I’m a huge sports fan, especially football. So, when Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference this past year, I was curious to see what would happen to one of my favorite logos. Many of you might have seen the famous Big Ten logo with its excellent use of negative space. When it was designed almost 20 years ago, the Big Ten had just added another team. So instead of changing the name, the designers expertly hid the number eleven on both sides of the “T.”
Now history has repeated itself. And the old logo no longer works. I would hate to be the one asked to top the last design, but Michael Bierut and Michael Gericke of Pentagram took the project head on. And this is what they came up with.
The reaction? The sports world absolutely hated it. But, I disagree, and this is why.
First of all, the design is timeless. The “powers that be” of the Big Ten Conference decided to keep the name, despite the contradiction. So, instead of trying to force the number 12 into the design and stamp on an expiration date, the designers decided just to stick with the name and the name only.
Secondly, it is simple. Football fans around the nation griped that a kindergartener could have created the logo. And understandably, they are used to the explosion of color and detail of countless sports teams’ logos. However, the clean, bold lines of this design demand attention and create a feeling of domination. Perfect for a conference that would love to compete with the front-running SEC.
Finally, it is clever. We have been discussing creative uses of typographical syntax and I think this is a perfect example. When I look at this, I can easily read both BIG and 10. It has that “Wait. What? Oh!” effect that is always my indicator of good design. The sports world declared it was too simple. But really, how many of them would have come up with something like this?
I know this is not a negative critique. But my only problem with this logo is that it loses its effect when it is expanded to include the word “ten.” To me, it is just repetitive and reads: Big 10 Ten. Also, without the black in the B, it doesn’t appear as visually strong.
Overall, I think the Big Ten logo is a great example of good design, easily trumping the logos of other conferences such as the Pac 10, Big 12 and, yes, even my beloved SEC.