It’s that time of the year. The season during which your college basketball friends are nowhere to be seen, and you have to field 1,000 questions a day at work about your nonexistent bracket. Hello, March Madness.
Flash back to the Super Bowl, and we are again reminded that the people yelling at the TV and those of us that identify as creatives have a hard time finding common ground in March. So, in the spirit of splitting the difference, we decided to dissect college basketball logos. (Can you tell we’re opinionated?) We’ll be rustling up some ruckus on twitter with #MarchMadness if you feel so inclined to chime in.
Rewind: it’s hard to skip over the NCAA logo itself before we crap-talk the busy, messy logos that are sprinkled about the road to the title.
Bad NCAA Logos
The first logo, created in 1957, looks like a dime and evokes Olympic imagery—laurel crowns and all. It’s brain-meltingly complicated. Still, we much prefer it to the kerning nightmare that stepped onto the scene in 1971. This is the kind of disaster that gives a graphic designer an insta-headache. Yikes.
The logo was simplified in 1980 and was reborn in a legible, academic serif typeface. In 2000 the current logo was introduced. With its new type choice, the italic evokes an athletic sentiment and a more contemporary portrayal of integrity and establishment with its thickness and slab serif.
The Worst College Basketball Logos
Even though us graphic designers might not be able to hit a layup or even think about shooting a 3-pointer, it’s blatantly obvious that these sports teams logos are total crap.
The must-haves that make a good logo are pretty dang simple, and it truly makes us cringe to note that an overwhelming number of these teams so badly missed the mark. A successful logo is timeless, it’s unique, it’s appropriate, it’s simple, and it’s functional.
The short of it: we found a lot of mediocre logos and a few total biffs. There’s no shortage of animals climbing on letters, bevels, blocky capitals and unnecessary underlines and strokes. Did we mention animals climbing on letters?
Upon wading through logos that are too busy, have bad typography, look like clip art (Microsoft Word! Ah!), or are a straight up blobs, we came upon the above. Yuck.
The Best College Basketball Logos
The resounding winners of the college basketball logos follow the champ of all logo rules: simplicity always wins. From Duke’s classic logo to the memorable and well-done longhorn, we are pleased to find excellence among the mediocrity.
One interesting nugget of history we stumbled upon while digging around pertains to University of Oregon’s logo (hometown pride!). In 1998, Nike CEO Phil Night was ready to update UO’s branding. The swoosh guy obviously knows a lot about brand identity. We unearthed this interesting first-person perspective from a member of the creative team in charge of the rebrand. We have to admit, we’re glad they left the duck out of it.
Other notables that made the list include the Howard Bison, who recently got a refresh, and the UNCW Seahawks whose new logo and brand identity system is great—the variations in primary and secondary logos are very well done. A final kudos goes to whoever ensured the Grambling State Tigers’ logo would reduce so flawlessly.
Best College Basketball Mascot Logos
There are so many glaring ways to completely botch a mascot logo. These teams didn’t! Hooray! The subtle Native American vibe paired with clever design make Eastern Washington University’s logo stand out. The UConn Huskies win for simplicity and that it’s so easily reducible—he even looks friendly!
As for the Texas State Bobcats, here’s a representation of the only proper use of a two-color logo with a stroke around it. A well-deserved thumbs up goes to the great combination of treatment on the typography that carries over from the mascot linework with the Towson Tigers logo. We love the use of the tapered sharp edges.
We admire these birds as well. Both are ready for battle, and are super dynamic. We especially like the simple design with implied depth of Ball State’s cardinal thanks to the repeated head feathers.
If we were to fill out our brackets today solely based on logos, we feel well prepared, well informed, and willing to bet on it. When the sports of the thing get factored in, however, we’re as lost as we ever were. Oh well! Keep up with us on Twitter @extensis, and join in on the rowdy raucous with #MarchMadness. And just for you (and all of your designer friends) we always offer a free 30-day trial of Suitcase Fusion.