Designer Matt McInerney is rebranding the NFL, one team at a time. This is his mark for the San Francisco 49ers.

Though it’s just a project to kill a bit of free time and hone his chops, McInerney takes the logo work seriously. (Houston Texans)

"I enjoy pressing on and trying to improve, especially when I can look back at a first attempt and see opportunity for improvement," he says. (Miami Dolphins)

A rugged lettermark for the Green Bay Packers, referencing one of their older logos.

The Seahawks’ redesign is a bit more elegant than their current mark.

Some thumbnails of McInerney’s marks. From top left: Minnesota Vikings, the Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints, the Oakland Raiders, the New York Jets, and the Cleveland Browns.

"The Rams logo is perhaps one of the less successful in the set," he says, "as it’s more of an exercise in geometry." From top: the Buffalo Bills, the St. Louis Rams, the Seattle Seahawks, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and an alternate Houston Texans logo.

Co.Design

Rebranding Every Team In The NFL

Designer Matt McInerney’s throwing the challenge flag at the league’s stale logo marks.

Growing up, I could never quite tell what was going on with the logo of my hometown football team, the Detroit Lions. I knew the blue blob had to be the beast in question, but something about the way the head was drawn made it a little bit hard to parse--it looked more like a map’s outline of some obscure Eastern European country than a fierce Savanna predator. In 2009, they finally refined it a bit, adding a white dot for an eye, sculpting its jaw and adding a few stylized dashes to constitute a mane, but it still makes me wonder what a total do-over would look like. Thankfully, that’s just what designer Matt McInerney is doing--with every team in the NFL.

McInerney’s already fashioned new logos for 20 of the league’s teams, from the Raiders on the West Coast to the Eagles on the East. He’s careful to point out that the effort is just a fun side project, and he knows that unsolicited redesigns often include elements that might not, in his words, "stand up to real world scrutiny." But several of his marks seem like they’re nearly ready for primetime.

In some cases, he looks back to the team’s history and takes things in a slightly new direction. For the Buffalo Bills, for example, McInerney fashioned a sleek bison skull. The team was named after Buffalo Bill Cody, a man famous for slaying over 5,000 buffalo in the span of eight months. "I always thought it was funny that the Bills used a live buffalo as their logo and mascot," McInerney writes in a blurb about his mark. "Wouldn’t a buffalo skull make a bit more sense?"

In other places, he’s simply tried to tie together a few existing elements of a team’s identity into a tight package. His favorite so far is the mark he made for the San Francisco 49ers, combining a football and a pick axe in the team’s signature red and gold. McInerney thinks it’s successful because it "isn’t too forced." "It has a level of resolution that I’d like to see in all of these marks," he says.

And he hopes to get there. The designer’s planning on doing a mark for every team in the league, and he’s even considering going back and doing an alternate logo for every squad when he’s finished. "There are plenty of marks here that I wouldn’t consider completely successful," he explained, "but I enjoy pressing on and trying to improve, especially when I can look back at a first attempt and see opportunity for improvement."

The best sports logos, he says, are ones that are "simple, unique, and have the potential to be timeless." One example he gave me is the logo for the since-renamed hockey team, the Hartford Whalers. The logo comprises a green "W" and a blue whale’s tail--clever but nothing too memorable. But McInerney pointed out something I had never noticed: a Hartford "H" in the mark’s negative space. That touch gives it a "new level of ownability," the designer says, and it proves how visually efficient some of these existing logos really are. Now, I just need him to draw something that actually looks like a lion.

See more of the logos on the project’s page, and check out McInerney’s design podcast, On The Grid.

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54 Comments

  • Morgan Robert Murphy

    These designs are as hard to swallow and the team name, The Pelicans. 

  • designr66

    From 1992-2002 I was an art director for the NBA and had an opportunity to observe and sometimes participate in the creation of some extremely effective and unique logos for the teams and the league.  Another article featured on this site discussed the development of Michael Doret's logo for the NY Knicks, which was already underway when I joined the league offices.  That article was a better attempt at discussing the design process and the problems that go into developing a mark that will have to work very hard at attracting fans and generating revenue.

