Don’t jump to conclusions; this isn’t a sports column accidentally placed on the opinions page. This concerns the beautiful art tied to sports: graphic design.
Dramatic changes to a sports team’s identity are unfortunately met with fans’ immediate desire to buy merchandise sporting the new logo, forgetting about forming an opinion about the horrid art in front of their faces.
Specifically, I’m referring to the most recent Major League Soccer team identity change: the Kansas City Wizards’ transition to Sporting Kansas City.
You heard that correctly. The Kansas City Wizards will henceforth be known as Sporting Kansas City.
Most reactions – including my initial reaction – contended that this change was another lame attempt by an MLS team to Europeanize their name. It was a lame attempt, indeed.
See, I don’t take issue with European-sounding names in an American League. The MLS may be better off forming their own identity as opposed to trying to sound more European, but that’s not stopping anytime soon, so we might as well get used to it.
Therefore, I have no gripes about D.C. United, Real Salt Lake or the like. D.C. United sounds fine. It’s strong, and it’s even kind of catchy – looks snappy on a t-shirt. What does Sporting Kansas City have to its credit? Nothing.
The name doesn’t fall flat because of its European-ness; it falls flat because it’s stupid. From a branding or graphic design standpoint, it sounds godawful. I used to be deeply involved in graphic design, and I can honestly say that if someone approached me about doing a logo based on that name, I would cringe.
After you think about the name for a while and let it sink in, as I did, you can get used to the idea and accept that it’s not going to change. You think that maybe the logo will be something classy, something simple, something that utilizes the brevity of “Sporting” and the convenient yet often-used “KC” abbreviation. That’s really the only design route to take with this name, right? Wrong.
I did more than cringe when I saw Sporting Kansas City’s new crest. I wanted to puke. When you first see an awful logo, your eyes take the letters and shapes and sort of shuffle them around, making them come in and out of focus and trying, in vain, to reshape and reorganize the mess in a pleasing manner.
That’s no exaggeration. It’s exactly what my eyes did to the new crest.
The crest’s foundational shape is a blue shield outlined in a thick grey. No problem with that.
The inside features a dull set of rectangular, powder blue stripes streaking upward in a rainbow motion – perhaps a nod to the earlier Wiz logo, but I doubt it considering how thoughtless this logo is. The stripes also abruptly curve backward at an awkward place, creating an unappealing negative space inside the blue of the shield.
Immediately, the striping pattern and shield make you think of the MLS Eastern Conference logo. Our only hope is that the league makes Sporting Kansas City change it due to plagiarism.
The biggest problem with the logo is not the dullness and lack of any heart or soul – lack of a heart and soul is likely the designer’s biggest problem – the issue is the organization of the lettering.
In an athletic-looking font, “Kansas City” curves over the top of the shield over the grey, with “Sporting” curving below it inside the blue in the same font. Filling the right side of the shield is an “SC” logo with snake-like letters – a strikingly different font from “Kansas City” and “Sporting.” I’ve already heard it said that the “SC” resembles two snakes having intimate relations inside the shield.
To summarize, the logo basically reads, “Kansas City Sporting Sporting Club,” from top to bottom – which is, in case the designer didn’t know, the direction that human beings read in.
The stripes, the lettering and the misplaced and mis-designed “SC” absolutely destroy the artistic merit of the crest. It’s not simple, not subtle but cluttered and unappealing.
Something I notice is that very few actually pay attention to the quality or lack of quality in sports branding. It’s taken for granted. It’s the result of not paying attention and studying what makes decent art. I understand art is subjective, but in the case of Sporting Kansas City, it’s too clear not to see that the club dropped the ball on this rebranding.
Ignorance toward sports teams being too stubborn or lazy to seek out the absolute best identity for their team simply fosters these kinds of troubled and ugly rebrands. The new stadium will be littered with this crest, as well as the entire city, considering soccer’s growing popularity in not only Kansas City, but across the country.
I am and always will be a Sporting Kansas City fan – a name change is not enough to rip me from the pride I have for Kansas City sports teams. I simply do not feel that we, as fans, should have to be subjected to something we were not even asked to weigh in on in the first place.
The name is an embarrassment, and the crest is a travesty. Hopefully, Sporting Kansas City does something about it in the near future, but that is doubtful.