Jay-Z, logo designer?

Multi-platinum selling rapper, music mogul and Mr Beyoncé Jay-Z has unveiled a new string to his bow – graphic designer. The erstwhile Shawn Carter has reportedly ‘designed’ the new identity for the basketball team he co-owns, the Brooklyn Nets

brooklyn_nets_0.jpg - Jay-Z, logo designer? - 4312

Multi-platinum selling rapper, music mogul and Mr Beyoncé Jay-Z has unveiled a new string to his bow – graphic designer. The erstwhile Shawn Carter has reportedly ‘designed’ the new identity for the basketball team he co-owns, the Brooklyn Nets

The primary logo (above) continues the use of the shield from the team’s previous identity, as the New Jersey Nets, into which the Nets name has been somewhat painfully squished. Rather better is the basketball graphic featuring a large capital B which is carried through to the secondary logo below.

Brand New’s Armin Vit, whose site unveiled the identity yesterday, is, we think it safe to say, not a fan, calling the logo family “technically worthless and embarrassing”. But as sports branding goes, we’ve seen a lot worse and its retro minimalism certainly exploits the hipster associations of all-things Brooklyn right now.

Perhaps Mr Z’s savvy for merchandising and branded clothing (his Rocawear label has been a huge success) can be seen in the T-shirt range that was launched at the same time.

We’re not imagining that Mr Z actually, you know, ‘designed’ the thing himself – Gareth Hague, via Twitter, got in touch to suggest that the work was actually done by Timothy P Morris who has worked a lot with Jay-Z in the past – but his involvement is the latest example of the pop-star-turned-design-guru trend.

Yesterday, we were invited to the RCA’s Innovation Night at which Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation, also known as will.i.am off The Voice, will be sharing his thoughts on whatever it is Intel pay him to do. Mr am (above) was appointed in January 2011, just after Polaroid announced Lady Gaga as its new Creative Director.

So far, the UK has sadly lagged behind in this trend except, of course, in fashion where various poppets have ‘designed’ high street ranges following in the expensively-shod footsteps of Kate Moss at Topshop. And there’s Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green clothing line.

Surely it’s time for the UK’s pop stars to fire up InDesign and get on board – after all, anyone can be a designer or a creative director can’t they?



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  • Sam

    “Jay-Z has unveiled a new string to his bow – graphic designer”

    To award recognition and publish the lie that that these rap stars ‘created’ the logo makes a novelty out of our profession. CR above all should be standing against this, be the voice of reality and remember who it’s audience is. Sorry to by cynical, but Jay-z is not a graphic designer, he is a client with a MASSIVE ego.

    This situation is exactly the same as Kanye’s ‘Runaway’ video, where massive type at the end writes ‘directed by Kanye West’. These people need to learn to respect other artists, and give credit where credit is due especially the ones that work for them.

    If I’m wrong and Jay-z did actually design it then I apologise. Not bad for a first logo.

  • Our pop stars are more interested in designing breakfast cereals than branding sports tens: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/kelloggs-creates-totes-amazeballs-cereal-for-charlatans-singer-20120222

  • Anyone can be a designer or creative director, not everyone can be a good one…

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Sam
    As I said in the piece, it’s highly unlikely that Jay-Z designed it himself, but that’s the way it has been reported (see the linked Billboard story). I think you can tell from the tone of the piece that we weren’t taking that claim altogether seriously. As your comment was coming in, I added a tip off from Gareth Hague via Twitter that the actual design was by Timothy P Morris who has worked a lot with Jay-Z in the past

  • Right, that’s it, two can play at this — Time to kickstart my rap career…!

  • sam

    @ Patrick

    Yeah reading back over my comment I did not mean to come across as that aggressive! I’m just a bit stunned that this is how its been reported by billboard and the rest of the media. Actually, I can understand that Billboard’s editorial is not necessarily orientated around designers, so they don’t need to report exactly who made it. But I thought CR would have had this name Timothy P Morris in the first paragraph, no?

    Your report above seems to take a fairly impartial stance (which is fair enough), but what’s your opinion about it? Do you think that Jay-z is justified to usurp his designer’s credit?

  • Andy

    You couldnt make this stuff up. What next? Nicki Minaj as new Pentagram partner!

