As the Division I Big Sky Conference — that spans from the left-ish middle of the country to the West Coast of the U.S. — expands to eleven full-time members (and two affiliate members) this year, they’ve launched their new logo and branding campaign. In 2011 SME (who also handled the Pac-10 rebranding) was awarded the 2012 rebranding, advertising, and marketing contract by the Big Sky Conference, work that will continue into 2014 for the league’s 50th anniversary.
The new logo is a dynamic and exciting new expression of the Big Sky Conference brand, which upholds and forwards all the promise that the name suggests in both opportunity and optimism. It features the color of the sky (two blues and white), the sky element itself as well as a visual progression within the logo from the ocean up to the mountains, then down to the plains. The mark presents all of elements within a fresh new retaining shape that demands attention and stands apart.
— Press Release
“The overarching goal of the process was to create a dramatic and fresh new identity that ensures the Big Sky Conference’s future success.”
— Ed O’Hara (CCO, SME) on the process, Press Release
The previous logo set the bar low — convenience-store-scratch-ticket-logo kind of low — providing the Big Sky nowhere to go but up. The new logo does a good job of leveraging mountains to align itself with the West, but it is hard to see the “ocean” or the “plains” in there, as identified in the press release. The other thing this logo has going for it is the use of negative space to render the mountains. The only problem is that to use that visual device for the mountains, the sky becomes a field of color to knock-out the landscape, creating a contained space which hardly feels like a big sky, more like a drive-in movie screen. What the containing shape does do a good job of is setting up a color field to work with when rendering the individual member logos. The colors are wonky combinations (as seen above), but the logo elements do a decent job of holding the disparity together. The typography lacks refinement in the dimensional drawing of “BIG SKY” as well as in the choice to not draw “CONFERENCE” in the same perspective.
The slab serif seems an odd choice for the primary typeface in use as it is completely not ownable as a visual branding element on the collegiate landscape (it can be seen in use in this Big Sky Conference Brand Book). Overall this rebranding is a major improvement, but it misses the mark in trying to represent the West’s dynamic and big sky.