf said.

  • Ron Fiedler

    Gonna have to be a pretty big, wide “L” for superbowl 50?

    • Thun

      Problem for the Superbowl logos are that, well, they should be passing where they are been played at. Sure you can write something under it and say that it is supposed to focus on the event rather than the place, but it kinda kills it. This whole chromed logo just yells: “Hey, it’s the Super Bowl. Go watch something else and get the score later at the Internet.”. Not really sure if that’s quite the idea they should pass with this event.

  • Jab

    I really hope they realize their lack of creativity for whatever reason big bright exciting looking logos for big games just adds to atmosphere, they’re supposed to set the championships apart from just a regular game. But it’s all about money these days and clearly the NFL doesn’t care about the creative side of the Super Bowl anymore. I really hope this comes to an end soon.

  • Brian Castner

    Ironically I thought the logo ESPN has been using would’ve made a decent logo if it was a bit more colorful. A lot better than this at least.

  • John Tyler III

    I like the alternate logo used in NO colors. That in mind, it needs to be unique for XLVIII and especially L

  • Mike O’Connor

    All of the playoff logos suck now. And the conference championship trophies. Thanks, Goodell…

  • http://www.facebook.com/cesare.bellano.5 Cesare Bellano

    I know, right? They used to have life, style, and reflect the event, venue, and era. Now, its all the same. Bring back the old logos! I guess those posters the had every year, with the history of logos, will never be the same.

  • SouthstanderRSM

    I too miss the new logo every year. I cannot help but smile when I see the logo of the Super Bowl when my teams won (Pats and Broncos).

  • KXB

    Roger Goodell is a Giant Douchenozzle, that is all…

    • Brent

      All of these comments/replies were essentially the same until I read “douchenozzle” lmao. Well put lol. But I agree with this thread. Show me the Super Bowl logo & I can name the winner & loser. Ten years from now, I may not remember 46 & 47 (I’ll remember 45 because of my Packers). I’m afraid the NBA All-Star logo may also be slowly transitioning into the templatey crap.

  • http://bfbl.weebly.com Bryan

    I originally liked the “New” Super Bowl logo until I saw that they used it 3 years in a row and realized they were making it generic. ….. Disappointed

  • James

    yeah its annoying that they are using the same logo over and over again but the MLB did the same thing many times in the 80′s and 90′s. So maybe its just a phase that will hopefully end next year or so.

  • Alex Parisi

    Nothing like have a big phallus as your Super Bowl logo.

  • http://PanthersHockey.deviantART.com FJOJR

    It would be nice also to have the World Series, Stanley Cup, and NBA Finals logo designed in a way to show representation of both cities when the opponents are determined.

  • Anthony

    I like the template. It showcases the trophy, which is the main goal for the NFL, and it showcases the stadium behind the trophy. I think the NFL wanted to simplify the roman numerals,and the designs were quirky, but they were getting out of hand.

    I do wonder how they will handle Super Bowl “L” though.