    There are some components of these logos that deserve merit, that is sure; however, as a discussion of what constitutes good design, this article misses the mark.  The cold, homogenized look of these marks is not what fans look for - they want localized, specialized icons that reflect their own sentiments.  What McInerney has done and Fast Company is holding up as a standard is nothing more than a college-level exercise at holding the middle ground. 

    Proof of this can be found when the NBA chose a flat, mediocre logo for the Washington Wizards (after changing their name from the Bullets) - there was not much in the way of merchandise sales or fan support to show that this was a great mark.

    In my current position teaching design at the high school level and as the co-founder of the DESIGN-ED coalition, this exercise is also an excellent example of how to NOT approach a design problem - and it is one I will use as a teaching tool.

    I agree with the comment that Fast Company really needs to elicit the knowledge and skills of someone with a discerning eye for design criticism before they really lose all credibility by continuing articles such as this.  If the editors read this, I know someone well-suited for this task - drop me a note.

  • jbelkin

    I know on the internet, it seems negative comments are overly harsh but these are AWFUL. They are AWFUL on two levels - first, they are God awful as design and awful because they ignore the history of a brand. You redesign when it doesn't work at all or has no history like maybe the Houston Texans or Titans but the rest, an appalling lack of understanding the most basic tenaments of not only design but sports and football. FastCo usually presents some interesting snapshots of design - even if they are 100% succesful, they are interesting. It's hard to believe this guy got more than a tiny thumbnail to show off his appalling lack of talent. OMG - this is beyond awful. AWFUL. AWFUL.

  • Micah

    I enjoying seeing these type of projects (for entertainment purposes) and appreciate anyone who takes the time to try something like this... but am shocked this one made this website. There isn't one logo there that's even close to as good as what each team currently has.  Please keep the standards high with your content Fast Co.

  • Tim Anderson

    On the one hand, I really would rather not pile on and talk about my disgust with this article, but on the other hand I think it is important that writers and editors for Co.Design understand how terrible this, and related articles, are.

    There have been several 'articles' (I use that term loosely) on unsolicited design projects that are usually just absolutely terrible. This particular project is a good example of how the so-called 'designer' (again, I use that term loosely) seems to completely misunderstand the industry and franchise histories.

    There is a trend of incorporating design into business. That is all well and good. However, I think sometimes business needs to be shoved into design. This project could have been a way of showing how business needs would dictate that there is no re-design need.

    Or, perhaps more broadly, this article could have been an interesting critique on how unsolicited designs can be ineffective and miss the mark of a brand. Not every design is good, and therefore a bit more push-back from Co.Design writers when designers fail could actually result in a productive discussion. Less blanket support of designers and more critical feedback would do everybody good.

  • jmco

    WHY does Co.DESIGN continue to have non designers and non experts write about design issues? This is an example of a non story about a non subject badly chosen and with no purpose.
    At *least* hire writers with years of writing about design or better yet, designers who also write about design. There are plenty of them out there! There are still a lot of graphic design magazines - and even some new ones being added - and a good number of architecture, ID, and design theory and practice journals filled with full time design writers and writers who have focused careers on design.

  • eNaR

    Firstly, I struggle to understand why this project is deemed worthy of the coverage it will get through this site.

    Secondly, I have to agree with the majority on here that it seems more of an exercise in using the same football in all the logos and that the execution is at best amateurish.

    Lastly, who are these designers who have enough time to waste on these self initiated/make believe branding projects?

  • David Tribby

    PASS      ..Too delicate, abstract, or non-representational of the teams. Just not very good creative or original..

  • jonsenc

    So we like to diss cliche sports logo design trends while encouraging cliche simplified logo design trends? Curse you former gizmodo writers of fastcodesign 

  • GMT

    Well said!  I was trying to come up with my own pithy statement of how bad these logos are, but this works just fine...