Greetings and a good Sunday Morning! I hope everyone had a pleasant Saturday. Are you ready for some football?
Not only do we have the NFL Conference Championship games today (I always prefer CC weekend to the actual Supe, so today’s really my favorite Football Sunday), but I have a very fun project from designer Jonah Ward (and his collaborator, Steve Gonzalez), in which they imagine the NFL expanding by twelve(!) teams. Obviously, such an expansion, in one shot, could never take place, but they give us a look at some cities that are probably primed for a new team, some places you’d think expansion would work, and some cities you probably never even imagined having an NFL team. As they explain below, there was a great deal of thought that went into selecting the cities, team names, colors, logos, etc.
NFL Expansion Project
by Jonah Ward (with Steve Gonzales)
The NFL is eyeing expansion, both domestically and abroad in the coming decades as a way to grow their global brand. Two designers Jonah Ward, known as Dubya Design and Steve Gonzales, known as GonzoDidThis collaborated in a fun project where they imagined 12 NFL expansion franchises.
The pair of designers wanted to challenge themselves with connecting to city identities, as well as uniquely named teams that gave them unconventional challenges and prompts to roll with. The designers alternated with city and name choices. Both designers collaborated on the helmets, logos, and uniforms, depicted in this series. Dubya focused on jerseys, while Gonzo focused on the helmets. Some teams had traditional design approaches and others were more modern and eccentric.
With the first team to be created in this expansion project, Gonzo wanted to jump right out the gate with an international team. London is a major target for international expansion and may as well be the inaugural team for when that day comes. They chose the name Knights because it was a fun prompt for a sports brand.
The uniforms are crimson, white, and feature elements from both the English flag and the City of London flag. The dragon from the city coat of arms was used as the helmet logo. The home and away looks feature a subtle chainmail pattern and a medieval-esque font choice. The designers also opted for a silver alternate uniform meant to mimic a knight’s shining armor.
To spice things up, Dubya went northwest with the Portland Pioneers, a team inspired by the Oregon Trail and good old fashioned alliteration. The branding here features rugged, earthy tones of green, cream, and brown to invoke the frontier spirit. The helmets feature the racoon cap that the likes of Lewis and Clark wore on their expedition, the jerseys feature the fringe seen on a Pioneer’s jacket. The alternate all-brown look is to mimic the pioneer’s jacket more accurately and it’s topped off with the faux-leather helmet.
As a unique challenge, GonzoDidThis chose the Austin Bats as his next team name and theme. The goal here was to be very minimal and out-of-the-box when it came to the uniform design. The simple, linear looks of the wing, sleeve stripes, and numbers are inspired by the bones that you can find on a bat’s wing. Dark and mysterious was another goal, especially in the home look. The burnt orange is a nod to Austin’s very own, University of Texas.
Fun fact: Austin, TX. is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. Might not be a conventional sports name, but it is a fun prompt to build a brand on nonetheless.
San Diego Seals
For Dubya’s next pick, he decided to give love to a city who recently had its beloved team ripped from its hand for Los Angeles. Instead of piggybacking off of the Chargers, the team was named for the local wildlife, as well as the city’s rich naval tradition. The mascot is a saluting Seal with a navy cap. The uniforms feature rope as seen on a ship, a sleeve reminiscent of a sailor’s uniform, and the numbers are a block font that can be found on the side of a naval ship. Details matter here.
Mexico City Aztecas
With Gonzo at bat, he decides to create his next international team, this time, just south of the border. Introducing the Mexico City Aztecas. Named for the rich traditions and culture of Mexico, the uniform and colors pay homage to modern day Mexico with the colors and to the ancient Aztec civilization with the rich patterns. Looking closely at the helmets and jerseys you can see these patterns take shape throughout the entirety of the uniform. It was unique challenge building a brand with these colors, as they are not a very common combination in sports.
With a few historically named teams already under their belt, why not add another. Dubya decided to bring in the Memphis Pharaohs as his next choice. A solid nod to the city of Memphis being named after the ancient Egyptian city and landmarks in Memphis, like the beautiful Bass Pro Shops pyramid. The uniforms and colors were set to mimic a mummy’s gilded sarcophagus including a gilded helmet with vibrant striping. The goal was to be traditional here, yet still flashy.
If Brooklyn wasn’t incorporated into New York City, it would still be the 4th largest city in the United States. Gonzo decided to bring a team to Brooklyn for that reason. The team is named the Bridges, yes, it is not traditional for a sports team, but it presented us with a fun theme to revolve around. The patterns shown on the uniform feature the famous coogi pattern that Brooklyn native Notorious B.I.G. wore. The fonts for numbers and the wordmark are also from the NYC subway system.
St. Louis Archers
In the same spirit of bringing back a San Diego team, Dubya re-introduced STL to the NFL fold. The team name Archers is a fun play on the famous archway in St. Louis. The logo is an A in the shape of the arch with an arrow running through it. The colors are from the St. Louis flag. Dubya wanted to make a 90’s era uniform and design when creating this team.
Salt Lake City Peaks
A team that is regularly talked about when NFL Expansion is brought up, Salt Lake, was brought to the table by Gonzo. His aim here was to create a highly modern look reflecting the mountains that surround the city and the beautiful purple and orange sunsets that take place there. The numbers are sharp, just like the mountaintops. Gradients are are used here to also mimic the sunset.
Dubya goes up north and expands the NFL to Canada, introducing the Montreal Musketeers. Honoring the French heritage of the region and bringing in the colors of Quebec to the fold was the goal. The uniform is designed with a traditional musketeer’s outfit in mind. The logo is a fleur-de-lis flipped upside down and stylized into an M. Traditional is the style here.
Keeping it in Canada, Gonzo brings the Toronto Northmen to the fold. A team that pays respect to the WFL Toronto Northmen, turned Memphis Southmen. The logo features the famous Canadian Maple leaf, but with a slight twist of a compass pointing North to tie into the name. The wordmark is also close to what you can find on a compass and map font. The colors here are black, red, and white, keeping things simple and traditional here was the goal.
For the final team in the series, Dubya closes us out with the Oklahoma Whirlwinds. A team themed around Tornado Alley. The colors are gray and green, to represent tornadoes and the plains that can be found in the region. The logo is a W fashioned into the shape of a twister. The uniforms feature a doppler radar effect on the sleeves.
This project was all in good fun. Obviously some team names and identities could be realistic choices for expansion, while others were a fun challenge meant to push both designers to unexplored depths in uniform and brand identity for their teams. The mix of classic, modern, and experimental designs is what made this collaboration worth it.
Thanks Jonah! Really fun project. While the NFL at 32 teams (and four divisions of four teams per conference) is mathematically at a good size, I wouldn’t be surprised that their love of money (note how we now have 17-game seasons, ruining the perfect symmetry of a 16-game season) would lead them to expand sooner, rather than later. This project shows where that expansion might head going forward. The league already plays a number of games in Europe (and has played in Mexico as well), so perhaps international expansion is on the horizon. Great stuff!
Readers? What say you?