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Cleveland Browns logo: exploration

2010 January 29

In part one of this series, I reviewed the existing logos and graphics associated with Cleveland’s much-loved Browns. As noted, I actually did this after working on some sketches for a Browns logo (just like preparing “design process” material after the final version of a project in college… ah what fun).

A Browns logo definitely presents challenges. Foremost being the fact that the team is one of only two NFL clubs named for a person (coach Paul Brown, in this case). The other such team, Buffalo’s Bills, drew on the name of their city for a graphic (which might add a little extra awkwardness should they move to Toronto). But the Browns? There’s no obvious visual to be found in the name. (Perhaps it’s no wonder that something completely random like Brownie Elf could find a home, here.)

I did a logo with the brown bear (Ursus arctos), just for the heck of it:

Bear with football as Browns logo

Audubon I am not, I realize

Still, pretty arbitrary. It seems like it would be nice to come up with something tying in with the city of Cleveland, given the Browns’ unique bond with their city. (How many teams move but have to leave their name behind due to unprecedented local protest?) But nothing obvious came to mind there, either. I had one idea of using the Cuyahoga River as a kind of lightning bolt, but 1) it was probably reaching a bit too much and 2) there are the Chargers to consider. I do kind of like this concept though:

CLE logo for Cleveland Browns

Shout out to "the CLE?"

I honeslty don’t know whether or not this concept is too weird. Are my friends and I unique in using airport codes as frequent shorthand in our conversation? Does anyone else refer to “the CLE?” In any event, this one also loosely references those oval stickers that local car owners seem to be in love with. If implemented, one could use the CLE oval by itself, or integrate it into a full team name version for horizontal spaces.

As far as actual graphics go, the only other convincing notion I came up with was the Dawg Pound connection. (Before looking into it for this post, I had no idea how relatively recent the Browns’ canine connection was.) As shown in my previous post, the Dawg Pound has its own logo, which is kind of cool but probably a bit too cartoony for the NFL; it would make an awesome minor league team logo, probably. The Browns themselves also have a dog logo, but I have to say I’m not sold on it.

Four Browns graphics including two dogs

Graphics grid from previous post, for reference purposes

It’s not bad, certainly, but it doesn’t really look fierce, to me. The impression I get is more one of sudden alertness. Like, “what’s that smell??” (No Browns jokes from the peanut gallery.) In any event, having done sketches before research, I came up with my own logo-de-chien:


Don't mess with this pooch

This is only a sketch, but to me this seems more like it. Head down rather than up, sniffing the air; some teeth exposed in a threat display. And if you’re going to have a dog logo why not go for some distinctive marking like an “eye patch?”

Most of the other possibilities I came up with were typographic; I tried doing something with the team initials for example:

"CB" for Cleveland Browns

The CB logo

But ultimately, I think this design is too static and, for that matter, I hear “CB” and still think of “breaker, breaker, where are you” rather than Cleveland Browns. This was a bit more promising I think:

Browns lettering logo

Good, sturdy letters

I think I have the six letters of “browns” working together pretty well here. Of course the problem with a words-only logo is that any major league sports team’s name is going to appear in so many other lettering styles, especially with licensed merchandise. So it would probably need at least some sort of graphic element riding shotgun, kind of like this:

Browns lettering plus football logo

For example

Working a football into a Browns logo isn’t a bad idea at all. (There is already the “B/striped football” logo seen above, in fact, though I basically wrote off “B” based logos because it seemed a little too close to our sibling rivals the Baltimore Ravens’ logo.) It’s interesting to note that, in the NFL, only one team’s logo includes a football, and a tiny monochrome one, at that… whereas in the NBA, nearly half the teams have a game ball incorporated into their logo. (The NBA also seems to have rather more complicated logos; perhaps this is because a detailed logo is much more practical on a smooth hardwood playing surface than on fuzzy grass or turf?)

In any event, that’s something to consider; my last offering is again just lettering, but it wouldn’t be too hard to add in the ol’ pigskin and maybe some kind of frame.

Browns script lettering logoBy itself, admittedly, this one might be a bit generic; again, almost every team is going to have merchandise with some sort of script version of their name. But I like an old-school look like this. While drawing this one I was kind of thinking (ahem) of beer labels, and I think that as graphic references go, that would by no means go astray in a blue collar, sudsy town like Cleveland.

That’s some of what I came up with. Perhaps I’ll have to tackle this again some day. (Mike Holmgren et al., you’re welcome to call any time.) I think any Browns logo would be problematic given that the team has never really had a “real” logo before. On the one hand, there would be no nostalgically-revered previous logo to compete with, but on the other hand, at present anyone can visualize the Browns any way they wish. Suddenly saying “this is the Browns” would potentially open a floodgate of criticism. (Although a major decision of any sort is probably going to do that, too; sports columnists, radio show hosts and fans have to talk about something after all.)

Anyway, if there’s a moral to this story, it may be that there’s a reason why good designers are reluctant to promise a low estimate for a logo design project when the final product is usually so small and simple. We can design a logo pretty quickly, yes. That’s not what takes time and effort. It’s going through just a portion of the endless possibilities in order to find the logo that feels right for clients and the frequently-large number of additional constituencies which need “buy-in” that takes time and effort.

Have a good weekend folks.