The Soccer Out of Context project has led me to some very interesting places. It will continue - with the NL West up next - but I want to take a moment to explore something that one of the recent designs brought up. This is a quick aside about the Texas Rangers, their visual identity, and a few design sketches that expand on the idea of what the Rangers could represent.
Author’s note: Though this piece isn’t really about soccer at all, it is connected to a recurring series on the soccer design aesthetic applied in other contexts like baseball. When you’re done here, feel free to read about soccer design and:
The A.L. East
The N.L. Central
The A.L. West
The N.L. West
The A.L. Central
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During the S.O.O.C. project, I’ve been going through baseball, one five-team division at a time. I’m halfway through, 15 teams in, and the Rangers are, by far, the team that’s been the hardest to work with. I’m proud of the result - I think it’s a worthwhile translation of the team’s current look to the world of soccer identity - but I wanted the entire package to be better. I’m not trying to redesign teams as I work on the soccer jerseys, but in the Rangers’ case, I really, really wanted to. Because a) they don’t have a distinctive visual idenity to work with, and b) they don’t have an interesting visual history to draw from. The Rangers are just… Generic Baseball Team A. They’re the examples on page 22 of an equipment catalog, or that “we didn’t buy the rights to use the uniform” endorsement look. The Rangers’ identity is only a bit more visually and emotionally interesting than the unlicensed ‘American’ team in RBI Baseball.
Here is the club’s present day design language - the current Rangers wordmark, cap mark and logo:
Everything is flat and generic; nothing is inspiring or evocative. I don’t mean this as an insult to the club (or its fans, who are by all possible metrics, fantastic). But I don’t even think they know what they’re going for visually. There is no Texas Rangers style, no Texas Rangers vibe. If you say, “I can’t believe I’m actually pulling on the Yankees shirt / Celtics uniform / Bears jersey / Maple Leafs sweater for the first time” people know what you mean. You can’t say that about the Rangers.
And all this is kind of a travesty, because there is nothing bigger as a brand than Texas. Texas actually claims that about itself. How could something branded ‘Texas’ anything be generic? Especially when the Texas Rangers - a legendary, kick-ass special law enforcement unit - is the team’s namesake?
Suffice it to say, I would make some changes, and though I don’t have the time or bona-fides to really redesign the Rangers’ identity, I’ve worked up a couple of design sketches to illustrate what a modified Rangers identity could look like. I’ve only worked on this for a short time, so they may be a little rough, but: here’s a direction a Texas Rangers revamp could take. To start, a new wordmark:
Here’s what’s going on. First, the color scheme: the blue is a little richer - it’s on the aged, yellow side of the spectrum instead of the royal side. Next, the current team’s pure white becomes an off-white, or heritage white, color. And finally, the red gets deeper and more scarlet in color. The entire color scheme is slightly desaturated for a faded, vintage feel.
The mark itself has a few important qualities. The font is new. I’m using IFC Los Banditos to give the Rangers a bit more distinction than the semi-western, semi-baseball, mostly-autopilot font face they’re using now. Another decision, and this will carry through the rest of the identity - no outlines or strokes. In general, baseball (and other US sports with corporate identity design shops) are way too stroke happy - they’ve never met a logo or a wordmark that didn’t look better with at least one, preferably three, outlines. Sure, it makes the logo look ready for a beer cozy on a discount shelf in a Target somewhere, but timeless identities need more simplicity. Los Banditos has a ton more character than the current font face, and I wouldn’t want to stifle that anyway with layers of outlining.
(I am using a slight beveled effect to make the elements here stand out a bit; they could also easily be rendered as flattened or one-color graphics if need be.)
Two other choices - first, the ‘X’ in Texas is given a half-and-half red/white treatment, to mimic the red and white fields of the Texas flag. It’s simple and provocative, and since a wordmark like TEXAS has a certain amount of balance, with an odd amount of letters and a symmetrical, expressive X in the middle, it’s worth exploring how that X can be made to work for the identity.
