Something, but Not the Best.
Or, Rebranding Everton.
(Part I)

NOTE: I began writing this piece when the new crest was announced in the spring, but never got around to finishing. This month’s announcement of the supporter survey, submit-your-crest, and upcoming supporter’s vote (shudder) has inspired me to resurrect and share these thoughts. Enjoy.

This post is part of a series titled "Rebranding Everton" wherein I analyze the 2013 Everton crest redesign strategy and execution and propose new crest design solutions.

Part I:
Something, but Not the Best

Part II:
Keep Your Head on a Swivel

Part III:
Creating Chances

Part IV:
In Search of a Clinical Finisher

Part IV:
Wear Your Presentation Suit

Everton’s club motto reads “Nil satis nisi optimum” (“nothing but the best is good enough”). Unfortunately, with their 2013 club crest redesign they’ve done away with said slogan, both figuratively and literally. Supporters cried foul, and the club has headed back to the drawing board to develop a new (new) crest for 2014.

detour

As a loyal (bordering on fanatical) supporter, I’m taking this opportunity to give a thorough look to the redesign exercise and throw my two pence on the pile.

Objectives

Good design begins with well-defined objectives. In the absence of real direction from the “client”, I’ve scoured the press around the redesign in an effort to reconstruct the project brief; I’ve identified four clear objectives.

  • Facilitate consistent reproduction
  • Simplify
  • Modernize
  • Project the right messages

Let’s take a quick look at each objective individually.

Facilitate consistent reproduction

This one is pretty standard. The crest needs to render properly regardless of where it appears (and who put it there). Some placements are easy – for example, a full-color business card, the kit or other Everton ephemera are all straightforward applications whose execution are controlled by the club. Other applications are more complex and/or constricting. Animated video graphics, a one-color fax letterhead, a tiny badge pin, or third-party use (think press and broadcasters) each introduce their own complexities of form, color, scale, and control.

Here is what the club had to say about this objective:

“The previous version of the Crest – created 13 years ago – was often misrepresented, suffering regularly from the omission of key elements like our name and our year of formation. As technology marches on, those challenges have increased. On television, on websites, on mobile devices, the Crest was far too often badly reproduced.”Evolution of the Crest, EvertonFC.com

“The outgoing version of the Crest is often misrepresented. You see it being used in the media with the Everton name removed or the ‘1878’ taken away. Beyond that, the complexity of the Crest makes it difficult to reproduce for certain print, broadcast and digital media. … It’s difficult to animate and a number of national and international media organisations use it incorrectly. … There are also problems reproducing the outgoing Crest below certain sizes, when elements, including text, become invisible or illegible.”Jim Fantozzi, Project Manager, Breakdown of Elements, EvertonFC.com

I’m on board with these comments, excepting the last sentence (legibility below certain sizes), but I’ll hold off on challenging the objectives until later.

Simplify

This one is pretty straight forward and overlaps the consistent reproduction objective above. Everton’s official comments:

“Effective logos are simple and streamlined. Simplicity achieves stand-out recognition. This was our starting point for our new Crest.”A Message to Evertonians, EvertonFC.com

“A lot of brands have sought to simplify, to streamline, to get clarity, to de-clutter – simplicity is key; gone are the days when ‘more is more’; using a logo or a badge to demonstrate all of an organisation’s historical aspects. … Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid have developed simplified designs yet retained core, traditional elements. … As a result, we have seen some of Europe’s biggest clubs introduce crests that are more modern, iconic and bold.”Nigel Payne, Creative Manager, Global Brands, EvertonFC.com

The Chelsea, Juve, Inter, and Madrid redesigns mentioned by Mr. Payne are worth noting, and we’ll take a closer look at a couple of them in part two when we analyze other clubs’ recent crest redesigns. Here are Mr. Payne’s examples for your immediate reference.

Previous crests (top) and new crests (bottom). It is interesting to note that two of the four examples cited by Mr. Payne for their simplicity include no text whatsoever, and one includes only the club name. It should also be noted that Chelsea used a different crest between the two pictured, but the old crest pictured is more relevant to Mr. Payne’s point.

No major objections here. Simplicity is at the heart of any effective visual mark. It is not a question of intent, but of degree. How simple is simple enough? How simple is too simple?

Modernize

“[Our objective is] to form a concise, modern and dynamic representation of Everton.”Evolution of the Crest, EvertonFC.com

“We wanted to emulate the original Theo Kelly design [of Prince Rupert’s Tower] – but with a modern twist.”Mark Derbyshire, Graphic Designer, Background Research, EvertonFC.com

“Everton emphasised, though, that they ‘remain firm in the belief that our crest should be modernised‘.”Everton vow to ditch unpopular new crest after fan backlash, The Guardian

(I’ll attempt to define “modern” in part two, as that may be an area that requires more context and clarification.)

