DesignStudio rebrands Premier League

The Premier League has launched a new visual identity for the 2016/17 season, with an updated lion icon designed to communicate a new side to the world’s most popular football league

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The new branding, on which DesignStudio collaborated with Robin Brand Consultants, will be used from the 2016/17 season onwards and follows the League’s decision to drop title sponsorship. The League has been promoted as the Barclays Premier League since 2007/8, and was previously known as the Barclaycard Premiership and the Carling Premiership, but will carry no main sponsor from next season.

The Premier League's new logo feature's a lion's head, facing to the right as if looking forward
The Premier League’s new logo feature’s a lion’s head, facing to the right as if looking forward

The new identity features rounded sans type, a redrawn lion icon and a colour palette which will be updated every three years.

“Lots of people around the world understood that lion to represent the Premier League … so it wasn’t about destroying everything that was there to build something new, it was about building on that equity and heritage,” says CEO and co-founder of DesignStudio Paul Stafford.

And, as DesignStudio ECD Stuart Watson told us, there were practical problems with the old design that the new look seeks to address – “The old logo couldn’t invert, it didn’t work small, so all those things are gone now,” he explains. “We did about 600 iterations through many different stages to get where we are today. We wanted it to feel instantly recognisable to the existing marque, but be its own thing in its own way.”

Interestingly, Watson says that “the real driver behind [the new look is] this kind of digital, broadcast-first approach – make it work as an app icon, and worry about everything else after.”

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The new lion icon was designed with a digital and broadcast-first approach, says Watson – “make it work as an app icon, and worry about everything else after,” he says
Colour washes have been applied to images of players supplied by clubs or photo libraries. New York agency Collins used a similar approach last year for Spotify, which has to use images of artists supplied by record labels
Colour washes have been applied to images of players supplied by clubs or photo libraries. New York agency Collins used a similar approach last year for Spotify, which has to use images of artists supplied by record labels

The serif wordmark, meanwhile, has been replaced with a friendlier-looking rounded sans based on FontFont’s FF Mark. DesignStudio is also working on a bespoke font, Premier Sans, for the brand. “[The identity] is a huge tonal shift from buttoned up, shirt and tie, formal, reserved … to warm, human, approachable and informal,” says Watson. “We needed a really human font, so we picked FF Mark as a placeholder, then redrew that and created a bespoke word mark so that Premier and League stacked nicely,” he adds.

The colour palette will be updated every three years and for now, includes bold shades of yellow, green, blue and a pinkish-red. “We want [the Premier League] to be known as very vibrant and bold and colourful, and we really wanted to get away from red, white and blue,” explains Watson. “The other interesting thing is that they’re not club colours – we’ve been really careful to make the colours our own.”

Colours were also designed to allow for formal applications as well as more light-hearted communications: an aubergine word mark on a white background, for example, is designed to look more serious than brighter shades which can be used to talk about community projects or address children. “[You have to think about everything] from talking to a 6-year-old child, to a 60-year-old politician, from lobbying in parliament to talking in primary schools…. We had to prove the system could stretch and flex, not just in broadcast in digital, but also in the messaging spectrum,” says Watson.

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Premier League identity as it may appear on official match ball
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Mock-up showing the new branding in use on pitch-side ads

With imagery, DesignStudio has adopted a similar approach to Collins’ work for Spotify last year, using vibrant colour washes over photos of players supplied by clubs and image libraries. Original photography, however, will have a much more authentic feel, says Watson, “focusing on people and their expressions.”

To promote the rebrand, Premier League has released a new film which aims to highlight the inclusive nature of football, showing footage of community projects as well as premier league matches – but with Liverpool fans recently walking out in protest over rising ticket prices, and many feeling that they are priced out of games at their home clubs, the tag line ‘for every fan’ feels a little hollow.

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Graphic patterns will also be used in the new branding, and colours will be updated every three years

Nevertheless, this is a distinct, and intriguing change of tone for the Premier League. Ever since its formation in 1992, the League has been controversial among football fans. For some, it marks the point at which the game lost its soul, a ‘brand’ forever associated with spiralling wages, ever larger TV deals and rocketing ticket prices. But there is no denying its success. The Premier League is the most-watched in the world, and generates the world’s highest revenues for a football league. Stadiums are (by and large) full and many of the world’s best players play in England’s top division.

The Premier League is now a genuinely international business and, as such, competes with its rival leagues in Europe and beyond. In design terms, the new look compares more than favourably with its competitors who remain mired in the obvious (balls and/or men kicking balls) and the bizarre (Serie A’s swooshy, stadium-y centre circle with ugly sponsor logo attached).

