It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo

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For a young league, Major League Soccer has shown an amazing capacity to admit defeat. Closing the doors on Miami and Tampa. Changing the format for All-Star Games and MLS Cup finals. Saying “enough” to Chivas USA. Throughout commissioner Don Garber’s tenure, the league’s has been willing to embrace its missteps in a way we don’t see fromother leagues. It’s refreshing. At this point in the process, accepting sunk costs is a virtue.

Perhaps that virtue’s endemic to the task. When you start a new league with no proven template, you have to blaze a new trail. Sometimes that means taking a wrong turn, retracing your steps, and taking another crack from, often from where you started. Not every idea is going to be a good one.

There must have been a point when the league’s new logo seemed like a good idea. Else, why would they have unveiled it today? Though a half-empty crest screams “under construction,” the league has elected to go high concept. What you don’t see … is the league’s future.

Unfortunately, the art also speaks to the league’s present, but with far too much honesty for a branding exercise. If the MLSNext theme means emphasizing the league’s process, why settle on a product that screams we are half an idea. We are not the complete thing.

You should not consider us a full, major league.

It’s a harsh, perhaps incorrect presumption, but the early reaction has come to the same conclusion. Reception to the league’s new look has been so universally puzzled, it’s difficult to find a positive response from an established source. Alexi Lalas, Jeff Carlisle (as linked in our previous post) echoes the sentiment dominating the fringes of Major League Soccer: “What?”

The logo is not without its virtues. It has a tail, and as all puppies prove, everything is better with a tail. There are stars on the crest, because winners and patriots love stars. You can adapt the logo to conform to team color schemes, because really, who wants one, consistent way of representing the league? Crazy talk.

At the same time, posterity demands we cast some judgments: The logo is horrible. It’s high concept when simple and persuasive should work. The art looks half done because it is intentionally half done. Whomever sold MLS on paying the same money for half the work, bravo.

If opinions don’t change about the league’s new art, the best case scenario is people ignoring it. The worst: Every new person that falls in love with Major League Soccer comes up with a new, fresh take on why the logo is so bad – a new way of saying “you are half an idea.”

Granted, the view won’t be new. It won’t be fresh. We’re getting that out of our system now. But if MLS continues attracting new eyes, those new eyes are going to have to pass judgment on the look.

I can’t help but think those new eyes were overlooked in the process; or, if not overlooked, misconceived. MLSNext is about looking forward, making the case the league is reaching new heights. But to understand that case, you have to know context, and everybody who gets the league’s progress is already aware of the product. If you’re trying to tell the league’s story, a logo may be the worst way to do it.

If, instead, you’re trying to attract new fans, you want something that generates excitement. In MLS’s case, you also want something that implies stability and trust. You want something that can go on shirts, hats, jerseys, and bags without drawing the same furrowed brows that have scoffed at today’s reveal. Your art has to appeal to those targeted masses.

Maybe this logo will, but Major League Soccer should consider alternatives. The initial reaction has been so universally negative; the league should retrace its steps. They should ask if the quest to be new, progressive, and high-minded overtook more obvious goals. MLS should ask why a undergrad’s art homework is now the league’s new emblem.

And, if they end up agreeing with the fans, MLS’s executives should embrace the sunk cost. They should acknowledge the misstep and chalk it up to ambition and youth. Don Garber and the rest of MLS’s decision-makers should exercise that capacity for defeat that has served them so well over the life of the league.

We all learn from our mistakes. We’re all better for it. When it comes to its new logo, MLS should go back to the drawing board, and come back with a better product.