  • jay z has a point

  • This project is in the portfolio of Timothy Morris titled ‘Brooklyn Nets identity and logo design’ and interestingly features a bolder type treatment for the NETS wording and a number of development options .

    Putting out a hyperbole press release claiming this identity is designed by Mr Carter is obviously much more newsworthy than telling the truth. These rapper chaps are awfully talented – not only can they rap, run record labels, act as well as classically trained actors, direct to Scorcesesque standards, design innovative clothing lines, push the boundaries of technical innovation, and now craft extremely average logos. All done with the minimal amount of ego possible.

    I don’t hate this scheme, but it has nothing particularly good about it other than the mono palette which at least goes against the grain of typical American sports design.

    My main issue is how does it connect to the real people of Brooklyn, the ‘Bud and a pretzel’ sports fans, who are expected to follow the team/franchise? Or is it aimed squarely at hipsters around the world who will lap up the ‘merch’, buy online, and never attend a game or care how the team is doing? I think the answer is obvious.

    All in all it reminds me of the recent Umbro/NY Cosmos – which also features all black merchandise and apparel in their Black Out line – work but not done to anywhere near the same standard.

  • Anon

    It’s pretty insulting that these mega stars seem to think they can get away with it. I mean, we spend years and years learning our practice and getting to where we are, and these people come along, and as someone said previously, make our profession a ‘novelty’. The people who are really behind these ‘celebrity’ creative works will probably not get the international recognition they deserve. Engineers are signing petitions to protect their practise and to stop the abuse of the title ‘engineer’, maybe we should start checking the authenticity of the people who are actually behind design work too!

  • Ray

    I have to admit, when I read this article on the Brand New blog, I was fuming! Another overrated celeb (you forgot to mention the ‘exceptional’ flair for design by Mrs Beckham!) having a bash at what I have spent my entire adult life trying perfect, and at their first stab somehow managed to come up trumps.

    I did finally calm down . . . and then I read this bloody article! (A few lapse around the soggy park later) . . . ok, I think I am ready to comment.

    Two things:

    1. @ Patrick, this is a quite a cheeky article. I cant help but think that with the “Surely it’s time for the UK’s pop stars to fire up InDesign and get on board – after all, anyone can be a designer or a creative director can’t they?’ sign off that you wanted to stir it up a bit. Which I have no problem with, in fact, I encourage it. We’ve a great talent pool in this country of dedicated designers and creatives – as well as – an equal amount of overrated crap. Only by shouting about it will it get the recognition and just rewards. Particularly when we have to compete with the untapped pool of these multi-millionaire celebs and their PR machines.

    2. I don’t come from Nets country and don’t particularly have much fascination with their game so cant really comment on how representative this new mark and overall identity is to its fans. But what I do feel, as @Neil alluded to, is that it looks like a clothing line that a sports team will just happen to be using – rather than the other way round. I am not that naive to think that merchandise isn’t important, I’ve worked on some myself in the past. But the brief was always to produce something that was true to the brand. Obvious I know, but it is because fans are not mugs. A clubs traditions and heritage starts and is lead by its fans. It will be interesting to see if this new identity is embraced by Nets fans in the longterm, or whether it is just a PR stunt for both club and multi-disciplined-talented-wordsmith-urban poet-rapper that is Jay-Z. (Whose material I don’t actually mind!)

  • gordon thompson

    I give up. Too good for me.

  • Yeah, just shows not everyone has the knack!

  • Paul

    I cannot see what the fuss is about.

    1) Designers, did you pitch for this work and miss out?
    2) Is JZ going to set up own agency and start pitching for work that you are pitching for?
    3) This is JZ’s own company and he can do as he pleases.
    4) Damian Hurst

    Who cares – this is really a bit of rubbish fodder for a Thursday afternoon… get over it.

  • Steve

    Dear Mr Z, if that’s a sports logo please dont give up your day job… erm… actually do, cos I cant stand your music either but that’s another rant for a different forum!