Logos for, clockwise from bottom left, La Liga (Spain), the Eredivisie (Netherlands), Serie A (Italy) and the Bundesliga (Germany)
Logos for, clockwise from bottom left, La Liga (Spain), the Eredivisie (Netherlands), Serie A (Italy) and the Bundesliga (Germany)

As a side note, it’s perhaps unsurprising that one of the few football leagues to do anything noteworthy in design terms is the American MLS. In 2014, it replaced its previous clunkingly obvious logo (a boot kicking a ball no less) with a graphic shield device that cleverly adapted to carry the colours of all its competing teams.

The MLS logo and team colour variations
The MLS logo and team colour variations

But the franchise-baed MLS has a very different relationship with its teams to that of the Premier League and English clubs. Thanks to promotion and relegation, the constituent members of the league change year on year while the clubs themselves have been around far longer than the league they play in and have their own highly developed identities and iconography.

Current Premier League logo
Current Premier League logo
Barclays Premier League logo
Barclays Premier League logo

The Premier League’s previous identity felt like it still had one foot (or paw) in the tradition of heraldic sporting imagery. The new look represents a clean break from such iconography and in comparison to its European competitors, is clean, modern and distinctive.

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An aubergine and white colour combination can be used for more formal applications, says DesignStudio ECD Stuart Watson
An aubergine and white colour combination can be used for more formal applications, says DesignStudio ECD Stuart Watson

The most obvious change is the lack of a football or any other obvious football-related visual cues. Without them, would anyone unfamiliar with the Premier League know what it does? Probably not, but there’s a certain confidence in kicking the ball into touch and you have to wonder how often the logo would be seen outside of a footballing context or by anyone unfamiliar with what the league does. And the FA, the world’s oldest football association, has managed without a ball on its badge for well over a hundred years.

What is more intriguing from a brand perspective is that change in tone. “Warm, human, approachable and informal” are not qualities that most people would have associated with the Premier League. DesignStudio told us that the new system will be used to capture ‘the human stories’ around the Premier League – for example, by showcasing grassroots projects and the impact of the League’s work in local communities. And ECD Watson added that the new look could in future open the door to new sponsors, “getting away from that football thing of booze, banks and betting, and into working with much more social and forward-thinking businesses.”

A caring, sharing, friendly Premier League? That would be as big a shock as Leicester City winning the thing.

  • Chris Jones

    That’s F*@cking Delicous

  • Dendrobates!

    It is good, it is nice that they’ve dropped the sponsor name.

  • Very good logo:)

  • Dan Bassett

    premier inn – sh*t sorry i meant league* 😉

  • Gareth J

    The quote “make it work as an app icon, and worry about everything else after” is a bit ignorant, I mean it doesn’t exactly have much standout as a badge on the sleeves of a club shirt compared to the current version, it looks insignificant and lost, and the typography is quite poor.

  • onespacemedia

    It’s a modern look for the English Premier League and it focuses on a friendly and accessible grass roots brand. However, The EPL it’s one of the most aggressive, fast-paced and expensive leagues in the world so it’s a bit of a juxtaposition. The public also won’t really see this brand due to tv rights with Sky etc but I think it’s a shame it’s lost it’s heritage. It will be interesting to see how it’s used in TV, print and on merchandise with football team’s colours and on Livery as that is how the brand will be seen the most.

  • onespacemedia

    It’s a modern look for the English Premier League and it focuses on a friendly and accessible grass roots brand. But, the EPL it’s one of the most aggressive, fast-paced and expensive leagues in the world so it’s a bit of a juxtaposition. It’s a shame it’s lost it’s heritage.

  • Ed R

    It’s common to dislike rebrands these days, so hate to be another negative voice. But I’m not sure about this. Since the Spotify rebrand everything needs to have a hundred different colourways. And looking on DesignStudio’s site they really seem to like FF Mark (or similar). It doesn’t seem to be a bit easy and just a little too on trend.

  • Chris

    Graphically it’s quite nice but very generic; those could be visuals for literally any contemporary brand. I could imagine it on anything from a new night club to some sort of organic hipster dog food. There is nothing distinctively ‘football’ about it and it is very trendy-looking (“make it work as an app icon, and worry about everything else after” -blurgh) so it doesn’t seem like it will age well. It’s an improvement over the old mark no doubt but that’s not really saying much.

  • til01

    It is an interesting and modern approach with a vibrant colour theme.
    Although It is missing the link with the previous branding.
    It seems that the Premier League tried to erase their history and general the football heritage of coat of arms,
    as the previous logo had and other club that participate have.
    Regrinding the typeface it is missing the personality like the AirBnB the new Gumtree and many others logo have these days.

    General if I was walking next to it I would understand that this is Premier League.

  • WMJ

    Not sure if the ‘make it work as an app icon, and worry about everything else after’ comment is meant to be knowingly quoting W1A or not?

    Are DesignStudio actually Perfect Curve? Are they trolling the design community?

