/ 7 April 2011

Rev Reboot, Part I: Identity

When last we spoke, I was making my case to be the guy to reboot the New imageEngland Revolution brand. It was tongue in cheek, kind of, except I really believe that a) it’s vital to their survival, b) I’ve got some good ideas, and c) people need to see what’s possible for this team, because it can seem impossible to visualize given their current state. So it really wasn’t tongue in cheek at all – I would love the job – but I’m going to hold on to that somewhat detached tone to avoid sounding like a maniac. Also, I’m putting this stuff together in hours, not months like a big design firm would, so don’t judge me too harshly.

Author’s note: the entire Rev Reboot series is now up and online.  When you’re done here, feel free to read on.
Intro: Why I should get to Reboot the Revs
Part I: Identity
Part II: Uniforms
Part III: Positioning
Final Word: Summing it all up
Enjoy? Get the Rev Reboot T-Shirt!
Thanks for reading!

Instead, just start thinking about what it would be like to be walking from the pub to an intimate, urban Boston stadium, wearing a kick-ass Revs scarf with the new crest, a few good buddies in tow.  You’re adequately pre-gamed, singing some John Lennon (I’m assuming “Revolution”, but maybe it’s “Julia” – I don’t know you) and ready to watch – and participate in – 90 minutes of something you really believe in.

The Identity

It starts with the crest. You can call it a logo, but I prefer “crest” because it creates an important design distinction. A logo should be as pared down and bare-bones as possible. Apple. Nike. Coke. Lego has a really strong one. Um… the Garden-to-Table Bistro behind the endzone in Gillette Stadium. Logos should be air.

A crest, on the other hand, can be somewhat weighty. It has history. It has layers. It can be interpreted and broken down and rebuilt using a weird, thousand year old language. A crest can be as complex as you’d like, as long as you don’t mind the world knowing what’s meaningful to you and what your past was all about. In the era of modern design and marketing, these two things get confused very frequently, and frequently stand in for one another. This is a crest, this is a logo. Crest; logo (um.. both?) A sports team can have either, or both – in fact, it’s often good and smart if they do have both. A crest is what a soccer team wears on its shirt; a logo might be what it puts on corporate letterhead. Or maybe a sleeve patch if it’s getting feisty.

With all that said – here is my proposed crest for the Revolution:


And here is my proposed proposed logo: 


Again, these were concepts done up in hours, not months, so please accept them with that caveat.

The Logo

Some things should jump out at you right away.

First: finally, a shield! Or some type of enclosed shape, even! I think Revs fans (the ones that want change, anyway) have been waiting for this. You can’t use the current logo as a solid unit – there’s imagetoo much shifty space and too many scratchy edges. It doesn’t have a solid background, which means it sits awkwardly on almost any other color. Shields used to be, well, actual shields used in battle. I would have loved to see somebody try to stop a bunch of flying arrows with the old Revolution crayon flag. This proposed one would stop a battering ram. Or protect your heart, if you will, over which it will be worn on the kit.

Second: the name is different! Yes it is. I have slightly re-christened the team. Nothing drastic, because I don’t believe drastic change is necessary. The Revolution have a strong brand and the name has worn surprisingly well. What they needed was a resolution to an identity crisis: Boston or New England? Urban or suburban? This change – officially, to Boston & New England FC (nickname: the Revolution) – lets them gracefully do both. I like a lot about this name.

  • It sounds vaguely old world, like an old train line that might have run up the coast of Maine.
  • It allows the team the advantage to remain where they are, in Foxboro, but rebrand now. And when an urban stadium is ready, it lets them easily and un-messily move over to it without changing messaging or focus. This lets you start a new chapter today.
  • It reminds me of my favorite club team (and true soccer first love) Brighton & Hove Albion FC. An excellent name, and one that you’ll hopefully be hearing a bunch about in the Championship next year. Oh, and they just built themselves a stunningly modest new stadium that the Revs might want to take a gander at for inspiration.
  • It finally lets Boston wrap its sweaty, loving arms around the team – but it doesn’t shut New England out. In fact, as you’ll see below, I’d like to make the team’s push to be regionally beloved stronger than it’s ever been.

Third: the colors should look familiar, save one: that’s right, a Fenway-esque green makes the jump to join navy, red and silver on the palette. Normally I don’t like that many colors working together, but it just feels right to me here. Each has a role to play. Besides suggesting the friendly and New England beloved colors found in Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, the new green also gives life to…

Fourth: the Evergreen. New England’s symbol. Check out our first flags – many, many iterations contain this symbol and versions of the colors in the logo. It’s truly a regional relic – imageand a strong symbol, to boot. The only problem I can forsee involves zealous Timbers fans brandishing axes, but (no pun intended) it cuts both ways, too – “the one tree even the Timbers can’t cut down” could be a pretty great headline from a New England perspective.  The logo’s tree is taken directly from one of our famous, early models – the flag that flew over American forces during the Battle of Bunker Hill.  What could more in keeping with Revolution than that?

