Friday, October 29, 2010

The Capitals 2011 Winter Classic jersey

The Capitals' jerseys (Picture from On Frozen Blog)
In the interest of fairness (because Lord knows that I don't need crazy Penguins fangirls and fanboys accusing me of a Capitals bias, of all things), I'm reviewing the Washington Capitals' 2011 Winter Classic jersey.

Talk about something that never really had a chance.

Let's be perfectly honest, here -- the Capitals were screwed as soon as someone decided that they should focus on an old-school look for the Winter Classic jerseys. Up until about three years ago, their designs varied from cliché and boring...

Oh, say, can you see...
(Picture from The Hockey Uniform Database)

To cliche and eye-searing...

And teal! Oh, 1990s sports design, how I will never miss you.

To... oh dear God, what the hell is this?

Why can I not stop crying?
(Picture from Third String Goalie)

However, it could have been possible to make a nice-looking retro design that would still be somewhat exciting, but they've made a few missteps along the way:

1. The logo is way too small. The typeface for the logo is on the thin side, and I'm afraid it's getting lost on the white. I don't know how it's going to read at home on TV, but I'm sure it's not going to be pretty.

2. The stars along the top are way too big. The logo is the most important thing on the jersey, not those.

3. I'm curious to see how the Winter Classic patch is going to fit on the shoulder of this jersey. You can see that the "C" just barely gets squished in there between the stars and the red stripe along the sleeve.

4. The weirdness that is the tapered blue "stripe" along the bottom. Seriously, you couldn't work that in a little better, Reebok?

All in all, however, it's just really mundane. You're promoting your team in the sport's biggest non-championship game, and this is what you're going to put your players in?

I am disappointed, Capitals.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Penguins 2011 Winter Classic jersey

The "Frankenjersey" (as described by Empty Netters via Puck Daddy)
So here we are, at the original impetus of this blog -- this jersey.

Now, before I begin ripping this apart (and thus start welcoming the "jus jellus" remarks), I'd like to clarify that I have nothing against the Penguins as a team. Yes, I've said before that I'd like to set a good portion of their fans on fire and watch them run around while I'm eating popcorn and laughing hysterically at their pain -- but I do NOT feel this way about the actual team. Hell, I love Sidney Crosby. And Kris Letang. And Brooks Orpik, even though he never ever blinks. So this isn't about me hating the team.

It's about me hating this jersey. Which is what I'm about to explain right now.

So, even though this jersey has been referred to as a "Frankenjersey" -- "a kind of mish-mash of older Penguins' jerseys from the 1970s," according to Empty Netters -- I see one prevailing design from which this jersey was obviously based.

This is the original Pittsburgh Penguins jersey from the team's inaugural season (1967-68). Here's the jersey modeled by United Fund's Miss Torch, Karen Antkiewicz:

And you thought the objectification of women in hockey started with the Ice Girls.
(Picture from

As you can see, this original jersey was the template of the new Winter Classic jersey, right down to the font used for the numbers on the back.

To the front of this jersey, they've added the original "fat penguin" logo, which was only featured on pucks and letterheads during the inaugural season, according to

(Picture from

The colors might have been changed to reflect the team's colors during the 1970s, but the design of the logo remains essentially the same.

So that explains the history behind the design. As you can see, it's a bit more thought-out than one would have originally surmised. There is potential here for a slick, retro design.

Then why does the execution of the design seem so shoddy? Well, there are a few reasons.

Honestly, the way the colors are used on the new design just looks wrong. In the original version of the jersey, the baby blue is the prevalent color, while the darker blue was used as an accent. Now, I do understand why they didn't go for that color scheme...

(Picture taken from a Google Search. If it belongs to you, let me know.)

Why design something so similar to their 2008 Winter Classic jersey? I get it. At the end of the day, the Penguins want to sell jerseys, and how better to sell jerseys than creating an all-new jersey just in time for the holidays? (Go to and order yours today!)

However, reversing the color scheme and making the baby blue the accent color is akin to "wearing dark pantyhose with light-colored shoes." (TM my friend Lisa) It just makes everything look off to the casual viewer. The stripes now look like tourniquets. The drop shadows used for the font on the back now look lost against the white numbers.

And about those numbers. Now, I'm not much of a traditionalist when it comes to jerseys. I don't feel that all fonts should be squared-off and hard edged, and I also feel that there's room for softer, rounder fonts on sports jerseys. Honestly, it's not the actual font I have a problem with. It's that the size of the numbers is just too damn big. Go back and look at that 87 up there. The numbers are just about touching the stripes at the bottom, and that throws the design out of balance for me. I understand that, back in the day, the numbers could be that large -- why? No nameplates. Get rid of the "Crosby" on the back of that jersey, move the numbers up, and you've got a design that's almost salvageable.

But who wants a Crosby jersey without his name on the back? So on goes the nameplate. The size of the the numbers, then, should have been made smaller to accommodate the nameplate -- but it doesn't seem like the size was changed at all.

And speaking of the nameplate -- that's where the real "Frankenstein" part of the jersey comes in for me. Instead of creating a custom nameplate that complements the number font, they just slapped a standard nameplate on there. I understand that it was probably done to save money, but it's just another thing that weakens the design.

My final judgement? This had the kernel of a good idea that got muddled in production. Many cooks were part of the creation of this broth, and you can see how that ends up.

And, as was mentioned in the Puck Daddy article I linked above -- there was a lost opportunity for tying the marketing of the team and the game with Heinz Field and the Pittsburgh Steelers. A black and gold jersey would seem like a no-brainer, and yet the jersey above is what the Penguins will be wearing when stepping out onto the ice on January 1st.

Maybe they didn't want people to confuse them with the Boston Bruins?

EDIT: Empty Netters brings up probably the best point about why the jersey is ultimately not a good one -- it lacks imagination. In any case, look for the Florida Panthers to copy this new jersey shamelessly for their new third jerseys in 2011.

Why This Blog Exists

Pass or fail?

That's the way designs are judged in hockey, more or less. And usually, that's as far as people think about it. Pass or fail. Is this design awesome, or does it suck? Maybe, if you're lucky, you get someone who can describe how a design makes them feel. As a graphic designer for almost a decade, I tend to go a little deeper than that. I can't help it -- it's the way I view the world.

And, hey, the world always needs another blog, right?

This is why I started this blog -- to nerd out about visual design in hockey and explain things from a graphic designer's perspective. I'm not saying I'm an expert I only watched the replay, but maybe I can help you see a design in a different way. Or maybe I'll just reinforce why a design sucks. Either way, I'll try not to bore you.