  • George Kay

    Just from a visual perspective I like it but as others have said below, will it still work in a number of years when the trends have changed, particularly with the typography. Aside from that I like it!

  • Chris Jones

    whatevs guys this is the pom pom

    • Dave Kershaw

      Pom Pom, more like Vom. Those colours are vom vom. where’s the heritage yo

  • Barry R

    Is this the global execution of the brand then? Because whenever I watch TV abroad, non-UK channels refer to the league as the ‘EPL’ or ‘English Premier League’ as there are a lot of ‘Premier Leagues’ across
    different sports:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_League_%28disambiguation%29

    For a UK audience the ‘English’ bit is superfluous, but for a global audience shouldn’t it be part of the identity? Indians have their own ‘Premier League’ (cricket) which they care about far more than the English footballing version.

    The decision to drop title sponsorship is intriguing too; it’s not like English football to overlook an opportunity to grasp more cash — though only broadcasters ever use the ‘Barclays’ epithet anyway.

    As for the logo itself, I think it’s a nice icon, maybe could’ve been worked to look a bit more like a football. Though I guess they tried that in their 600 iterations and it didn’t work.

    • Matthew Day

      I hear what you’re saying about abroad it being called the EPL but it hasn’t ever been an official name. Neither does it appear on the previous logo and it hasn’t really harmed the brand or stopped people finding matches previously.

      You could argue that graphically the lion, not only historically for the Premier League but also for English football, symbolises Englishness anyway. Adding the word English therefore becomes redundant.

      • Barry R

        I wouldn’t say the a single lion is intrinsically English. Specifically, the three lions are English, but lions in general are more strongly linked to the British and Irish Lions rugby union team (and to a lesser extent the old rugby league incarnation). Outside of the UK, for example, in Africa lions would be more strongly identified with the Cameroon national side. And many people across the world may be insufficiently aware of any cultural link between lions and England; it’s not like they roam the Cotswolds hunting down Jersey cows or Gloucester Old Spot pigs.
        That said, most English (and UK) football fans would continue to refer to the league as the Premier League even if it branded as the EPL.

        • Matthew Day

          I think the fact that the lion has been part of the English coat of arms for hundreds of years means that the animal, as a symbol, is quite strongly linked to England. A lion or three lions is still a lion, the animal not being native isn’t really the point!

          Pray tell if the lion isn’t a symbol of English football then why was it used on the original logo?

          • Barry R

            Yes English, but not exclusively English. And not exclusively English football. How many people in Asia do you think are familiar with the English coat of arms? You’re making assumptions based on the culture you grew up in, which is, presumably, British.
            I never said the lion wasn’t a symbol of English football, just that lion + football != England automatically. African football fans would probably say lion + football = Cameroon

            It’s not like the ‘Kangaroos’ (Australia’s national rugby league team) or the ‘Wallabies’ (their rugby union team). Nobody would identify either animal with any country other than Australia. They are intrinsically Australian symbols. Many nations can claim a lion/lions as their symbol:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_%28heraldry%29

          • Matthew Day

            I never said Lion + football automiatically = England BUT I am saying that Lion + Premier League = the football premier league played in England. Obviously a symbol of lion isn’t just a symbol of England but used WITH the words Premier League it does make adding the name ‘English’ to the name pointless.

            Words ‘Premier League’ + logo of a lion = the Premier League (of England)

            As I’ve already stated I think the fact they’ve operated since 1992 without the title ‘English Premier League’ and still made it a highly successful business means it isnt a branding issue they have to worry about.

    • AndyH

      The term EPL is garbage. There is a Welsh team in the Premier League which the last time i checked wasn’t in England. If you want to start abbreviating everything then UKPL would be a more factual description.

      • Barry R

        I live that side of the border as it happens, but I’m well aware that my team, who play in League Two, have always played in the English football pyramid. The Welsh football pyramid is entirely separate since the League of Wales was introduced, with the result that the largest Welsh clubs no longer play in the Welsh cup; which they had dominated and offered them a route to European club competitions.
        Incidentally, Swansea have represented England in Europe following their League Cup win; European club competitions places are awarded to national football associations, who then decide how those places will be determined from their domestic competitions.

        Anyway, what we’re talking about here though is the branding of the league globally. As broadcasters abroad refer to EPL matches, the brand clearly has to be differentiated from other Premier Leagues. The latest £5.1bn TV deal suggests this branding confusion isn’t causing them too many problems, but you have to wonder whether it was something they considered addressing and whether their brand would be stronger for formally using EPL as the brand?