Fifth: the New England coast and Six-pointed Star. New England is an awkward region to draw in any streamlined way; there’s no getting around it. So the coastline stands in for the entire region, rendered in a deep navy against a sea of slightly lighter blue. The Boston region (if you squint, it could be Foxboro) is called out with a bright, Patriots-red six-pointed star, each point representing a New England state and placed the home of the team. Note: this is not a five-point star, traditionally placed in or around a crest to mark a championship. Fitting one or two of those in will be a nice problem to have one day.  You’ll also notice a faint beacon shining from the star out to sea – this is my homage to the region’s soccer past, it’s seafaring tradition (a shout out to the American soccer cradles of Fall River and New Bedford area – hey guys! – goes here) and it’s European roots.  You can imagine the beacon it as another warning to the English, this time come World Club Cup time.  (I toyed with the idea, for a few seconds anyway, of re-christening the club “Beacon FC”, but didn’t want to lose the Revolution theme altogether.)  

Other stuff… the font, if you’re into knowing that stuff, is League Gothic, which is quite common and which I happen to love in uppercase applications.

Oh yeah, and a “1996” is stuck in there at the bottom. Gotta remember where you came from. This is not part of the team name, just a nice nod to Revs history.

Historic, clean, traditional, strong. This is a crest New England can be proud of.

The Logo

As promised, the logo is simple. It’s the brand in one gulp, rendered with as much finesse as possible. No gradients (well, a very subtle, optional one to help portray silver instead of grey), shadows or extraneous flair. Now that the elements of the identity are (hopefully) more familiar, imageit’s easy to see how they are called back to play together in the logo. The evergreen stands on a field of silver, backed by a halved six-pointed star. Both the tree and the six points, of course, reference and bind the six New England states together into one entity, and the colors of the team are represented. This logo would look good on a hat, or on a ticket, or at the top of a piece of stationery, or being trailed on a banner behind a plane. It fits with the other local teams pretty nicely – compare, for instance, old (top) vs. new (bottom). It’s unique, with just a hint of something iconically Bostonian. It scales incredibly well and renders easily from afar. And that’s that.

It’s a winning logo.

What’s Not There

The word Revolution. We all know the nickname. It’s not going anywhere. It’s official and it’s here to stay. It doesn’t need to be on everything. But in this identity, it is sometimes used in an “official” capacity – see below.

Exploring The Concept

Let’s talk about what the team can do with this identity.


It’s time for the Revs to embrace both Boston and New England, not as potential markets but as proud, intertwined bastions of belonging. New England is strong, friendly, diverse, wise, and people strive to belong to it – and once they do, they don’t lose that identity easily. The same exact description could be given to Boston. It’s time to stoke the fires of “belonging.” Forget the game or the team’s record or the players they have – at the core, loving a team is unconditional, and about loving what it represents, where it’s from, and who’s along with you for the ride. The tag is “The Revolution. Belong.” I think people will want to.

In this treatment, which is basically just a way to play with the branding elements, I’ve worked up the idea of bringing the states together with mottos. Each one represents a vital component to a team’s long-term success – and each plays into the state’s abbreviation. So you get “Commit & Train” for CT (Connecticut), “Voyage & Thrive” for VT (Vermont), etc. It also plays off of the ampersand – “&” – a vital and memorable part of the new name. With the addition of two extra complimentary colors (which you might be seeing again in future posts), we get to six (ding ding!) and each state gets a little identity of their own under the “Boston & New England” banner. The boxy New England map at left is just a fun idea that works with the other elements. It’s all to help you visualize the ideas behind the identity.

An aside to Rhode Island – I really wanted to give you Hope, seeing as that’s your state motto, but I liked the state abbreviation scheme too much. But you got bright, primary red! And our friend New Hampshire got Hope. Stay cool.

I’m also big on the idea of clean lines – given the scrawled and scratched nature of the current Revs identity. I don’t recommend gradients everywhere – as I said, they’re nowhere to be found on the logo – but applied lightly in the crest and in identity work, they give a smooth, terraced look to the team’s visual style. It’s spacey and a little refreshing (and the Pats could use more of this, too). In general, the entire package could last decades without feeling as dated as the current stuff does – and acquire meaning that the current identity is not prepared to accept.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it; This is just an inkling of some of the ideas you could use with this identity at the core. As always, your feedback (especially the ones where you rip me) would be great.

Next post: uniforms.  Go now!

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