On May 21, New York soccer fans welcomed news of the city’s next professional soccer club. Dubbed the New York City Football Club (NYC FC), the squad is set to join Major League Soccer as its 20th active team. It will begin its first season in 2015 and be based out of Queens in a still-unbuilt stadium tentatively sited in Flushing Meadows Park. The NYC FC will be operated by Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees. The details are still vague, but conspicuously absent from the press announcement was any hint of the new team’s visual branding.
The club’s owners declined to release the NYC FC logo--not even a color scheme--and gave no indication when they will do so. It didn’t take long for graphic designers, then, to speculate what the face of New York’s next great sports organization could look like. In the ensuing days, several unsolicited logos surfaced online, many of which drew on the visual identities of the NYC FC’s owners--Manchester’s powder-blue hue mixed with some variation on the Yankees old-timey font and, in some cases, pinstripes. Others incorporated landmarks of New York’s skyline, including the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge, with predictable results.
Hyperakt, a Brooklyn-based design studio known for their infographics and brand identity work, proposed something decidedly more minimal. Their logo does employ color and geometric cues borrowed from Manchester City and the Yankees but integrates them in a design that isn’t derivative.
The prospective insignia is rendered with a minimalist bent that’s a refreshing break from the zoo and fantasy mascots that brand most of America’s top sports teams. In their version, a pentagon is inscribed in a series of rings, with a dark blue band sandwiched between alternating powder-blue and white concentric circles.
Though it comprises only a few abstract elements, the logo’s simplicity shines through with real immediacy. Hyperakt Creative Director Deroy Peraza tells Co.Design that the scheme fell into place rather quickly. “This was one of those rare magical situations where an idea just visualized in my head and made sense. The more I layers I peeled back, the more it all made sense.”
The key component is the pentagon, Peraza says, which he lifted from the old MTA tokens. Discontinued in 2003, the coin-sized tokens featured a pentagon-shaped cutout at their center that alluded to the city’s five boroughs. Peraza rounded the sharp corners for an updated look, and left the body blank, filled in with an ultramarine blue. The result is broadly familiar, while sharply contrasting with other New York sports icons.
Still, the symbol almost seems like a counterintuitive choice: The pentagon token is a part of New York’s visual heritage, but it’s also very much tied to a time and place. Many New Yorkers would probably not even recognize it. But its specificity was intentional, Peraza explains: “Everyone had the tokens in their pockets regardless of class, ethnicity, or gender. It’s a truly democratic symbol that was accessible and essential to virtually everyone. Those are the kinds of values I wanted to embed in this club’s identity.”
Inspect the logo carefully, and it becomes clear why the pentagon initially seemed evocative of something. The shape, superimposed on a flat white circle, looks uncannily like the black panels of a prototypical soccer ball. “It amazed me that I couldn’t think of a single major world football brand that really owned the pentagon shape as a key part of their identity.”
Though sparse, Peraza believes the logo is robust enough to stand up against New York’s soccer past and its present. The New York Cosmos, the City’s last memorable football team, which folded in 1985, was glamorous in a way American soccer hasn’t been since. The team attracted some of the sport’s greatest stars, such as Franz Beckenbauer and Pelé, whose legacy as the world’s greatest futbolista continues unchallenged today. An integral part of the Cosmos verve were the all-white uniforms and technicolor logo, both of which were more about the team’s star--the blue-green-yellow Cosmos color scheme referenced Pelé’s Brazilian heritage, while the white uniform mimicked that of his club team Santos--than they were representative of their native city.
Talk of reviving the Cosmos name has been bubbling for some time now. Since 2008, it was rumored that the owner of Manchester City, a UAE sheikh, was looking to invest in a MLS team; up until last month’s announcement it was assumed that the floundering Cosmos brand would be relaunched. The city’s soccer fans, including Peraza, were surprised when the NYC FC was named the Cosmos’ successor. Still, Peraza was conscious of developing a unique identity for the NYC FC separate from the Cosmos. Any resemblances of the former to the latter are accidental, the designer says.
As for the present state of New York soccer culture, Peraza sees the NYC FC filling in a large gap left by the New York Red Bulls. The latter’s name is actually misleading--the Red Bulls are based in New Jersey. Their branding doesn’t exactly help matters; neither the energy drink name nor the lackluster logo lend themselves to close patronage.
NYC FC, on the other hand, is engineered to draw a citywide loyalty for its players and cloth. “It’s the only sports franchise in NYC with ‘city’ in its name, which is curious because I would argue that most New Yorkers refer to the city as "New York City" or "NYC" rather than just "New York." Peraza’s branding exercise reinforces that.
[Image: Score, Dan Dickinson via Flickr]