    • David De Vynél

      Interestingly enough, The Football League (which has never used the word ‘English’) is rebranding next season to English Football League, which I strongly object to.
      As for it being referred to as the EPL, the reason for this was the way that the data schema for the vidiprinter and other related datasystems are structured; it was always a three character signifier: EPL, FLC, FL1, FL2, FAC, etc. Since Opta took over from the Press Association the data collection of English and Scottish leagues, this has changed to a much simpler publicly displayed identifier that is between two and four characters in length.

  • Chris Jones

    IT’S WELL PHWOAR

  • DC

    “It was about building on that equity and heritage,” (So) “make it work as an app icon (first), and worry about everything else after.”

    “Warm, human, approachable and informal” (So) “We want [the Premier League] to be known as very vibrant and bold and colourful”

    Anyone else confused by the rationale? Guess this is what happens when you focus on creating an app icon first and work backwards to fit everything else.

    It has also been mentioned that the new identity should ‘talk not shout’ but its the Premier League – surely it needs to look ‘Premier’ and Shouting is what the Premier League is about (isn’t it?)

  • Dave Kershaw

    @ ChrisJones This is anything but the pom pom or delicious. The typeface is so wrong here

  • vinnie

    This is the league that gave us figures like Roy Keane, Vinnie Jones or Eric Cantona. And now it will practically look like a transvestite party (not that there’s anything wrong with that elsewhere). Terrible choices, from designers who clearly don’t know the game and are preoccupied only with virtual entities and fading trends. Visually, all english heritage is lost here, under the pretense of a much needed contemporary approach. But let us not deny what the brand is about and where it comes from, before projecting it into the future and recklessly opting to paint it like your average tech start-up.

  • John Atkin

    Not sure i’m getting football with this. More a sad Aslan from the Lion the Witch… At least the old lion seemed proud and had an air of heritage and history. Also the use of ‘colour’ surely is a mistake, why predominantly red? Isn’t that Liverpool etc.
    Also feels a bit ladybird book with that typeface and primary colours, and the Manga esque lightning flashes are just random.
    League 2 not Premier League

  • CG

    Completely agree with ‘DC’ & ‘Gareth J’ – everything comes across as an afterthought with none of the assets working together.

    There’s reference to the logo not working before – supported by the visual of the four different variants – which are then completely ignored with the type shoe-horned into a curve to fit on the football… Nice!

  • CG

    Completely agree with ‘DC’ & ‘Gareth J’ – everything comes across as an afterthought with none of the assets working together.

    There’s reference to the logo not working before – supported by the visual of the four different variants – which are then completely ignored with the type shoe-horned into a curve to fit on the football… Nice!

  • Ryan Carter

    Will this mean a change to the current shirt number/name typeface? On another note I don’t think this branding represents the values of the Premier League whatsoever: its too bland, too subtle in terms of imagery and text, and I could never imagine a player such as Roy Keane wearing this badge on his arm 😛

  • Stephen Marck

    The current identity feels strong, proud and identifies with Lions and Royalty, Lion-hearted etc. Whereas the rebrand looks like its for a packet of Children’s Cereal or what you see on one of those black-market football shirts sold on Oxford Street.

  • Jon Gibson

    Interesting read – and interesting to hear their thoughts and decision influencers. It’s a shame though, i think they took the ‘digital first’ thing a little too far. It’s lost a sense of what it actually represents..

    I wrote an article about how important type choice is referrencing this rebrand!
    https://medium.com/@iamjongibson:disqus /type-that-really-talks-1828f9ef7bf5#.cyihgf7fw

  • Gus Cook

    Again, hate to be negative but this really is very disappointing… It looks like a ‘Little League’ in silicon valley.

    With the random electric colors and type that couldn’t be more soulless. Looks like they worried more about how it would look on an app icon and in GIF format than consider the audience and how an actual fan might interact with it.

    Shame, such a wasted opportunity.
    ‘The beautiful game’ is now not so beautiful.

  • Fabiano Coelho

    Just a jump on the bandwagon. The identity is really trending, which I find quite bland and soulless. The typeface is great but it feels lost in the context. Overall, it didn’t worked.

  • Liam Heath

    I’m unsure with this one, I do like it but at the same time I can’t help but think of some tacky MLS style graphic, the lion as a stand alone graphic works well but I think the type face has to be changed it looks cheap, the previous serif face was traditional and had a sense of prestige, now it looks like some tacky league 2 graphic and the sleeve badges look horrendous, they should have remained in a shield not a circular white yogurt lid as someone described it. With a few tweaks to the type and sleeve logo it could look nice.

  • Bella

    It looks like everything else Design Studio does! This agency needs to be careful that they are not setting a reputation for being a one trick pony.
    What is Premier about this? Typeface is just a trendy cutesy sans. So off.

  • HTDL

    Nice work, this is a great evolution of a solid brand that had just passed its sell by.

  • Marcus Duff

    it’s more a hipster cat than a lion – i miss the “roarr”