The new design uses Theo Kelly’s classic 1938 version (right) as its inspiration
The latest high profile identity redesign to face trial by social media is Everton Football Club’s new crest. Should the club listen to its outraged fans? Of course it should. Should it change the design back? No, it shouldn’t. Here’s why…
How Everton handles the next few days will be critical in establishing how the new crest, designed by its in-house team, is accepted by its supporters.
Amid the extensive back room staff changes unveiled at the club today, an online petition to scrap the new crest is gaining support – it has 20,000 signatures as I write – and fans from all over the world are voicing their upset on football forums, Facebook, Twitter and via the NSNO fan site and @NoToNewEFCBadge.
Thanks to the speed and collective vocal power of social media, another redesign project has quickly kicked up a storm.
For designers, the debate has a certain inevitability to it. Last December, when the suitability of the University of California’s new logo was seized upon by a fourth-year biomedical student in an online petition, the work was disbanded after a furious online reaction (our initial story is here).
Similar elements have converged (and been distorted) here, too. The University’s traditional seal was never in danger of being retired, despite accusations to the contrary, while the Everton crest replaces something that is itself only 13 years old (below).
The previous Everton crest
Covering the furore surrounding the University’s logo in the February issue of CR, Michael Evamy claimed that part of the problem was that “the design community has never found it easy to explain its craft to the wider world: if it did, it wouldn’t still suffer the perennial gripes about the (alleged) cost of rebrands or the public’s total blank about how a brand identity serves an organisation’s strategic interests.”
The “knee-jerk judgement of projects via social media,” he wrote, “runs a steamroller over the design’s ability to advocate for itself.” This is fiery territory indeed – particularly so when the concern is the visual identity of a football club.
How the club’s motto will be used in the stadium
But despite the significant changes to Everton’s crest, not least the removal of the much-loved motto ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum’ (‘Nothing but the best is good enough’), the club has, it seems to me, introduced the changes admirably.
For one, it has been open and honest about the redesign. Revealingly – and no doubt in preparation for the reaction and ensuing debate – the club has uploaded eight pages to its site which tell the story of the redesign. It’s an informative, interesting read and speaks volumes of the amount of research, dialogue, and design work that goes into an identity project such as this.
Last year, the club claims it consulted with representatives from fan’s groups such as season ticket holders, supporters’ club officials and fans from the Everton disabled supporters association and responded to feedback, apparently reworking the design “where appropriate”.
Though it may not seem like it to the supporters unaware of the process, this isn’t a design that has simply been foisted on an unwilling club. But Everton also claims that Nike and Kitbag were “consulted” and “their ideas were fed into the design process” – which perhaps has done little to sweeten the pill for some.
As with many redesigns like this, there is actually a history of evolution at work here as much as there is one of tradition. In the clamour to vocalise opinion, however, this sense of perspective can easily get lost. As one of Everton FC’s pages dedicated to the redesign of the crest explains, the club has in fact had nine different badges since 1920.
If anything, this graphic (from the Everton website) reinforces how ‘busy’ the previous crest was (to fit the layout the details would need to go even smaller).
Far from being a disingenuous stab at making Everton’s crest another slick, cool device to wear on your chest – the other side of a Nike logo admittedly – the design taps into the club’s history and reworks several of its visual elements; namely, the shield, the club’s name and year of formation (1878), and the distinctive image of the 18th-century, Grade II-listed Prince Rupert’s Tower, essentially the club’s key visual identifier.
As the club’s commercial director Dave Biggar says, “The Tower is a fundamental part of previous club crests as well as our new version. But we really wanted to put a more authentic version of the Tower onto the crest.”
Now, the structure looks more like the real low-level tower – an old lock-up – than it does a lighthouse with a nifty set of outside stairs, or a helter-skelter. The new design is a more graphic, yet realistic, version of the building’s distinctive shape. If anything it is closer to the version drawn up by Everton manager Theo Kelly in the late 1930s (the shape of the new badge also mirrors this design).
“We looked back at the history of the crests and the one we focused on predominantly was the 1938 Theo Kelly design which was originally used for neck-ties but which has become the blueprint for the modern era,” explains Everton’s in-house graphic designer, Mark Derbyshire.
“Interestingly, the key elements from that design didn’t feature on the shirt until 1978 – in the six years before that there was just simple embroidering of the letters ‘EFC’ on the jerseys – and plain blue jerseys before that going back to the early 1930s.”
While the crest’s most important place is, of course, on the club’s football shirts, what can be achieved in thread isn’t perhaps the best starting point for a design that must now be used across the many other aspects of the modern game: TV coverage, websites, smart phones and, yes, merchandise.
The designers claim that the previous badge had suffered from bad reproducibility; the flat, unfussy and stripped-back nature of the new design will go some way to resolve this. (Tangential case in point: NASA’s meatball insignia which is a “design nightmare”, apparently). On the Everton website, shown alongside the other examples of modern crests, it cuts a bold, distinctive shape.
The petition to remove the University of California logo received 54,000 signatures before it was killed off.
As the numbers increase on the Everton crest petition, it would be bad news for design if the efforts at the club were rewarded with a similar fate.
Pink Floyd fans may recognise the cover of our June issue. It’s the original marked-up artwork for Dark Side of the Moon: one of a number of treasures from the archive of design studio Hipgnosis featured in the issue, along with an interview with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Hipgnosis with the late, great Storm Thorgerson. Elsewhere in the issue we take a first look at The Purple Book: Symbolism and Sensuality in Contemporary Illustration, hear from the curators of a fascinating new V&A show conceived as a ‘walk-in book’ plus we have all the regular debate and analysis on the world of visual communications.
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