Like simplification, when discussing modernization (particularly that of heraldic marks like club crests), the question becomes “How much is too much?” John Ashdown, in his 2010 The Guardian opinion piece The crest of a wave? ponders this very dilemma:

“Indeed the evolution of badges is … rather fascinating …. The fear is that all those wonderful and varied badges may begin to become homogenised, losing their individuality and becoming shield-shaped disconnected brand logos that look nice on a pencil case or official £7.99 oversized mug but say nothing about a club’s heritage. The bold graphical approach does seem to be the style of the time.

So new badges for Morecambe, Chesterfield and Cheltenham – a sad trend that distances football from its historical roots, or a necessary exercise for all forward-thinking modern clubs?”John Ashdown, The crest of a wave?, The Guardian

I can sympathize with Mr. Ashdown’s sentiment. A clean, modern crest is indeed distinct and different, but only until it isn’t. An old-world look that feels dated one season can feel refreshingly traditional and authentic the next. More on how one might design for this fashion cycle later. But first, a quick peek at extreme simplicity and modernism from the “Minimal Football” project (below) and one last objective.

"Minimal Football" project on Behance.net
A glimpse of simplicity and modernism taken too far (or not?) thanks to the delightful “Minimal Football” project.

Project the Right Messages

This one is a bit of a catch-all, but it boils down to prioritizing what brand values the club wishes to project via the crest. From the horse’s mouth:

“Our solution, in a globalised, technology-led world – was to present one word, loudly and clearly – EVERTON, along with a truly representative Everton Turret, better than it ever has been done before.”A Message to Evertonians, EvertonFC.com

“We really wanted to put a more authentic version of the Tower onto the Crest. … What we have now is a more honest and accurate reproduction of what the Tower is.”Dave Biggar, Commercial Director, Background Research, EvertonFC.com

Perhaps we can gain further insight into what brand values the club hopes to project if we look at the first question in the just-launched supporter survey:

Which statement do you feel best describes what makes Everton Football Club so special?

  • The People’s Club – a compassionate Club, for and of its people, integral to its community
  • An unrivalled heritage – more top flight games than any other club, in the world’s toughest league
  • A pioneering football club – a Club that’s helped shape the Game as we know it
  • The school of science – a Club famous for how it plays, a Club rich in home-grown talent
  • The top flight’s most likeable Club – a club respected by its peers and their fans, and held in high regard throughout the Game

Supporters Questionnaire, EvertonFC.com

Objectives Summarized

So, here’s my concise reconstruction of the client brief:

  • Improve the club and third-party ability to correctly and consistently apply the crest across disparate media
  • Simplify and modernize the crest
  • Ensure that the “Everton” name is big and bold, front and center
  • Introduce a more accurate rendering of Prince Rupert’s Tower
  • Reflect the club’s values: community, heritage, a pioneering spirit, cultivators of the beautiful game, and elite status

Client-supplied input is the start of a conversation (not marching orders), so I do want to discuss and challenge some of these directives, but will hold off until part two. First, some design analysis.

Analyzing the 2012 and 2013 Crests


With the above objectives in mind, let’s take a closer look at the poorly-received 2013 redesign and compare it to the previous crest.

Color


Quick and easy here. With the dropping the gradient comes the dropping of the lighter (Man City?) blue and the introduction of a darker blue. This three-color scheme (plus white) are the only colors used in the 2013/14 kits which also exhibit the alternate one (plus white) color version of the crest.

The Shield


Two notable things here. Firstly, the gradient was removed. This helps achieve the consistent reproduction objective, as gradients add a bit of complexity to most reproductions. It is worth noting, however, that the 2012 crest was frequently reproduced to fine effect without the gradient – most notably on the kit. According to Wikipedia, “Critics suggested that it was external pressure from sports manufacturers Nike, Inc. that evoked the redesign as … the radial [gradient] effect [has been] removed, making the kit more cost efficient to reproduce.” I am highly skeptical of this conspiracy theory in regard to the gradients, though it may hold some merit in regard to the complex shape of 2012′s crest (shield, banner, “Everton” and “1878″) as compared to the simple, self-contained shield shape of 2013.

Secondly, and more interestingly, the new shield is a bit fatter around the bottom, presumably to make room for the “Everton” text to be as large as possible within the shield. To put it bluntly, the shape is fat-bottomed and unflattering. The 2012 shield is trimmer and arguably more graceful and sporty.

For comparison purposes here is the new design within the old shield. From left to right: old shield, new elements in old shield, new elements in new shield, old shield.
For comparison, here is the new design within the old shield.
From left to right: old shield, new elements in old shield, new elements in new shield, and old shield.

Prince Rupert’s Tower

everton crest 2012 vs 2013 towers
The most dramatic change to the crest. The tower has been “modernised”. Apparently, Theo Kelly’s original tower sketch, upon which the 2012 version is based, exhibits a bit of creative license, making the tower much taller than it is in reality. More info on Prince Rupert’s Tower via Wikipedia for those interested. Apparently there are several of these towers around Liverpool, so Prince Rupert’s tower is, perhaps, not on the badge because it is inherently special; it is special because it is on the badge.

