If you’ve been to the Pacific Northwest, you will immediately recognize the color palette featured in the new logo for Minor League Baseball’s Northwest League. Placid blues and greens (and if we’re being honest, grays) surround you at every turn. Countless waterways and sprawling forests and (when the skies clear enough to see them) towering mountains define the region more than any city or political boundary.
The logo’s creator, noted designer Todd Radom, who has also recently created marks for the Double-A Southern League and the rookie-level Appalachian League, took great care to make sure the logo was built on a foundation of colors that are very specific to this region.
“I remember very extensive discussions on what these colors could be—things thrown in like emerald green, sky blue,” Radom said. “[Spokane Indians Senior Vice President] Otto Klein and I, we had very extensive phone conversations about the region itself.”
The Short Season Single-A Northwest League—NWL for short—just started its 63rd season last month. It consists of eight teams in British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon: the Vancouver Canadians, Everett AquaSox, Spokane Indians, Tri-City Dust Devils, Boise Hawks, Eugene Emeralds, Hillsboro Hops, and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
The league’s previous logo had, to put it delicately, outlived its usefulness. Radom, working closely with representatives from all eight teams, but particularly Spokane’s Otto Klein, attempted to resuscitate the old mark. Ultimately, they decided to scrap the old look altogether and start fresh.
“They wanted to build something that was really built with the distant future in mind,” Radom said. “The league decided, hey, we want to go in a completely new direction, and ultimately a consensus was reached that the direction should be contemporary and that it should be very clean and that it should reflect the very vibrant outdoorsy aesthetic of the region.”
Speaking of the outdoorsy aesthetic of the region, residents of the Pacific Northwest are particularly proud of their mountains. With Washington’s Mount Rainier and Oregon’s Mount Hood within shouting distance of three-quarters of the league’s teams, I had to ask Radom which mountain is featured in the logo and the branded peripherals like the banner on the league’s website (pictured above).
“I’m not going to say,” he said. “This is clearly a league that cuts across state borders. The important thing for something like this is to come up with what I would term a pastiche, something that is made up but recognizable.”
“There was a desire to put forward the NWL, a shortened version of Northwest League,” Radom said. “I think this is kind of positioning it for the future. I did stress the fact that we live in this world, as I always say, where everybody’s attention spans are very diminished. If you look at your online experience, things get abbreviated, so I think that’s a pretty smart thing to put that forward.”
The teams that play in the Northwest League have some wacky logos—the groovy psychedelic frog of the Everett Aquasox, the sasquatch of the Eugene Emeralds, the anthropomorphized Humulus lupulus of the Hillsboro Hops, to name a few. This new logo for the league itself has a decidedly different feeling about it, and that’s by design.
“League logos are different. They’re not as merchandised as team marks, of course. They appear in very defined spaces,” Radom said. “This is a positioned as a very contemporary, very clean, almost corporate mark.”
Radom doesn’t know specifically how the league plans to use the logo beyond what they’ve already done, but commented as an aside that it would make a good sleeve patch on the league’s teams.
The Northwest League’s new look is indeed a different animal. If you removed the image of the baseball, it’s a mark that many organizations in the Pacific Northwest might want to claim for their own. (It makes me want to go hiking, and then to a baseball game, which, oddly, is exactly the day I had when I attended my first-ever Everett Aquasox game last month.)
While minor league baseball teams are adopting nuttier and more outrageous logos with each passing season, the leagues themselves are going a different direction. The Northwest League’s sophisticated new look is another turn toward refined, professional looks for minor league baseball leagues.