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Designing a Rowdies Crest – Honoring a Classic Logo for a Nostalgic Fanbase

by MIKE PENDLETON

Why do we need a crest?!?

Let’s start at the beginning. Since the rebirth of the Tampa Bay Rowdies (and switchover from FC Tampa Bay) the Rowdies have been crest-less. The team has opted to use a slight variation of the classic wordmark in operation from 1975 to 1993 – and it’s worked. We’ve moved a lot of merchandise and it’s rekindled the nostalgia of past supporters, now bridged into a brand-new generation. In fact, it works so well, even the Tampa Bay Mutiny in MLS used it. So, we don’t NEED a crest. Kind of.

Life as a Tampa Bay ‘OWDI’ Supporter

Besides the wonderful memories of Rodney Marsh, the simplicity of a one-color wordmark has a nice allure, but it can be hard to use in practice. It gets easily lost on certain backgrounds and its intricate details are hard to reproduce on anything cut-out like patches, magnets, or stickers unless you put some kind of container around it. Plus, as a soccer fan, we just LIKE crests. We’re used to seeing them on our favorite kits and they’re easy to put on almost anything.

What makes it so challenging?

I’ve been making versions of a Rowdies crest for many years and hated almost every single one of them. It’s a hard project.

One challenge is the wordmark itself. It’s iconic and one of key continuous elements of the Rowdies brand over the years. It’s unique, very identifiable, (and I know I’m biased) but is up there with some of the top US sports wordmarks in use today. While the Rowdies don’t have near the brand reach of the Dodgers, Red Sox, or Lakers, it shares similar characteristics that makes these sports wordmarks beloved. So, if you’re in a similar camp with me, you know it has to stay – and that’s a problem.

The Rowdies wordmark is unwieldy. It’s perfectly straight on top, it’s got a weird curve on the bottom. The letters aren’t totally proportional. It doesn’t play nice with other shapes or design elements.It’s also not the type of design that does well with an outline around the letters. The Rowdies wordmark is SO stylized that it if it’s going to be used it has to set the tempo and be the focal point for the design.

Other challenges creep up, as well. We have very few other design elements that are part of Rowdies canon. We have the classic Windsor Elongated font for our numbers (not easy to use). We have hoops (horizontal lines are hard to work with that wordmark). And we have the cartoon Ralph Rowdie himself (not right for right now). It also has to be considerate of all sides of the bay, from Sarasota to Pasco to Plant City – it can’t be a Tampa or St. Pete centric design. Lastly, we love the green and gold, but the colors themselves don’t have a lot of contrast with each other. Unless some other colors come into the equation, it’s difficult to create a lot of definition.

Lots of attempts, nothing really worth a damn.

Things I Tried to Keep in Mind

Anytime in the last few years that I fired up the computer to work on this, I tried to keep a few things in mind as guiding principles to design by:

  • Don’t ditch the wordmark. Find the right container to complement and highlight it.
  • Create a whole brand architecture that would be easy (and inexpensive) to implement — use existing elements wherever possible.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t add things that aren’t needed. I’m overly critical when other teams add extra design elements that create clutter. TRY to resist the urge to do the same (that means no bridges, no suns, no pelicans, no soccer balls, no palm trees, etc.)
  • Find the right additional color(s) to introduce. Don’t get crazy, but solve the contrast dilemma.
  • Move the stars out of the crest. We earned them in two leagues we aren’t in anymore (whether we should still display them is a debate for another day), but at the very least they should be over the crest — not in it.

A Rowdies Crest

Without much more narrative, here’s my latest attempt. I tried to honor my guiding principles above and be careful with the team and brand we all love so much. As an orientation, there are two pieces here: (1) the crest and overall brand architecture itself and (2) the crest in context – including the dream jerseys I wish we’d create on the current Nike template. (NOTE: The interlocking TBR design is not my creation. Not sure of the designer, but it’s been used on hats and one tank top, since the 2017 season.)

In Closing

There are some things about graphic design that are objectively good or bad, some things that are subjective by the observer, and some things that emotion is going to override no matter what. I know not everyone is going to dig it. In fact, talk to me in a month and I’ll probably want to change a whole host of things. While it’s a daunting exercise, it’s also a fun one to do and there aren’t many designs I would care more about. It’s the first version I’m truly happy with and one I feel honors who we are. Here’s hoping it moves the conversation and the thinking around this a little more forward.

Cheers and COYR.

Jake Nutting
Writer at Large for The Unused Substitutes and NASL Beat Writer for Empire of Soccer. Fullbacks are people too.