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Cleveland Browns logo: analysis

2010 January 24

No Logo is the title of a Naomi Klein book, but might also serve as an offbeat title for a history of Cleveland’s beloved Browns. “No postseason” would be more appropriate, the smart-alecks might say, but I’m not here to offer analysis of the Browns’ performance and prospects on the field. I’m here to consider the Browns’ graphic identity.

Which, despite being to my knowledge the only NFL team sporting no adornment on the sides of the players’ helmets, they do have. Indeed there is no shortage of icons, symbols and avatars associated with our team. A sampling:

Four Cleveland Browns graphics

"Brownie Elf," striped football and canine characters

This is not particularly unique in the NFL or big-time sports organizations in general, where a “the more the merrier” approach seems to apply to graphic identity. With mascots, logos, redesigns and alternatives (see the Cincinnati Bengals‘ tiger and striped “B”), there’s usually something for everyone. And plentiful material for creating, and selling, more merchandise.

Normally, though, one or at most two graphics are raised above the mob as the team symbol. If nothing else, media will establish something as a de facto logo for their charts and TV graphics. In the Browns’ case, that’s usually this:

Cleveland Browns helmet

Ta-da.

This has always struck me as the epitome of logo-by-default. No, it isn’t ugly or silly-looking (I’m looking at you, Brownie Elf), but it just feels like a placeholder. Like a clip-art object which was quickly given the Browns’ orange color and stripes (though this one distinctive feature is, ironically, barely visible).

Ultimately, the above helmet graphic is not so much a logo as a visual representation of the absence of a logo. Which is certainly a provocative concept–setting aside the graphic’s blandness–emphasizing the Browns’ unique eschewing of helmet graphics. But in design, a thought-provoking concept can fail if the result just doesn’t look compelling, and I think it can be argued that such is the case here.

In a larger picture, of course, that probably doesn’t make a great difference to the Browns organization. I doubt that adopting a “real logo” would produce more wins, and the Browns’ galaxy of graphics probably sells merchandise about as effectively as any other comparable team’s, even without any one dominant symbol in the center. As noted before, there are times when consistent, powerful design may make a big difference, and times when it may not.

But, having said that, why not explore the possibility of designing a logo for the Cleveland Browns, just as an exercise? I already have! Next time I’ll post some sketches.

6 Responses
  1. Scott permalink
    January 25, 2010

    I came home from being born 25 years ago sporting my first browns outfit proudly. My son followed in my footsteps almost four years ago, and I hope my grandson does also. And in my opinion, if everything goes well, it will look exactly the same. One of the best things about the Browns is tradition. I’m not against logos and symbols for shirts and footballs, but there is somthing about seeing that plain orange and white helmet that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and makes me proud to be a browns fan.

  2. Matt permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Hi Scott! I don’t really blame you there, and aside from the tradition I think the Browns uniforms look great.

    On the very-off-chance that I get a call from Browns HQ wanting my studio to work on a Browns redesign, I’ll definitely encourage them to keep the players’ lids as-is. :-)

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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