Last time, we took a look at an approach New York City FC could take to visual branding. Going through the exercise with NYC FC brought us here:
Today, we’ll discuss how this mark and the ideas behind it translate into possible NYC FC jersey ideas. I’m not going to dive too far back into the philosophy behind the choices I made in the first piece; I hope they’re pretty well articulated there. (If you haven’t seen that piece yet, this one might make more sense if you go back and read it first.) But to make sure we’re on the same page, here are a few takeaways.
• NYC FC has a chance to be a definitive soccer brand, both state-side and around the world. In my opinion, their branding should be simple, unique, powerful, wordless, and digestible at a glance.
• I favor branding that is a) influenced by history and surroundings, b) pared down to a simple idea, and c) can act as part of a “system” of visual expression. Once you have a powerful visual mark, you can run wild with the visual system you build around it. If the original idea is strong, things will always tie together well. This is especially true in the world of jerseys.
As always, I also have a couple of ground rules for this piece.
• These designs, and all of the NYC FC-inspired work in this series, reflects my personal preference alone. I am not claiming that these choices are perfect for MLS, NYC FC, Manchester City, the Yankees, adidas, the city of Flushing Meadows, the New York City harbormaster or the guy who power-washes under the Statue of Liberty’s robes. It’s me enjoying the chance to play with a very cool brand - New York City Football Club - and running with it.
• In that spirit, I’ve worked up a few jerseys (and some other assorted stuff) here in order to add my voice to the conversation happening around this brand. But I have not gone out of my way to make them “real-world compatible”. For instance, even though adidas makes MLS jerseys, and will almost certainlymake NYC FC’s first set, I’m not using any adidas templates for the jersey designs that follow here. This is for a few reasons.
a) I don’t know what adidas templates will look like in two years. b) I hate that adidas forces the “three stripe” motif on everything, and I didn’t want to cram them into these designs. c) This is a blue-sky design exercise (no pun intended), so I wanted to be able to start from scratch. d) I want to make it clear that this is my work - and is not “for” or “on the behalf of” any other companies or entities.
Author’s note: This piece is part of a mini-series on identity design for the MLS club New York City FC. When you’re done here, feel free to read on:
Part 1: Logos & Branding
Part 2: Jerseys & Apparel
For more, including how to purchase future design work from the author, follow @m_willis on Twitter or leave your email at the very bottom of this page.
Also, if you like this kind of stuff, check out 32 Nations, a project to give unique designs to every team headed to the 2014 World Cup.
Thanks for reading!
• So, what manufacturer’s brand did I use for these mockups? Well, my own, of course. If you read my stuff, you may know that I’ve started a little apparel company called Clean Sheet - we’ve begun with a couple of designs based around national soccer identities. (Our first shirt, an homage to the US Soccer talisman, the Gadsden flag, is shipping to orderers now, and our second, based on a German national motif, is now open for orders.) On the jersey mockups I’ve made for this piece, you’ll see the Clean Sheet logo above the right breast, where a manufacturer’s mark would normally be. So yes, these jersey concepts are fiction - but they’re my fiction, dammit!
Alright, let’s get started. We’ll cover a primary jersey first, then a few alternates, and then a few special extras to show the brand’s flexibility and round out the exercise.
This is the big one - the primary jersey. This is the look I’d have NYC FC adopt whenever and wherever they could - at home, in big, neutral-site matches - heck, in international competition and on sold-out Asian tours. This look - slate navy and midnight black, pared with a bright sky blue crest - would be the club’s trademark style. There’s a bunch to discuss here, and much of it will set the tone for the jerseys to come. Let’s break it down.
First, the navy and black color scheme: these colors just scream “New York” to me. There’s something very urban and tense about them - and together, these two dark colors gain a vibrance that they wouldn’t necessarily have alone. A slate, navy blue is the shirt’s primary color, and it gives the look a strong base. Deep, matte black cuts diagonally across the chest in a very wide sash, dividing the shirt and framing its other graphic elements at the same time. (I’d pair this jersey with black shorts and slate/navy socks to complete the look.) A few things about the sash:
• It’s set at 54 degrees. This so that the sash aligns exactly with the pentagonal crest shape; a straight line drawn roughy down the middle of the sash would bisect the crest through its bottom-left corner. This gives the layout a pleasant visual harmony.
• It frames the crest and the sponsor. The sponsor - more on the choice in a moment - gains a smart visual callback to the jersey’s base color, and grounds it in the shirt’s visual language. The crest - already in sharp sky blue - is lent an almost neon-like radiance, echoing another visual trademark of the city it represents.
• I’m not attaching a permanence to the sash design; I think slate blue (with some black) would make an ideal permanent first-jersey look, but the design itself - how those colors were arranged on the shirt- could and would vary through the years with fashion and merchandising requirements. Think of the sash motif as one “jersey cycle” in the life of NYC FC.
I chose Audi for the club’s shirt sponsor. It seemed to fit in a bunch of ways - Audi is a New York Yankee corporate partner, they have a brand with roots in Europe and a strong foothold in the US, and they have just the right amount of accessible cachet - upscale and aspirational, but not too ostentatious - to parallel the kind of brand NYC FC should try to be. The Audi logo is also quite beautiful, stands as a mark of performance and class, and (albeit coincidentally) has a certain olympic, international sporting quality.
