Friday, January 14, 2011

Sell The Dream - Deliver The Turd

Some time back Dan previewed the new B10 logo, emblem, identity or look of the newer, expanded collegiate athletic conference and I promised a response.

For the past six weeks I have been busier than Michael Jackson at a day care center so my professional opinion/response as to why the B10 picked such an awful design is a bit late.

Creating an identity for a major business (and make no mistake about it, the B10 is a huge business) is usually assigned to a very elite and small group of companies who are highly specialized in their field. I have personally worked on projects with these guys. I never worked with these guys but their work is exemplary.

The B10 found good reason to revamp their identity (logo). By adding a twelveth school it further eroded their equity in ten schools especially after adding another years ago making it eleven. So now the conference is composed of twelve entities, but somehow they feel the need to hold on to the “10” figure due to tradition and heritage. This poses a huge problem for any business.

In unveiling a new visual identity the B10 took a huge risk and it backfired. Why?

With my 30+ years of career experience in graphic design and marketing I can only speculate on why this specific emblem was chosen, but I don’t think it would be too far off the mark.

The B10 first must have first chosen a company, or group of companies with a reputation, companies that had a history of creating memorable and successful visual identities for major corporations. They did not. They likely would have issued an RFP, a Request For Proposal. In this document, the lucky vendors chosen are given access to the assignment and opportunity to bid on the cost of executing the requested deliverables. I doubt this was done. Traditionally they all must present a response by a given date from all potential vendors. I have doubt they even did this.

Once the RFP’s are formally returned the client (B10), they may choose from a number of vendors for a speculative creative shoot-out to win the business (smart) or choose only one for a fee (dumb). My guess is that they chose only one.

THIS is the firm they chose.

When I researched this firm the first thing I noticed is that they specialize in architectural identities like urban high rise real estate, stadiums and such. Nothing on display indicated they were specialists in brand identities. So why did the B10 choose them? Here are a few reasons for me to speculate on.

1. It may have been cost. Their RFP may have been lowest and was delivered in a very compelling way. Firms delivering simple, boring white paper RFP’s are usually ignored over those delivering a fancy and impressive three-dimensional presentation. In this game, cost is not an object when pitching a large high profile client.

2. It may have been reputation. Many designers are able to achieve a recognized name or a brand for themselves by winning industry awards. To win awards these companies will do work for free as long as they maintain total creative control. Surrendering creative control leads to bad design due to paid client meddling.

3. There may have been a business relationship that this firm had with one of the B10 marketing chiefs from a past association. Since this firm had a reputation for creating visual solutions for stadium architecture graphics this would be my guess. If this were the case, this is the wrong reason to have given them this specific assignment.

My guess is a combination of 2 and 3.

Whoever in the B10 hierarchy had the authority to hire this firm did so for two reasons.

First, they could drop a name. This firm already had an established and recognized name in the sports marketing industry. This decision was probably based on the firm’s reputation for individual stadium identity design work. I see no other proof of past memorable identity work on their website.

Second, he/she knew the guy. Trust me, previous relationships go a long way. Existing relationships in the business carry more weight than any other reason to do business. Combine that with the ever-popular name drop and this firm was awarded the assignment.

When famous artists and designers achieve a level of recognition their work goes without question. They can deliver sh!t on a stick and the buyer will stand back in awe of their creation without question.

Then there is the rationale. Why is this design perfect for the application? Here is the designer’s rationale:

Michael Gericke, co-designer of the logo, said:

“The new Big Ten logo was developed to symbolize the conference’s future, as well as its rich heritage, strong tradition of competition, academic leadership, and passionate alumni, Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral “10” in the word “BIG” which allows fans to see “BIG” and “10” in a single word. Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo’s use of negative space and is built on the conference’s iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions.”

What utter rubbish. I dare anyone to connect his rationale with any aspect of his design in color, shape, typography or iconography.

This is what I mean when I say the buyer will simply stand back in awe and never question what a glorious masterpiece they purchased. Think Warhol. But Warhol never needed a rationale.

Future? Heritage? Passionate Alumni? Total bullsh!t!

The B10 ended up with a visual turd and the designer walked away with another handsome (probably seven digit) fee, along with the claim that they executed it and therefore gaining an even larger reputation to help obtain future business opportunities.

The B10 leaders have and will continue to defend this abortion. B10 Commissioner Delaney is not backpedling.

While I do not think Mr. D had anything to do personally with the identity development he lacked the guts to stand up in the boardroom presentation and call this turd a turd. He delegated the assignment to a trusted hire of his own choosing and to admit that individual’s poor decision would be admitting his own failure in hiring that individual.

I’ve seen it all coming from a career in the corporate marketing environment for over 30 years. This single episode in corporate marketing @ssholery does not surprise me one bit.

And that is about all that I can say about it.


Dan from Madison said...

I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the dullest. The fact that I had to read somewhere that the B1G was supposed to represent
B1O it telling me that the logo FAILED. I just didn't get it. I even read somewhere that they made the B1G thing because the G was supposed to be a 6, since the Big Ten will have sixteen teams someday. If the above isn't a huge dose of wtf I don't know what is.

On another note, the Leaders and Legends names of the divisions, the Big Ten is starting to oh so slowly back down from that. They say that those names will stay through the 2011 football season but the aren't saying if they will go any further. If you follow the Big Ten facebook page, it is one long scathing FAIL for the logo and division names, to all but a select few who drank their breakfast.

Dan from Madison said...

I should add that the Big Ten logo and the Big Ten Network logo have nothing in common, which also baffles me.

The Big Ten Network logo also sucks donkey d1ck, but that is another topic.

Gerry from Valpo said...

The B10 should have walked away from the BIG TEN name.

Something like The Big Midwest or The Big Central Conference would have rebranded their entity as an expandable brand for the future and therefore claim ownership of a collegiate geographical location.

Stuck on Big Ten is stuck on stupid brand-wise. Like it or not, renaming as well as visually rebranding was in order.

But what the hell do I know : )

Dan from Madison said...

That is stupid, Gerry. Then we would end up with something like the SEC (SouthEastern Conference) or PAC 10 (Pacific Ten Conference) or some other easily identifiable geographical location as you mentioned. This makes far too much sense (chuckle).

If not Schembechler and Hayes, those divisions should be named Lakes and Plains, period.