What is it about sports logos? Generally they’re hokey, obvious, and some downright stupid.
Above are eight of the ten FBS conference designs, the football bowl series. There are technically eleven in the FBS, but these will do for today’s discussion.
Anyone who has ever done a logo design may have come across existing templates for starting points, and these have been available for a long time, well before the digital age. Books with so-called “standard” formats have among them a shield shape, exemplified here by the Mid-American and PAC-12 Conference logos.
These are both just OK designs, neither great. The PAC-12 is slightly more distinctive with the added simple pictorial graphic—the mountain—but that’s minimal. Is there a reason for the shield shape? No. This is not heraldry. It’s just a shape.
Other common shapes are among the template collections, such as diamonds, squares, and circles. The SEC logo is in that circle format, and once again there’s no reason for the shape. Also, the SEC is the Southeastern Conference, and there’s no geographical reference to it in this design. So it’s just a circle with three initials squished to fit into that circle. This is terrible: a good example of bad design, actually showing what can happen when you try to design something from the outside in.
So much for formatted logos.
Mountain West’s design is strange. Here there’s also no reference to the geographical location and no mountain: we have two initials forming a block resembling a structure of some sort, like a monolith. And next to it are the words “Mountain West”, explaining what the two initials mean. Note that the font chosen for the two words does not remotely resemble the shape of the initials.
Then we have the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and the Conference USA designs. Neither is remarkable. They’re both italic type designs, which sets them apart from most others in this category, but the ACC’s is plain whereas the Conference USA at least has a few more things going for it, with dimensional letterforms, more colors, a firm outline, and that added star.
The American Athletic Conference logo has tried to be something more, at least. Like the Conference USA design, it has a star and is also blue and red, of course alluding to the patriotic palette colors. The drop shadow behind the “A” and the placement of the star filling the counter of the large letterform try valiantly to embellish this simple design.
Note that most all of these designs have blue as the predominant color.
Last but certainly not least is the Big Ten logo. The ugliest, clumsiest logo in this or any collection. It tries so hard to be what it doesn’t even come close to being. To think that one could imagine—apparently without eventually discarding—the notion of trying to make a “10” out of “IG” is astounding. Either this was penned by a complete non-design idiot or someone at the commissioner’s office dragooned a desperate graphic designer who wasn’t paid nearly enough to look the other way after doing it.
Get this: it doesn’t read “BIG 10”. It just reads “BIG”. You can’t expect anyone to read it both ways the designer intended. The numeral “1” is too subtle for most people to pick up, and you’ll never make a zero out of a cap G successfully. One big mistake.