The Worst Designs in Sports, Part II

April 9, 2012

A few weeks ago I went to see the Los Angeles Clippers play Steve Nash. Nash didn’t play so I had some time to concentrate on other things. Namely, the tastelessly throwback design aesthetic of the Clippers. I had previously been aware of their strangely uncreative “LA C” logo — which looks like somebody found the color button on Microsoft Word — but until I saw the team in person, I didn’t realize that their flat blue-and-red color scheme was so dominant. And that they had male cheerleaders. But that’s another story.

Now I have no problem with patriotic, red-white-and-blue designs, but that doesn’t mean the colors shouldn’t have some contrast to them. Even the U.S. flag has a darker blue field to set off the white stars. But by using reds and blues with similar values and saturations, and in equal amounts, makes it appear that the team can’t decide which is their dominant color. When you pair two colors so even-handedly you lose the effect of both colors. Unless you’re going for the harlequin look of Clipper Darrell’s two-tone suit. But does a sports team really need to evoke the comical aesthetic of a clown?

I would suggest that the Clippers make blue their dominant color and use red as an accent where needed. Why choose blue over red? Because a team with no visual personality, and a nickname that isn’t being utilized at all, might as well get a little more literal. Clippers were fast sailing ships of the 19th century. They sailed on the ocean. (Which is why they got the name when they moved from Buffalo to San Diego in 1978.) Might as well base your color scheme around a shade or two of blue.

As for their logo, I don’t think they need to get too specific. No need to have the waves and sails that the Columbus Clippers use. But I do think the Clippers are missing out by not having a more distinctive typeface. For one thing, they share an arena with- and are perenial afterthoughts to the Los Angeles Lakers, a much more successful and glamourous team. They need to stand out in general.

They also need to take advantage of the general “LA” logo market that exists. Spend some time in Los Angeles (or any other city for that matter) and you’ll see many people wearing “LA” gear who have no real affinity for Los Angeles teams. They’re wearing Los Angeles hats, not Dodgers hats. Hence the market for “LA” hats in colors other than Dodger blue.

If the people in the Clippers’ front office were paying attention, they would have noticed that the Lakers have done very little to develop an “LA” logo that could also serve as a universal symbol of the city. They would also notice that the Clippers’ color scheme (current or future) is probably more attractive to a non-sports fan than the Lakers’ distinctive purple-and-gold. If the Clippers talked to their neighbors at the Los Angeles Convention Center, they’d find that tourism is still big business in Los Angeles, so you might as well try to tap into the general, Los Angeles/Hollywood souvenir market.