Last week was the final game of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, who finished with a 22-44 record to end the season at the bottom of its Atlantic division in the Eastern conference — a far cry from its more successful days in the early 2000s when it reached the finals two seasons in a row or its two ABA championships in the 1970s. For the 2012 – 13 season the team will move to a new home while retaining its name, the Brooklyn Nets. A press conference yesterday where the team logo and merchandise were unveiled at a local sports in front of the billion-dollar Barclays Center was the culmination of almost eight years of ownership negotiations, urban planning, and pissing off Brooklyn residents when developer and part owner Bruce Ratner scurried away people from their homes in order to make room for the ambitious Atlantic Yards project. With a terribly sad team — the Nets most well-known player is probably Kris Humphries, aka Kim Kardashian’s ex husband — the Brooklyn Nets have an uphill battle to win the hearts of the proud and skeptical local crowd which they are doing with a very minimalist, almost anti-NBA new look reportedly designed by Nets part owner Jay Z.
The new primary [above] logo — created by Brooklyn’s own JAY Z — retains the shield from its previous iteration, and adds that iconic Brooklyn ‘B’ to the basketball that has been part of every logo since the franchise’s 1967 inception as the Americans. The Dodgers had their lettermark, and the Nets have added another model for the borough to bear. “Brooklyn,” of course, is spelled out below. Nets CEO Brett Yormark called this “the new badge for Brooklyn,” and JAY Z believes the design’s boldness demonstrates confidence in the new direction.
— Brooklyn, Wait No More
The secondary logo [above], of the ‘B’ inside a basketball, surrounded by the words “Brooklyn New York” immediately popped an image into my head: “Planet Brooklyn.” […]
— Brooklyn, Wait No More
Designed by JAY Z, the new brand identity reflects the New York City subway signage of 1957, when Brooklyn last claimed a major league franchise. Saying the Brooklyn Nets are now part of the conversation, Yormark praised the cultural icon and Nets investor for his taste-making abilities, as the lone NBA team to wear black and white as its primary colors.
— Nets’ New Identity Debuts at Modell’s
Whether Jay Z opened up Adobe Illustrator and set the type on a curve himself or not remains a mystery but one thing is for sure: the logo family is technically worthless and embarrassing. The “NETS” typography on the primary logo is conceptually uninspired — if the identity is meant to convey Subway signage, where is the bold Helvetica? — and visually unbalanced with a shift in thicks and thins that is neither obvious enough to look like a Humanist sans nor non-existent where it would be a Geometric sans. My design bullshit-o-meter thinks that it might just be an horizontally scaled version of Akzidenz Grotesk Condensed, which makes an appearance in “BROOKLYN” in the primary logo and the “B” inside the basketball, which has its own kind of thick and thin lines that bear no resemblance to the type or the strokes in any of the logo versions. If the secondary logo looks familiar it might be because another Brooklyn institution, Brooklyn Brewery, has a big “B” inside a circle with type on a curve above and below it. (The type in this secondary logo is so spaced out you could fit the egos of all the Nets owners in between.) The overall effect of the logos is painfully close to the recently popular and painfully accurate Hipster Branding.
Clearly, you get the sense that I don’t like this. I don’t. But I do appreciate the renegade simplicity and the choice of black and white as the color palette. It’s no Oakland Raiders, but it could potentially get there.
Another interesting aspect of the identity is the merchandise, which does away with mascots and logos coming out of explosions and instead goes for a hip-hop look and feel that seems driven by the whims of Jay Z, looking to score some street cred with the locals. T-shirts range from featuring the obvious like the Brooklyn Bridge to the obscure like sneakers dangling from power and telephone lines, which urban legend has it represent spots of gang-related murders or drug-buying hubs. There are t-shirts that pay homage to the Beastie Boys and the Notorious B.I.G.. And then there are t-shirts that are just stupid, like the “Brownstone Ballers” or the logo with headphones around it. One thing that is common among all of them, though, is that they are executed with the same anti-design aesthetic of the logo, which all seems like a perfectly calibrated brand position. I don’t like any of it, but in terms of establishing a unique brand in the NBA, it definitely works. I just wish it were done with actual care.