Logo, Brand, and Merch OH MY!
NOW WE'VE GOT OURSELVES A TEAM! This Morning, at 10:30 Eastern Time, the World changed forever: Hartford Athletic released their logo and brand. I'm not going to sit here and pontificate about the importance of this event, but I want to say a quick something about why we feel it's important that the Club get this right. We all love sports for the moments of joy, despair, and passion they bestow upon us. It's true, soccer in particular makes us feel things we don't normally experience in daily life...or maybe we do but we don't experience in the span of 90 short minutes. The rush is incredible. However, within that rush, confined in what we love about sports is perhaps something bigger: an identity. For many who care deeply, a team becomes a community, which becomes a home, which becomes a purpose. Paramount to that community and that identity is the brand of a team or club. It's in many ways a rallying cry, something we all need to be on board with if we are to collectively build something great in the 860. Thus, without further ado, I give you, Hartford Athletic's Logo and Brand!
Wow. Ok. I'm sweating...The magnitude of this event calls for both myself, El Dulce, and Dr. Nutmeg to give an honest review of the launch. For those who don't want to read our full thoughts let's start with the key takeaways and grades:
Overall Grade: A-. They got 99% of this right. Simplicity with a subtle ode to the past. For me man, it screams authenticity. No gimmicks, sleek and classy.
Overall Grade: B. The crest is polarizing for me – the parts I like, I LOVE. the parts I don’t, I HATE. But in short, three main takeaways for me are:
The red star: WTF... yikes.
Hidden whale tail: OMG, OMG, OMG!
Promo video: Chills.
Look, I'll admit it, Dr. Nutmeg is our artist. He's picasso if Picasso grew up using MS paint rather than a horse-hair brush. On the flip side, I've got literally zero artistic ability whatsoever. I use words to paint a picture, not crayons. But, when I thought about what I wanted the Club to do with their identity and brand I thought a lot about the history of Hartford and CT. Obviously, if you're reading this, you know that our crest and our name is a play on the Whalers. Now I LOVED the fact that the Club chose to go with the green and blue, and I love their embracing of the Whaler legacy. I think it's incredibly important because the legacy remains a fabric that ties generations of Hartford residents together. Nostalgia is powerful. But I am really pumped with how subtle the ode to Whale is in this here logo. In the negative space right formed by the HA, you see a whale's tail. That's AWESOME. A small but subtle reminder at the heart of the crest. Beautiful.
Everything else for me is about simplicity. You see, Hartford sits in a funny place in America. To our south is the glitz and glam of NYC, to our north is the blue collar, rebel-rousing mentality of Boston. What's in between those two? Our city, a simple city. We don't have a distinct accent, we're not overly brash or crass. The people of CT/Hartford let our actions speak for themselves, and don't need flash or muscle to show off what we're all about. That's sort of what I get from this logo. A simple HA combo, one of elegance and class sends the message of pride and honesty to me. Not to mention how sexy that font is. But seriously, how proud will you be to wear that HA? That's kind-of what it comes down to for me. The HA is visible, it's simple, but it's strong. Someone's going to say to you "What's HA?" and you're going to be able to look them in the eye and say "Why, that's Hartford Athletic, my club and my home." Ok maybe not that dramatic, but you get what I'm saying. The simpleness also gives way to a lot of great.
So now onto probably the only controversial piece of the logo. The Red Star. Dr. Nutmeg hates this. Guy despises it. He borderline can't stand it. Me? I like it. I get it, I get it, Stars on crests are earned via titles blah blah blah. Red is the symbol of communism blah blah blah. There's all sorts of arguments against the star you can make, and they are definitely valid. But, need I remind you who was the first to use stars in their crest?
Yep. That's right. And you know what? Those stars weren't for 13 battles won. The Red Star in the logo to me is about the City of Hartford itself. I remember when I was a kid and you drove on 84 through Hartford and a sign read "Hartford: New England's Rising Star." People use to make fun of that ALL THE TIME. I mean people from Providence to Portsmouth just dumping on Hartford and mocking the rising star. Well you know what? F IT. Hartford Athletic is reclaiming the star. This Club is going to be a the guiding star that pushes Hartford forward.
And yeah, I got nothing on the red coloring, I like it because I like the color red but totally get Dr. Nutmeg's takes on that...I did give the logo an A- not a flat A after all...
(Editors Note: Dr. Nutmeg likes to doll out bad news first so he's going to start with what he DIDN'T like...I guess he's not an eternal optimist like me).
Soooooo where do I start… how about with the most glaring and confusing part of the crest: the red star. My initial reaction cannot be captured in words. Here are some memes that might do the trick:
This is me trying to figure out why RED….
Everything about this star bothers me. Let’s first disregard that fact that the club choose to use a star – a taboo among soccer purists, and focus on WHY RED?! The club has been promoting a blue and green color scheme throughout its marketing & limited merch drops thus far and has never once given an indication that red would be part of the scheme. I feel like the red is random and clashing in the logo. It does not fit well with the blue and green and instantly grabs the attention of the viewer pulling their eyes away from the sweet monogram and directly to the star. Plainly from a graphical design standpoint, I think the red star is flat out bizarre and conflicting. Additionally, I question whether the design team has overlooked the fact that a red star is a symbol of communism. I get that this isn’t the age of McCarthyism, and that the Cold War has ended, but this has got to not sit well with older generations. The design team seems like they didn't put much thought into the star’s color and what it could mean for other people. The use of red strikes me as amateurish – an afterthought with no real feeling for how it interacts with the rest of the crest.
Ok, that was my rant on the color red, now moving on...
Just a bit about the use of a star: This will not sit well with soccer purists, myself included. For those of you who are not familiar with the soccer history, stars are reserved in the fabric of the sport for clubs or countries who have won titles & championships. For example, Manchester United has won the UEFA Champions league 3 times, ergo they have 3 stars adorning their crest. This use of the star is in utter disrespect for soccer culture. period.
THE PROS: WHALE TAIL EASTER EGG FIND
I personally was so distracted by the red star that I almost missed the hidden gem in this logo – A WHALE TAIL! Yes, look under the “A” in the monogram and in the negative space lies a whale tail. This is amazing. It is an ode to the Whalers not only because it is a whale tail but also because of it’s creative and brilliant use of negative space. This type of negative space use even goes one layer deeper, paying respect to H hidden in the Whalers’ logo. For me, this saved the logo. I became so consumed by the perplexity of the red star that I missed – what should be – the focal point and defining feature of this logo. Honestly, the club’s design team confuses me. How can they go from a red star (utter despair) to an Easter egg whale tail (full on genius)…
THE MERCH: VERSATILITY
From a brief look at the merch that the club released on its website it seems like there is a surprising amount of variety within the brand. This was a nice surprise especially considering my initial adversity to the red star in the logo. I was pleased to see that there was a decent number of products available with a green star! Although I still am not a huge fan of the star, the green is aesthetically way better for me. It doesn’t make the star look out of place. Also, I am a HUGE fan of the knockout white. For some reason taking away all the color of the logo and just putting it in white did it for me. I think this had to do with making the monogram one single color – giving it a classic American baseball feel (think New York Yankees, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals etc.). These knockout white items were the items I found myself putting in my cart. Overall, this versatility makes the red star go from a complete disaster to just a nuisance in my eyes. I'll wear this logo proudly regardless, but maybe it will be mostly in alternate color schemes....