The horizontal lines read more like vinyl siding than brick. I can’t help but also think of old-time striped prison garb. The structure was originally lockup – is this reference intentional? The little mustache-esque wings are befuddling. What are those things? (Note: I think I’ve figured out what they are. Perhaps the bits of foundation around the base of the structure?)

If you’re curious about the sash wrapped around the 2012 tower, it is an abstraction of the fence that surrounds the lot upon which the tower stands (or squats?). Its evolution into the 2012 form can be seen if you take a look at the older crests.

I have no factual evidence for this (the supporter survey should provide insight), but suspect that the new tower illustration (icon?) is a primary driver of redesign criticism. It is VERY modern and a significant departure, both stylistically and structurally, from crest depictions of the tower dating back 75 years.

Typography


Pretty dramatic changes here as well. Ribbon and “Nil Satis…” removed, and a new typeface chosen for “Everton” and “1878″. The previous typeface appears to be Emigre’s Martix Bold, the new FontFont’s Angie.

I’m not really sure which way I land on the typeface changes. I was never a big fan of the 2012 version (though I love Emigre’s work), and do think the 2013 is a more elegant solution, but there is something to be said for a highly distinguished typographic mark, and Emigre’s Matrix is far more distinct than FontFont’s Angie.

2013 Crest Typography

Curiously, a number of subtle adjustments have been made to Angie for the 2013 logotype.

Everton 2013 logotype. Left column shows customization of the Angie typeface.

Above, we see the Everton logotype at the top and “Everton” set in Angie at the bottom. The version between shows where the face has been customized for the logotype. Trailing serifs (in red) have been removed, and the beak in the t has been fattened (in green). There is nothing inherently wrong with the changes, but I am unclear as to why this was necessary and/or desirable.

2012 Crest Typography

Two things have always bothered me about the 2012 crest typesetting, both of which have beed addressed in the new design. Firstly, “Nil Satis…” split across the two halves of the ribbon forces the introduction of some seriously clumsy letter spacing in an attempt to visually balance the text. It is far too wide on one side and far too tight on the other. Secondly, the text figures (dropped baseline numbers) and split-in-half “1878″ has always looked clumsy to my eye. “1878″, however, does remain split in the new crest.

In the 2012 crest, “Nil Satis…” was typeset in a face named Interstate, which is used extensively across Everton’s marketing materials.

Club-produced motion graphics from the 2013 U.S.A. preseason tour show the (heavy-handed) re-inclusion of the “Nil Satis…” motto omitted from the new crest. This application treats the motto differently than in the 2012 crest which treats the motto differently than in other club marketing collateral. This typographic inconsistency is something to be avoided.

The Rest (Removed)


Not much to discuss here, but it should be noted that two items have been removed in the 2013 redesign – The “Nil Satis…” ribbon and the wreaths.

The “Nil Satis…” motto, whose origination is unclear (at least to me), was introduced sometime before 1938, and translates to “Nothing but the best is good enough”. The laurel wreaths, representing victory, were introduced at the same time.

The use of this wreath comes from the Greek myth involving Apollo, Zeus’ son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne. When he pursued her she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her. Peneus turned her into a laurel tree. From that day, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head. Laurel wreaths became associated with what Apollo embodied; victory, achievement and status and would later become one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece and Rome. Laurel wreaths were used to crown victorious athletes at the original Olympic Games.Wreath – Ancient Greece and Rome, Wikipedia

Analyzing the 2012 and 2013 Crests – Summary

I’m one of the supporters who heaped complaints upon the new crest when it was first announced, but this exercise has provided me with a more practical view of the design solution. There are always points to nitpick in hindsight, but the 2013 crest is the logical end-product of the client-supplied objectives – simple, modern, more-accurate tower, “one word – EVERTON” loud and clear, and a single crest reproduced consistently, in its entirety, everywhere.

If the new crest is a failure in the eyes of supporters, I believe the blame lies in the strategic approach – the objectives – and not in the design execution. This means that the path to success requires (another) detour to reassess and challenge the client’s strategic assumptions. What clients think they want, and what they really need, are often two very different things.

Up Next


In part two, I’ll step away from Everton’s redesign, to see what we can learn from other clubs who have recently introduced new crests. Beyond that, Circling back to the objectives, I’ll challenge the client on a few of their assertions, hopefully revealing some possible paths to different solutions. Finally, guided by those upgraded objectives, I’ll undertake some design exercises to see where they take us.

Rebranding Everton, Part II: Keep Your Head on a Swivel

This post is part of a series titled "Rebranding Everton" wherein I analyze the 2013 Everton crest redesign strategy and execution and propose new crest design solutions.

Part I:
Something, but Not the Best

Part II:
Keep Your Head on a Swivel

Part III:
Creating Chances

Part IV:
In Search of a Clinical Finisher

Part IV:
Wear Your Presentation Suit