Joining the league in the 1968 – 69 season as an expansion team, the Milwakuee Bucks are the professional NBA team of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, playing in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference. They have only won one championship, in their third season, with the help of a young player by the name of Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The Bucks have never been a great team but somehow have had really great players like Kareem, Oscar Robertson, and Ray Allen, among others. Currently at a 50% win record for the season (with only one game left), the Bucks are looking to generate some excitement for the 2015 – 16 season as they introduced a new logo and identity designed by Brooklyn, NY-based Doubleday & Cartwright. (The Bucks have tried to appease the locals by stating that the firm’s Managing Creative Director is a Milwaukee native).
The centerpiece of the new brand is the new Buck emblem. The new Buck is only looking ahead, an imposing figure determined and focused on the path in front of him. Several features chronicle the transformation of the team into an undeniable force:
1. An expanded rack (from 8 to 12 points) showing the maturation of the Buck, and underlining the point that he has become an even greater force.
2. The basketball feature in the negative space between the antlers.
3. The M Shape within the chest chevron as an homage to Milwaukee
4. With hard edges that appear almost cut from metal, and industrial but classic proprietary font juxtaposed against the curvature of the logo represents a symbolic union of urban and rural Wisconsin.
The previous logo was neither great nor terrible. It was a fairly literal drawing of a buck and some extra chiseled, extra stroked typography. Could be mistaken for a dozen other sports logos. The new logo is a more abstract interpretation of the buck and comes with plenty of rhetoric about its change from an 8-point to a 12-point antler. “We made it more badass” would have been an acceptable rationalization. The antler part is nicely done and I like the subtle basketball in the smaller horns. The face of the buck is much improved and more interesting. The “M” that makes up the chest or neck part of the buck is the one thing that drives me crazy — as it does in the secondary logo — but then the typography — I’ll talk more about it below — saves it in this primary logo. The new logo has a good vintage feel without going full-blast to the past.
Serving as a badge of honor, the secondary mark portrays a strong reminder of the rich heritage of Bucks basketball in Milwaukee:
1. Established in 1968, the Bucks are proud to be one of the five longest tenured NBA franchises remaining in their founding city.
2. The basketball that is alluded to in the primary logo begins to take concrete shape behind the antlers in this logo.
3. A stylized version of the subtle “M” from the New Buck’s chest in the primary logo is now called out. This brings additional focus to our home city within our new identity.
Other than the typography, this feels like a completely different project. The super streamlined curves on the basketball look like they belong more on the Houston Rockets’ logo library than here. The “M” is very unappealing to me and has nothing to do visually with anything else (not even the swooshy basketball) in the system. It has a James-Bond-villain vibe to it that doesn’t go very well with the much more earthy typography and color palette.
The outline of Wisconsin solidifies the importance of the entire state to the underlying fabric of the new Bucks brand. The basketball/antler element once again appears, representing a geographical anchor over the city of Milwaukee. This is the symbolic expression of the team as a statewide unifying force. This is the only element in which each of the three colors in the new Bucks palette appears together, introducing blue while retaining a strong green identity and use of cream as the foundational color.
This is another example of the swooshy basketball being completely mismatched. You have the shape of the state of Wisconsin and the typography with all their blunt angles and corners and then this ball from space. Also, this logo could have done without the inner blue stroke and outer cream stroke. (And without the ball). Then it could have looked like something you would see on a roadside diner in the 1970s.
Unifying all the elements is a custom typeface, MKE Block Varsity, inspired both by traditional varsity lettering and Milwaukee’s industrial heritage.
Apart from indeed being the unifying element, the font is what gives some personality to the identity. It has no chiseling (for now), it has no spikes (for now), and it has no multi-stroking (for now), serving as a great respite from the usual sports typography. It’s almost dumb in how basic and unpolished it is but that’s what makes it work really well and give the identity some visual, industrial strength.
New uniforms have not been released yet and there isn’t anything to see in application but, overall, this is a positive change — despite my grievances with the ball and “M” — that should give the team a bold look to work with next season.
Thanks to Danny Sherman for the tip.