Finally, I think it’s worth acknowledging that no matter what they do, NYC FC is going to be a team that has a certain “dark side” appeal. Once they’re here, the club will be easy to root against, hard to look away from, and constantly looming over the American soccer landscape. There’s something honest and enticing about the club embracing their darker side - and using naturally intimidating tones to do so. This jersey, and these colors, represent what I believe NYC FC is hoping to embody: an ominously powerful American soccer force.
That’s my primary look for New York City FC. Let’s move on to a few alternates.
Alternate I - “The White Collar”
When New York can’t be inhabiting dark tones, I think it makes perfect sense for to appeal to the other side of the spectrum: crisp, clear white. This is the regal, above-the-fray look - this is the one that pisses you off even more when NYC FC comes into your stadium and takes three points; in white, they didn’t even have the decency too look like bad guys. The crisp white is the main attraction - but there are a few other details to discuss.
• The crest colorway switches up - which it can do quite easily, given the system we have in place. In this configuration, the crest is vibrant orange on navy blue - a perfect way to represent the city - donning the colors of the flag - in hostile environments. With this combination, NYC FC become ambassadors for New York.
• The manufacturer mark and sponsor are embroidered in light silver-grey, to keep the sleek, clean look nice and pure. The jersey would pair with navy shorts and navy socks (maybe with an orange stripe or two?) to complete the look.
• There is one slight flourish - sublimated into the jersey is a vintage map of New York - mid-town Manhattan, in this case - that gives the jersey an extra kick. The map effect itself is rendered in exactly the same proportion as the sash on the primary jersey, to keep the wide-sash theme alive. In this case the map is an older, depicting 1800s-era Manhattan - but the beauty in this idea is that this shirt could rotate between both boroughs and eras - meaning 1950s Queens could get a shot, or modern day Brooklyn. It’s a completely flexible concept that could honor the city and do it in some measure of style.
This look is New York dressed up and overwhelmingly put-together - a soccer dinner jacket, if you will. I think a club like NYC FC could pull it off.
Alternate II - “The Blue Collar”
New York is defined by the push and pull between white collar and blue collar elements. So if the first alternate goes upscale, the second has to be populist, hard-working, and simple. This look - the “Blue Collar” - is the second alternative. (I have no idea which would be more popular, as I consider them equal change options from the primary kit.)
There are some primal New York City influences at play here. The first is one of the best - the classic ringer-style t-shirt, a staple of urban, New York style. The ringer (a light t-shirt with matching dark-color rings around the neck and arm holes) is so New York, I can’t even begin to separate it from the city and its influences. The ringer is the Beastie Boys and the ABA. It’s kids in the 70s opening up fire hydrants. It’s the “New York City” logo shirt you’ve seen a million times - probably first (sans sleeves) on everyone’s favorite Englishman-turned-New Yorker. (Mr. Lennon was certainly considered an honorary native; As Manchester City FC arrives from England, it should hope to do as well.)
My favorite versions of the ringer were always the ones that had light blue heather body with navy accents. You probably have one in your closet somewhere. This alternate NYC FC look is defined by that vintage, New York-in-the-summertime style. The jersey fabric is meant to evoke a bit of the heathered look of a soft, well-loved cotton t-shirt, and the single-color accent - just navy for the crest, sponsor, and ring elements - play right into the simple conceit. If the “white collar” alternate is a formal dinner attire, this look is stickball in the park. It’s the other half of the New York City equation.
And of course, this look has a second relevance - it pays direct homage to primary owner Manchester City and that club’s sky-blue kit. I’m not sure how many branding elements will carry directly over from MCFC to NYC FC, but an idea like this - weaving tenets of the City brand in with local New York influences - would be a smart way to do it.
Together, these three jerseys form the core of my NYC FC uniform identity.
Three jerseys (home/alternate/third) is usually where the jersey conversation stops for modern soccer clubs. But because I love this concept, because the idea of a from-scratch New York City brand is so exciting, and because I didn’t want to force too many ideas into too few jerseys, I’ve come up with a few others. Consider these special jerseys as other ways to help illustrate the brand - maybe these are one-off looks, or saved for commemorations, friendlies, and other special occasions. Maybe one of these is better suited for one of the top-three spots. I just wanted to be sure to give this entire project the amount of attention it deserved. So:
Special Jersey: “Pinstripes”
I’m not sure too much needs to be explained here. If the Yankees are involved, and if the club is considering playing games - maybe even seasons - at Yankee Stadium, you’d have to think that a pinstriped jersey would be in the mix. What better way to appeal to existing Yankee die-hards who might be considering giving soccer a shot for the first time? I don’t think pinstripes could be an everyday jersey for the club - but I do think there’s a place for them at NYC FC. And the badge, in simple navy on heritage white - looks like it’s always belonged in this visual world.