    Designer should be a protected title, like Lawyer or Doctor, without proper qualifications you should not be able to practice as one. Yes people without the necessary qualifications can be creative and have great ideas, but if all anyone needs to do to be a designer is buy a pc and illegally download Photoshop we’ll all be out a job in no time as the market will be under cut by photoshop hack merchants making it even more difficult for people who’ve studied and learned their craft to find work in an already shrinking market. Creative Review even tounge-in-cheekly bigging up (as I believe the kidz would say) this kind of cross over only serves to encourage it further, which is a shame. CR should be about championing good design by those qualified to do it, and helping to spread that word to the masses.

  • Nothing like a celebrity-turned-designer story to get all us ‘real’ designers up in arms. I agree credit should be given to the designer who actually did the work – but then you come back around to the issue of who takes credit for what, do we all get as annoyed at Damien Hirst for his team of art-producers? How often has your work gone our uncredited or attributed to someone more senior?

    Perhaps more importantly, if indeed it was a designer that ‘crafted’ this work – maybe all the spleen being vented about the badly typeset T & S and poor line-work on the ball be aimed at them?

    On a commercial level (surely more Jay-Z’s territory) it’s already a huge success – sadly the measure most people go by these days. In the first 2 days on the market, they apparently sold more Brooklyn Nets merchandise than ALL of the NJ Nets merchandise combined last year.

    With the rise of affordable/downloadable software EVERYBODY now seems to be having a stab which inevitably includes celebs – I agree it is a shame that the platform afforded to them does mean its their amateur attempts that get all the press… but it is also conceivable that they may have a natural eye for it, and they’re also used to the criticism.

  • Cheesy

    No his not a great designer, his an ok diploma level designer.

    It is JAY-Z the brand that got the gig or that overshadowed the “ghost designer”? on this.

    It is a marmite thing.

    I hate big names fronting stuff… Richard Branson & Boris Johnson to me are the only exception to that rule. ha ha :-)

  • Cheesy

    CR “Surely it’s time for the UK’s pop stars to fire up InDesign and get on board – after all, anyone can be a designer or a creative director can’t they?”

    Yes even I call my self a Creative Director…

  • John

    Yo Mr Carter, designer you are,
    Mr Beyonce and entrepreneur
    Get out the park, leave this sh*t alone,
    Go back to tribecca cause yer covva’s blown
    Wow, Look at me, I’ve just read this sh*t back,
    Here I come, I’m a rapper, No wait, I’m just a designer on crack
    So before I go, let me offer my hand,
    cause starting today I’m gonna form a band



  • Ed

    There is an argument that might suggest that billionaire superstar Mr. Beyonce rapper Jay-Z’s assertion that he’s also a designer adds value and aspiration to the title rather than denigrates it.

    Despite all his success he’d still rather take credit for the design work than not, which to me suggests extra value, i.e. you wouldn’t want to take credit for something unless it made you sound better. As to the accuracy of the credit, well, that’s between him and Timothy P Morris.

    Apparently everyone in the industry (from Brand New to CR at least) know’s who and what’s really involved and are quite happy to bluster about it, so there’s no damage done internally. The only people it’ll really affect are the public, and if Jay-Z thinks it’s cool to be a designer surely that’s a positive reflection on our profession?

    I’m rather flattered that he’d want to be a designer at all.

  • The way things are heading, we’re looking at Bono as a new partner at Pentagram these next months.

  • Don’t complain people – looks like graphic design is the new rock’n’roll – milk it while you can…

  • Jason

    Could he not have got his mate Kanye to do it?


  • This is certainly not “Brooklyn’s finest” design, looks like Jay Z’s new design work will not “lift off” nor will it “Takeover”. (Fans of JayZ’s music will see what I did here) On a more serious note, when did JayZ pick up a talent for design? The man is a out and out ego maniac, he has proven this on many occasions…

  • An average piece of design, which will be become prolific by association (regardless of whether he’s responsible for it or not).

  • T-shirt is great ….
    logo is cool and I like to have it

  • There is something quite nice about the Brooklyn Nets basketball graphic design. I like the idea and can see it working well printed on sportswear. I guess the introduction of this new logo design has gained more attention probably because it has a famous person’s name attached to it. If all graphic design had this advantage then it may be noticed more. Celebrities are followed and noticed a lot by the media and the general public. Hence savvy marketing companies will happily sign their names to anything and everything for publicity.