The ‘Rangers’ mark is give a slight arc, to further enhance the “old time” aspect of the identity - and on either side of the word, there are flags - three on the left and three on the right, to represent, in total, the Six Flags over Texas motif that every school kid learns at some point. There is also a nice callback to the pennant flags that are an important baseball symbol. The flags are rendered in alternating off-white and red for a bit of pageantry, and to really enforce the slight usage of red in the identity (the idea is to save it for small touches that have a big design impact.)
Next, a proposed primary logo:
A simple breakdown: this mark would take over for the current T-and-ball logo, and serve as the Rangers’ primary club mark. It’s a simple idea, really: a version of the Texas Rangers Division badge - a circled silver star - sits behind a modified version of the drop-shadowed ‘T’ mark. A few important details: first, to me, the badge star is an absolute no-brainer, and should be the permanent identity for this club. It’s just waiting to be a huge success - not least given the fact that the synchronicity with the Cowboys in the market would be perfect. This mark is much different than the Cowboys’ star - it adds a circle, rounded sheriff’s points, and is rendered in different colors - but the visual concepts would line up, and that would be a win for local fans.
For the purposes of this identity revamp, silver becomes the final color in the Rangers’ scheme (with aged blue, vintage white, deep red being the others), and the badge would look fantastic rendered in it. Atop the badge, a version of the current Texas ‘T’ mark (done in the Los Banditos face) pops, aged white atop red. The final touch is a nod to Rangers history - something that’s not done enough with this club - with the founding year in simple lettering astride the mark. The entire piece is simple, tasteful, and much more to the heart of what the Texas Rangers could mean than anything the current mark does.
Next, a secondary logo:
The secondary mark repeats the design pattern of the primary: a large object (the state of Texas) in silver backs a simple white and red identifier on top. In this case, that identifier is a callback to the halved X from the wordmark - now the X sits squarely over the Dallas/Arlington/Ft. Worth area for a classic ‘X marks the spot’ identifier. This mark calls out the clubs’ locality, something that I wanted to do explicitly (as it’s not done in the name) while also strengthening the Rangers’ claim to the entirety of Texas. This mark would make a great sleeve patch or the like, and could even crop up more frequently…
Let’s talk caps. Most clubs have two nowadays; the Rangers would too. First, the primary cap: deep vintage blue, a red bill, and the Texas Rangers badge as a proud, “needs no explanation” wordmark. This would be the everyday cap. Next, the alternate: all blue, including the bill, and the halved X as the cap mark - which looks outstanding on a blue field - and which would begin to grow as a secondary Rangers identity. I have to say, I think these X caps in particular would become very, very popular.
The cool thing about a revamp that works with iconic pieces like this is that once you get it in place, you can really start to have fun with the components, and do a ton of great stuff with the identity that goes way beyond jerseys. For instance, the primary and secondary marks can split apart, and joined with some judicious rearrangement of the six flags from the original wordmark, you can get yourself something pretty fun:
(That pictograph very loosely spells out “TEXAS baseball”, and if you don’t see it even after this little explanation, maybe I’m being too clever here.) If it worked, this would be a designer’s and a marketer’s dream - an entire design language to play with and to brand different aspects of the club with. Merchandise, T-Shirts, Printed material: all in play. Elements could stand alone - like the flags or the silver state mark - or could be used together to evoke something very Texan or very fun (or both). They could be grouped and rearranged to constantly do new things with the identity. The bottom line is a flexible, modular personality that gives you flavors of Texas, History, Baseball as America’s Pastime, Vintage, Local, and Smart. To me, that’s a big improvement.
I can be confident in saying this: the current Rangers identity isn’t pulling off any of this. Rangers fans deserve an identity that gives them a team that speaks for itself - this is one attempt to envision one.
Note: the flag icon used as an element in this design exercise was sourced from the Noun Project, a wonderful resource for any designer.
If you made it this far, you might enjoy a few other uniform, design and identity-related pieces I’ve written: Soccer Out of Context, Re-booting the New England Revolution and What Makes a USA Soccer Kit?. I’m also tracking seasonal soccer tables, beautifully, at the Seasons project. If you like tech writing, I do a little of that too now and then. Thanks again!