The Lethbridge Hurricanes have a new logo

The Lethbridge Hurricanes have a new logo, and I didn’t design it. Prevailing thought was that the club would promote my third jersey logo to full time use for this season, so I’ve been getting lots of questions about my feelings toward the new logo. Here are my thoughts.

First, some background and a disclaimer

Given my relationship with the Hurricanes through my work with CanesCast, I’ve probably had a tendency to not be as critical of the team as I might otherwise be. Today, however, I’m going to be upfront with my thoughts on the logo, both good and bad.

Obviously, I have some emotional investment in this unveiling given that I had a horse in the race, so to speak. A concept logo that I created featuring the profile of a Hawker Hurricane aircraft was used on the team’s third jerseys last season and was rumoured to be the new primary logo this season. For more on that, see the write-up that I contributed to over at Icethetics.

So, as you venture into my thoughts on the Hurricanes’ new brand, bear in mind that my opinion is influenced by my own various interactions with the team. Frame your reading accordingly.

This rebrand was a good opportunity

Let’s face it: the Capitals-inspired design kind of sucked. It was derivative at best, but even the execution came off as amateur with the oversized stars in the logo, the I looking more like a J, and the boring block letters on the jersey. The NHL’s mandate of a re-brand for the Hurricanes was a perfect opportunity to finally establish their own visual identity that can stand for the next twenty years, and the club was pretty clear that owning their own identity was going to be an important part of this process for them.

New Lethbridge Hurricanes logo

Where the re-design falls short

It first became apparent to me as I sat in a meeting on Thursday afternoon looking at the Hurricanes pen in my hands. This logo kind of says to me, “Enjoy your stay. Checkout time is 11:00.”

Hurricane logo alongside Hilton and Econolodge logos

Understandably, the effect is more pronounced with you see it in a single colour on the side of a promotional pen, and a style similar to a hotel logo is no indictment of an otherwise good logo.

Where I find fault in this logo is that it doesn’t meaningfully represent the city of Lethbridge. The root of the problem is in the challenge to make a tropical storm represent a prairie city. There is an obvious disconnect there, and it was a primary factor influencing my Hawker Hurricane-inspired concept.

The logo contains two primary elements: the abstract hurricane, which I will call the swoosh, and the letter H. The swoosh represents a hurricane, for which the team is named, while the H represents ... well, a hurricane. Did I mention that hurricanes are tropical storms?

Hurricane business manager Terry Huisman spoke with Pat Siedlecki about the meaning of the logo (you can listen to that interview on Pat’s blog), and addressed both the H and the swoosh. In talking about the H, Terry alluded to the iconic logos of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Aside from there being distinct trends in sport-specific logos that cause me to dislike comparing the Hurricanes’ logo to those of baseball clubs, this ignores that the Yankees’ logo is NY for New York, and the Dodgers’ is LA for Los Angeles. They represent the city rather than the nickname. If the Hurricanes wanted to emulate the timeless logos of the Yankees and Dodgers, the logo should be built around an L instead of an H.

In describing the swoosh, Terry referred to it representing the organization’s goal of attracting and drawing fans in. Speaking from a fan’s perspective, I don’t find this representation of corporate vision resonates well with me. That message is geared at people whose paycheques have the logo printed on the corner of them, not the people buying the tickets.

As far as the jersey is concerned, I’m a little disappointed that they are carrying forward the Capitals’ style. The rebrand was an opportunity to move forward with something fresh, and they didn’t take advantage of it. I suspect this has something to do with a time crunch imposed by Reebok, but it still feels like an unfortunate reminder of the previous jerseys.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that my critique of the logo is so centred on its underlying meaning given how much subtle symbolism I included in my own attempt at a logo. I would have a greater appreciation of this logo if I knew that it represented my city, and myself as a fan. I don’t feel like it succeeds at this.

What the Hurricanes did right

Let’s start with the obvious: they improved. This logo doesn’t mimic an NHL team’s look or feature a cartoon character.

Technically, it’s a good logo. The design works well in a number of different colour variations, so it looks good on both white and red jerseys, as well as in a single colour. It’s well balanced and scales nicely, so it looks as good in the header on as it does on the Enmax Centre video board. It’s a clean, professional design that I think will grow on me.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the partnership with the Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association was the best part of Thursday’s announcement. Having hundreds of kids in the community wearing the same crest as the Hurricanes is an excellent way to build up some identity behind the logo. Right now that logo doesn’t have much meaning to me, but for a generation of young fans who will have worn that logo, there will be pride and passion behind it. This sort of grassroots brand building goes deeper than graphic design, and it’s one part of this process that I think the Hurricanes got exactly right.

What I wanted to see

What I was really hoping to see unveiled was a refined version of my own logo. Admittedly my logo lacks some of the new logo’s professional characteristics, like scalability, and I would have liked to see what a professional designer could have done with the concept, cleaning it up and making it fit for full time use. I would also like to have seen that logo used on a jersey with more traditional striping, because this is my fantasy and I like traditional striping.

The bottom line

Let’s be clear about one thing: I’m not offended that my logo wasn’t used, because this redesign wasn’t about me. The team needs to find an identity that they can use for the long term, and it’s up to them to determine what that identity looks like. I was hoping for something a little more meaningful than what was delivered, so I’m not dancing in the aisles with enthusiasm over this logo, but I do think this visual identity can outlast the variety of crests that we’ve seen adorning Hurricane jerseys for the last decade, and that’s a good start.

You have probably heard the old quote attributed to Bill Cosby, “I don‘t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I think designers need to take that to heart every day, especially when their work is as public and as heavily promoted as a sports club logo. Even a well designed logo is going to have its detractors, so the designer and the club need to have a bit of a thick skin when considering public feedback.

The Hurricanes’ new logo has been met with polarized opinion, some loving it, and others calling it an embarrassment. I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The important thing now is what the Hurricanes do with this logo. A brand is more than just a logo, so it’s time for the organization to start building fan experiences that will build that brand up into something that they and the city can take pride in for many years. The partnership with Lethbridge Minor Hockey is a great start. What happens on the ice in the fall will go a long way to establishing that brand as well.

And yes, the Hurricanes’ new logo is better than the Raiders’ new logo. Seriously, PA, what happened there?