Special Jersey: ”Community”
OK, now this is a fun one. I’m breaking away from the traditional looks to explore a completely different idea I think a club like NYC FC could pull off with aplomb. This look is the “Community” jersey - and the idea is that the jersey itself responds to, or is modeled on, a charity or community cause that the club believes in. In this scenario, the charitable cause replaces the primary sponsor on the front of the shirt - giving a bit of publicity to a noble organization - but going further, the actual jersey design itself becomes something that honors the charity.
In this scenario, I’ve chosen the real (and awesome) New York organization Art Start as a great example of a concern that would benefit from this kind of partnership. Art Start gives homeless and underprivileged city kids the chance to create artwork with real supplies and real mentorship. Working on the principle that providing kids the chance to create and express themselves will brighten their horizons, they are helping New York’s at-risk youth in a very tangible, very touching way. This is the kind of charitable partner I’d seek out if I was helping NYC FC join the local community.
It should come as no surprise that the children participating in Art Start programs produce some pretty cool artwork. The idea here is that, maybe for one or two games a year, this cause “takes over” the jersey - the sponsorship space promotes Art Start instead of a company, and the shirt’s design incorporates a piece of artwork created by program participants. I’ve even imagined, in this scenario, that the iconic NYC FC badge would be part of the kids’ work - so it gets the “artistic” treatment here too. (And you thought I was kidding about having a logo that kids could successfully doodle. It actually makes a huge difference for all kinds of reasons.)
Sales of all merchandise, game-worn stuff, whatever - it would all go to support the charity on display. If the shirts were limited, it might even become a sought-after collectors’ item. This is just one example of the idea; you could do a Red Cross shirt in bright red, with a re-interpreted logo, or something supporting human rights with a equality/rainbow theme. The point is that the jersey itself is a canvas through which a cause itself is elevated and promoted. Just one idea for an organization who will certainly be looked upon to give back to the community. What a wonderful way for NYC FC to be involved in great causes; what cool opportunity for a worthy charity, and in this case, what a thrill it would be for kids to see their work presented in this context.
Special Jersey: ”NYC Day”
We have one final jersey pairing to demo here. Again, these help show how far the branding and imagery could stretch around a solid system like this one for NYC FC. In this last example, we’re taking direct visual cues from the city itself to create a pair of jerseys that evoke feelings of New York City. I’m calling this pairing “NYC Day” and “NYC Night”; again, you could easily come up with more thematic ideas and apply the brand through them.
Let’s take “NYC Day” first. The concept is to represent the feeling of New York on a bright, sunny day, with the jersey itself. I’ve chosen a sturdy grey base, to reflect the concrete and towering buildings; accents of sky blue peak through in the same way you can glimpse slices of blue sky through the high rises and urban infrastructure. The sash motif returns in a very subtle way, connecting the jersey to the primary family and, in this case, suggesting a shaft of sunlight cascading between buildings. I’ve also used a very slight mosaic/pixel pattern to suggest the grids and sense of constant modernity that drive the city’s daily life.
Special Jersey: ”NYC Night”
The natural partner to day, of course, is night. The “NYC Night” look takes over where day ends, and interprets a city that’s equally alive - maybe even more alive - under cover of darkness. This jersey returns to the dark slate/navy of the original primary jersey, but it rearranges the elements. The sash is gone; in its place is an overlapping sublimated pattern that’s inspired by the rivers and bodies of water that surround and define the city. Water connects the five boroughs to one another, and the ways that New Yorkers connect to each other across water - by bridge, tunnel, ferry and more - define their relationship to one another.
This jersey looks out over a tense body of water - imagine the East River at midnight - and tries to capture that feeling. The crest is rendered in a non-standard NYC FC color - light, halogen green - in an homage to the iconic bright green lights that adorn the cables and stays of the city’s famous bridges at night. If it’s able to capture even a fraction of the real anxiousness and excitement of a New York City evening, it would be a worthy look.
I can’t even begin to render all the possible ways this brand could apply to non-jersey merchandise. I feel only that the potential would be substantial.
I’d wear the cap above. The logo works on a cap as easily as it does on a jersey. I think the logo holds up as something sports-loving New Yorkers could get behind, and even fashion-conscious non-partisans could take up. For instance…
…here’s the brand as applied on fashion apparel like the solidly American hoodie. There aren’t too many current MLS brands I’d think could make the jump to non-sport focused fashion. This could be one.
In the end, of course, there’s only one piece of apparel that matters to soccer fans.
The scarf is the most important piece of supporters gear there is, and this one looks pretty great. You can imagine hundreds of different ways of applying this logo and brand across pieces of apparel like these, and more.
This is a brand that could, with the right backing, the right faith, and the right creative leadership, go far. We’ll see how the real New York City FC tackles this tricky issue; one thing’s for sure: they’ll only get one good shot at it. For their sake, for Major League Soccer’s, and for fans’ sake, I hope it’s a strong one.
Thanks for reading!
Interested in wearing something with this logo?
I’m working up some real-life apparel options with this identity. If you’re interested, let me know on Twitter (@m_willis), by email (@m_willis), or just leave your email in the form at the very bottom of this page.
If you made it this far, you might enjoy a few other uniform, soccer and identity-related projects I’ve worked on: Clean Sheet, my shop for soccer-inspired design; and design pieces 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!