Studio Series: Tuning the 2019 MLB All-Star Logo

The 2019 MLB All-Star Game plans to amplify the rock-and-roll history of Cleveland, starting with the event’s logo, officially unveiled today. But long before the big reveal of the guitar-laden theme came the exploration of all things rock-and-roll, intense typography study diving into album design and plenty of detailing to make the final mark ready for stage lights.

Weeks following the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., Anne Occi, MLB’s head of design services, says having just walked from a red, white and blue logo into another, it was fun to “have something come out so very, very, very different.”

Using a guitar sure helps the process. From the start, Cleveland wanted to embrace its role as the birthplace and spiritual home of rock-and-roll, leaving MLB with a “big challenge on how to weave the two together to represent the culture of Cleveland.”

A slanted guitar with distinctive type proved the answer. Designers explored several ideas associated with rock-and-roll, but really only dove deep on both drums and guitars as original ideas panned out quickly. “The drum was more difficult to understand rock-and-roll immediately,” Occi says. “The guitar with that modern type going through it was just a really quick read.”

To further the guitar design beyond the official logo, the team relished the fact that Cleveland will host its sixth All-Star Game, the most for any city, and use the six guitar strings in ancillary designs. One extra features six strings embedded with the years of all Cleveland-hosted All-Star Games, another highlights a pattern incorporating strings in the background.

Using the guitar not only allowed for the clear rock-and-roll theme, it also opened up a design—Occi says the recent open All-Star Game logos don’t represent a trend and that many applications will box in the guitar anyway — and allowed for a fresh shape. Early on, the design sat flat, but then the team started moving it around. “It became so much more dynamic,” Occi says. “It became alive. It had some rhythm to it, you can hear it a bit better.”

Through the due diligence of figuring which way a guitar should face — flipping it didn’t work; they tried — the final design comes with an 11 percent slant and the MLB batter logo as the head of the guitar.

Key sponsor, MasterCard, had the option to join the 11 percent slant, but chose to stay straight as the personification of their brand, selecting to “ground themselves under the guitar.”

2019 MLB All-Star Game logo with sponsor
2019 MLB All-Star Game logo with sponsor

The guitar itself includes stitching as it appears on a baseball—going up and back down, a detail important to MLB — and two shades of gray as the base nears the neck to give depth to a simple line.

The other star of the design, though, comes in the type. “When we looked at the history of rock-and-roll, one of the first things we did was look at typography,” Occi says. “We looked back at great rock bands and all they all have very distinctive look, something we heavily took inspiration from.”

With a logo often seen as type, the Cleveland All-Star Game font was fashioned by using historic rock type as the muse, attempting to merge eras and styles together. Creating with black and white designs during the process to better see the impact, the letters that make up “All-Star Game” were meant to evoke the idea of the rock-and-roll birthplace coming from more than one genre. If the design strayed too close to reminding someone of a specific band, Occi said the team knew they needed a tweak.

The “Cleveland” and “2019” types both offer different fonts too, with Cleveland meant as reminiscent of how a guitar manufacturer placed labels on instruments.

Expect to see these designs play strong across the entire All-Star Game environment, as both the “American” and “National” wordmarks come from these newly created type designs.

To build an entire suite of designs available for use on products or throughout the event, the logo simply leads the way, an entry into “how far you can go with the theme.” The main logo, the strings, the background, the American and National wordmarks and also a guitar fret with baseball bats and the drum idea living on as a 90th anniversary logo all open up a depth beyond one mark. “It makes it more unique,” Occi says about jointly celebrating baseball and rock-and-roll.

The complete logo history of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game:

And a look at the logos available from the previous Cleveland-hosted Major League Baseball All-Star Games:

Studio Stories is a monthly column from Tim Newcomb that explores the stories behind some of the designs dominating the sports landscape. Follow Tim on Twitter at @tdnewcomb