BTLNHL #6: Pittsburgh Penguins
Wow. A lot of you really hate the Penguins’ logo (or you’re all Flyers and Capitals fans). So, I nickname this post “The Great Defence”. If you’re one of the many people reading this who think the Penguins have no right being placed this high, I’m going to go all Scott Stevens on you. Imagine Scott Stevens playing on the Minnesota Wild in the mid-’90s. Your neutral zone is about to get clogged with a thunderous head shot.
Okay, I’m overreacting. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, there’s always an element of subjectivity to aesthetics, and hockey logos are no exception. I can understand why some of you don’t like the Penguins logo, but I’m going to do my best to show you why I placed it this high on the list. There’s three things that makes this logo stand out.
Perhaps the biggest feature of this logo is that is has more personality than CheezWhiz could ever add. The designer did a great job of giving a penguin a character that’s somehow fitting of hockey. If someone came to me and requested a logo for a hockey team with the name Penguins, I might tell them to reconsider the name. Yeah, ice, cold, hockey – I get it. But hockey is a sport of speed, grace, intensity and toughness. None of these describe a penguin, or at least not when they’re on a hard surface (as opposed to them underwater) and they’re somewhat useless on ice. Also, having knees can help too. It reminds me of another NHL team that has a very non-hockey animal as their team name, and look where they ended up.
But whoever made this logo did an absolutely fantastic job with it. Especially considering some of the other directions it could have gone. Even the Penguins’ original logo from 1967 completely pales in comparison. It’s chubby, not very fierce and even wears a scarf. I’ve heard it gets pretty cold in Antarctica, and I don’t think the penguins wear scarves down there. Way too cutesy. But this current penguin is designed in a way that makes it look fast, graceful, intense and strong. Getting a penguin to have these characteristics will definitely give it a unique and quirky personality. Not a Tobais Fünke type of quirky, but a more Neil Patrick Harris type of quirky. If this logo could speak, it would sound like Morgan Freeman.
And how was this personality achieved? Well, that leads to the next of the three things…
Balance of Simplicity and Complexity
I’ve ranted numerous times about how difficult it is to design animals in logos for professional hockey teams (see Panthers, etc) and not have it look overly cartoony or childish. The best way to do this is to just tone everything down and keep it simple. This logo does just that. The penguin is composed using only simple shapes without any amount of highlights, shadows, gloss or lipstick. Making it only black and white is an obvious choice, given the animal, but the logo totally embraces it. Remember that patch of teal on top of the Sharks’ logo that I wasn’t crazy about? That’s one other direction things could have gone.
But, there’s more to how the penguin gets these specific attributes of speed, gracefulness, intensity and strength. The strength comes from the shape of its torso, having extremely broad shoulders that slims down at the waist. The gracefulness comes from the skinny legs, making the penguin look more agile than a penguin on ice would ever look. The intensity is from the expression on the face. It looks almost like it’s smiling, but the simple design of the eye combined with the smile makes it look determined but unconcerned, like nothing’s going to stop it. Kind of like Juggernaut from X-Men. And the speed comes from the its stride, using strong angles in the elbows and knees, and even around the head, on an animal that’s, well, pretty lacking in angles. And the whole body is slanted on an angle, giving the illusion of forward movement.
All of these features are extremely simple and minimalist ways of getting the desired characteristics across. It’s something that’s way more difficult to create than it looks.
Also, the simplicity of the gold triangle in the background adds to the idea of speed, as the penguin is suddenly moving through a defined space rather than, well, nothing but air. Or maybe sunshine. Walking on sunshine might feel good, but I imagine it’s difficult to achieve.
But there’s such a thing as being too simple and minimalist. The logo has additional features where it makes sense to balance out the simplicity of the other elements. Adding the hockey sticks, skates and gloves adds context for the sport and an added dimension to the logo. I’m not saying a hockey logo has to have hockey equipment in it, but the Penguins introduce it in the right spots, and in a way that it complements the design rather than overtakes it. Having a penguin on an angle such as it is (which is necessary to add the qualities of speed and strength), but without the hockey equipment, just doesn’t make sense. It’s in there to serve a very specific purpose. The design of the gloves themselves is something I might consider simplifying just a bit, but that’s small potatoes at this point. Very small potatoes.
There’s a few other things too that make this logo stand out for me. The angle at which the triangle hits the hockey stick is perfect, at exactly 60 degrees. The top of the stick is exactly lined up with the top of the triangle. The inside curve of the elbow is also lined up with the top of the triangle, so there’s no awkward white space floating around there. The triangle also intersects the penguin’s hip at 60 degrees as well, creating a visual symmetry. The hockey stick very slightly gets smaller at the top, giving it a tiny amount of depth and perspective.
The details are all taken care of. The whole thing is incredibly well-executed.
Well, save for a few minor details. There’s the afore-mentioned over-designed gloves. The highlights on the skates don’t need to be there. The black outline on the triangle could be a little thinner and cleaner to match the outline of the stick and skates. Here’s a roughed out version of the changes. But again, small potatoes. Very, very small potatoes.
So ends the great defence. To me, this is an elite logo with great care put into it. I almost placed it higher when I originally ranked these logos, but the last five are just too good to not be among the very best. So the Penguins come in at #6.
The BTLNTL Countdown Posts
BTLNHL Finals: Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings
BTLNHL #3: Philadelphia Flyers
BTLNHL #4: St. Louis Blues
BTLNHL #5: Montreal Canadiens
BTLNHL #6: Pittsburgh Penguins
BTLNHL #7: Chicago Blackhawks
BTLNHL #8: Toronto Maple Leafs
BTLNHL #9: Phoenix Coyotes
BTLNHL #10: Vancouver Canucks
BTLNHL #11: Edmonton Oilers
BTLNHL #12: New York Rangers
BTLNHL #13: Calgary Flames
BTLNHL #14: Buffalo Sabres
BTLNHL #15: Winnipeg Jets
BTLNHL #16: Minnesota Wild
BTLNHL #17: New Jersey Devils
BTLNHL #18: Nashville Predators
BTLNHL #19: Carolina Hurricanes
BTLNHL #20: New York Islanders
BTLNHL #21: Ottawa Senators
BTLNHL #22: Tampa Bay Lightning
BTLNHL #23: Columbus Blue Jackets
BTLNHL #24: Washington Capitals
BTLNHL #25: San Jose Sharks
BTLNHL #26: Florida Panthers
BTLNHL #27: Dallas Stars
BTLNHL #28: Los Angeles Kings
BTLNHL #29: Colorado Avalanche
BTLNHL #30: Anaheim Ducks