Identity Sketches for the San Jose Earthquakes

I design because it’s fun and satisfying - but I also design as a form of communicating critique. This isn’t necessarily because I’ve found a perfect – or even, better – approach to an existing brand; it’s mostly because when it comes to discussions of identity, visuals communicate much more clearly than words ever could. After all, if you’re responding to something visual; why not craft a visual response? Why not express yourself on the same terms the brand does?

The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.
Jean-Luc Godard

I created refreshed identities for the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew with this principle in mind.  Both of those brands continue to use old, out of favor design language that could stand some fresh thought. In one of those cases, help is on the way; in another, the potential for change is still at least, er, theoretically possible. I’ve also done some visual thinking about New York City FC, a brand which has since defined itself in a rather dignified (if heavily inspired) manner. ‘Critique by design’ is the best way I know how to get new identity concepts across - concepts that may begin with visuals, but usually extend to the way a team presents itself and carries itself.  A well-conceived brand takes on a personality, and becomes a living thing – but the process invariably starts with a foundation of solid design work.

Today, I’m offering a visual critique of the San Jose Earthquakes, a soccer brand that, much like the Revs and the Crew, had good reason to re-imagine their visual identity.

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Identity Sketches for the Columbus Crew

Author’s note: Given yesterday’s San Jose Earthquakes rebranding, this morning seemed like a good time to run this piece, which has been in the works for a little bit. 


Currently, you’d hear something like this:

“…Well, so - they’re yellow, I think. And Columbus - that’s like, football country, right? Ohio State 24/7, that kind of deal? Do they get into soccer over there? Oh - wait - right, it’s the team with that beefcake logo with the angry dudes on it. What’s up with that thing? Are those guys a ‘crew’? Ha ha… They still have a team, right?”

What you’d want to hear, of course, is something like this:

“I don’t even really watch a ton of soccer but that Crew game blew me away. The fans are just insane - it comes right through the TV. Yellow and black everywhere - it was wild. I was just flipping around and I couldn’t change the channel. I gotta get that jersey.”

If you ask an average American sports fan “What do you know about the Columbus Crew?”, I imagine you’d get all kind of answers. I’m not claiming to speak for anyone specific with the above composites, but I’d wager that the average response would skew a little closer to the first one than the second.

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32 Nations: Epilogue

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All thirty-two shirts are out; the ten (eleven if you count this piece) part project has been published. Now what? It’s time to take a quick look back at 32 Nations, to review some highlights, answer some questions, and reveal a few final items.

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Friday Music, Volume 1

Speaking of Friday Music: Recently I’ve been playing around with 8tracks, and I realized I could turn the Friday Music series into de-facto mix tapes. From now on, every eight songs I post, I’ll collect into an 8tracks volume. Since we have some catching up to do, here’s Friday Music, Volume 1: compiled January—April, 2012.

  1. 4Our by MRR-ADM
  2. Same Tattoos (Sabzi remix) by Fences
  3. Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells
  4. Brazil (Gold Panda remix) by Luke Abbot
  5. Welcome Home by Radical Face
  6. Belong by Beat Culture
  7. Roll The Bones by Shakey Graves
  8. D.I.Y. by Keep Shelley in Athens

Click here to play

More soon. (And yeah, that’s my dog.)

Friday Music

“Ocean” by Role. Atmospheric, loop-heavy, and somewhere hundreds of miles away. Just what I was looking for today.

Stuff I Like

From time to time I find stuff worth sharing and commenting on that doesn’t fit here. I also like to publish my own photography, artwork, and other media when I can, but I don’t want to overload this spot. Enter: Stuff I Like (stuff.mwillis.com), a place to throw links, creative stuff and ephemera. Expect a mix of design, web, soccer, photography, art and mascot videos, roughly in that order.

Or, in brief: