I’m breaking with the mold a little bit for this final instalment of BTLNHL. If I just did a post for #2, everyone would know who placed #1 automatically, so that seems like no fun. And given we’re heading in the middle of the Stanley Cup Finals, a little more of a showdown mentality might be in order. And just like the Cup Finals, it’s the West vs the East. This is going to be epic.
So, the format is going to be a little different for this one as well. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that there’s a few specific traits in hockey logos that I really like to see that are integral to the sport of hockey itself: strength, gracefulness, intensity and movement. But a couple other aspects that I’ve talked about too: specificity to its location, or relevance of the logo to the city it’s representing, and whether I like it or not, iconicism (or, the history and legacy of the logo) definitely plays a part as well.
Both of these logos have all of these aspects, but to what degree? So, I’ve decided to break down the logos specifically using these categories and see who emerges. The Big Bad Bruins versus the Big Red Machine.
Both Boston and Detroit are Original Six teams, with tons of history and neither have changed their logos to a large degree in over 60 years. The Red Wings’ logo has barely changed since 1932, when their name changed to the Red Wings from the Falcons (and the Cougars before that). Other than some minor refinements, it’s been the same logo for 80 years. That’s pretty incredible. You can’t get much more iconic than that. And they’ve had great success with the logo, winning 11 Stanley Cups (3rd best, behind on the Leafs and the Habs) and has been worn by some of the best players to play the game, like Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and of course Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. So yeah, the logo’s pretty iconic. The Red Wings without their winged wheel is like Hulk Hogan without his handlebars: weird and unnerving.
Boston has been the Bruins since their inception, but the iconic “B” in a wheel didn’t emerge until 1948, when they wore this as a 25th anniversary logo. I guess they liked it, because the following year they introduced a better variation of it as their main logo and aside from adding some outlines, it’s barely changed since then. That’s 63 years of having essentially the same logo. They’ve also had a good amount of success with this logo, winning the 4th most amount of Cups for a team (with 6), from the flying Bobby Orr to the Big Bad Bruins to just last year. The history and legacy of the logo is unquestionably there. The Bruins without their spoked-B is like Mickey with regular mouse ears: weird and unnerving.
Boston – 1, Detroit – 1
The more obvious choice in this department is Detroit, with the inclusion of a wheel to represent the automotive industry that’s so prevalent in Detroit and all of Michigan. Although it’s definitely seen better days than recent years, it’s been the economic driver of the region since Ford pumped out his Model T in 1908 from a Detroit auto plant. And the wheel on the logo is stylized in a way that there’s no mistaking it as the wheel of a motor-driven vehicle, not a wagon wheel (definitely not the edible kind), not a baby stroller wheel or not even the Wheel of Fortune. This is most definitely meant to depict a car’s wheel, and as such, it definitely represents Detroit well.
Boston’s logo though is a little more subtle in how it connects itself to the city it’s representing, or at least in a way those outside of Boston may not realize. Similar to how downtown Pittsburgh is called the ‘Golden Triangle’ and the Penguins represent that in their logo, Boston is colloquially referred to as ‘the Hub’. It originally came from a novel in 1858, written by Boston-area author Oliver Wendell Holmes, who described the Massachusetts State House as the “Hub of the Solar System.” As Boston grew, it was later turned into “The Hub of the Universe.” Although it’s not commonly used today, I’m guessing that in 1948, when the iconic B as the hub of a wheel was introduced as the Bruins’ logo, it was a lot more prevalent. And it sure beats trying a create a ‘Beantown’-inspired logo. So, while it’s not necessarily known to the world outside of Massachusetts, the Bruins’ logo definitely represents the city of Boston.
Boston – 2, Detroit – 2
This is where Boston really excels. The choice of black as the dominant colour emphasizes strength and aggressiveness, while the gold creates contrast and energy. Simply, it’s meant to look tough, mean and dominating, and it succeeds. It’s accentuated by strong, straight lines (aside from the outside circle, there’s absolutely no curves on it), and by the fact that a B is a solid letter that uses a lot the space it’s given. For contrast, look at the Providence Bruins, an AHL with essentially the same logo, but with a P. Not as strong. Or imagine the Louisville Bruins. Or the Idaho Bruins. It definitely loses something. The wheel spokes give it structure and balance. In short, it’s a logo that hits you in the face. Strength is a major component of being a hockey player, and Boston’s logo has that in multitudes.
Detroit’s logo is definitely still a strong logo, but it’s hard to beat the Bruins in this category. The use of a single colour is a bit of a rarity in sports (only Toronto and Tampa Bay do that in the NHL, with Boston and Detroit in baseball, Brooklyn (very recently) in basketball and Indianapolis and Dallas in football), and it’s not easy to pull off well (see: Tampa). But, if you do pull it off, you know you have a solid shape that’s well constructed and demands attention. And that’s what makes a logo stronger.
As a designer myself, when creating a logo, I always create them only in black to begin with, because when you do, you know you have a shape that works and colour will only enhance it. Sports is a bit of a different beast that way, as they’re generally more intricate and complex logos, which makes it all the more impressive that Detroit pulled it off. The use of the wheel as the only point that’s touching the “ground” (i.e. – it’s the base of the logo) automatically gives it a sense of stability, and it’s got a perfect balance between the wheel and the wing, where the wing is neither too short (as it was in one of their previous iterations of the logo) or too long. You have to be balanced to be strong, and strong to be balanced. It’s definitely a logo that’s more based on finesse than the geometric structure of the Bruins’ logo, but it’s solid shape and the use of one colour gives it a solid impact. Just not quite as much impact as the Bruins.
Boston – 3, Detroit – 2
And this is where Detroit excels. The Red Wings’ logo is built around finesse and grace. It’s almost the exact opposite of the Bruins in that, aside from the wheel spokes, there’s not a straight line in the entire logo. When comparing the wings in Detroit’s logo to that of those in the Blues and Flyers logos (or even the Philly Eagles’ helmets, or the Atlanta Falcons and Hawks logos), the Wings’ is almost angelic, or at the very least, a more literal translation of a wing.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love simplicity in design. The Wings’ logo is not simple, but again, I think that’s where the use of a single colour comes in, to balance the complexity of the lines with a simplicity of the shape and colour. It’s as simple as it needs to be, and as complex as it needs to be. Or, as I’ve also mentioned before: More is not more. Less is not more. Just enough is more.
That being said, if there’s one thing I would change about the logo, it’s the detail of the jagged lines on the wing feathers. It doesn’t translate well at smaller sizes and it’s not a necessary addition to it. If you streamline those details, it’s not a detriment to the design at all.
Back to the wing itself. There’s not a hard angle on the entire thing and because of that, everything is just allowed to flow. If you’ve ever noticed how well Datysuk and Lidstrom skate, you’ll now how important gracefulness and flow is to hockey.
The Bruins’ logo doesn’t have much of what I would call gracefulness. The logo they used for the 2010 Winter Classic has a certain amount of flow and gracefulness to it, because of the roundness of the B and the more simplistic outlines (while still being my least favourite Winter Classic alternate logo). And it’s the outlines of the current version (that was made starting in 2007) that are the one detriment to the logo, something that if slightly changed (and closer to a previous B-and-spokes version of the logo) would add just a touch more simplicity and, by default, a touch more gracefulness. Like the jagged lines on the Red Wings’ wings, it’s the one thing I would change about the Bruin’s logo.
Boston – 3, Detroit – 3
Intensity is a little bit different than strength. The Model 101 was strong. The T-1000 was intense. So, there’s not a huge advantage here for either Boston or Detroit, as both show displays of intensity in different ways.
For Detroit, it’s all about their colour. With a name like Red Wings, red is obviously going to be the main colour of the logo. But, without knowing specifically why red was chosen, it could have easily been the Detroit Blue Wings, the Purple Wings, or the Rainbow Wings. Colourful, sure, but according to colour psychology, red is the most emotionally intense colour there is. There’s a reason why some of the most well-known propagandists in history (like the Nazis and communists) predominantly chose red for their flag’s colour. Think red lipstick, a stop sign, the red carpet, blood, the devil, all evoking strong emotional responses. And, apparently, red enhances sports performances (though I’m guessing they didn’t study this back in the 1930s). It’s safe to assume that all this is why they’re named the Red Wings. The fact that there’s also no other colour on the logo aside from red is what gives this logo its intensity.
The Bruins, on the other hand, use strong contrast to give their logo a sense of intensity. A heavy black with a bright gold, mixed with lots of negative white space gives the logo a lot of contrast. The human eye is naturally attracted to areas of higher contrast. For example, if you look at this image, the grey box may be much larger than the black one, but the eye will always be attracted to the intensity of the black on white. It’s one of the main principles of design, and because of the heavy black outlines with the white negative space, the Bruins’ logo seems to jump out at you a bit. It’s pretty intense. Or, heavy, as Marty McFly would say.
And that’s where Detroit’s logo is lacking a bit. Using red was a great choice, but red and white doesn’t have the same strong contrast that black and white has. If you go to the top of the page and look at the logos right on top of each other, your eye will always go back to the Bruins’ logo. So, the edge goes to Boston in this one.
Boston – 4, Detroit – 3
Movement is to gracefulness as intensity is to strength – similar in some ways but really quite different. Everybody has to use movement to be graceful. But you don’t have to be graceful to have movement. Neither of these logos are stoic and both use a sense of movement that is so imperative to hockey – the fastest professional team sport that doesn’t involve a motorized engine.
The Bruins’ logo has implied movement in two ways, (1) the wheel and (2) the spokes. Obviously, with wheels, they’re built to help something move, so there little question about that. Any use of a wheel is going to imply movement no matter how solid or intense everything around it is, as the Bruins’ logo shows. The spokes, though, because of their symmetry and balance, could double as light rays, and seem to be coming out from behind the B, giving everything an outward movement as well.
Detroit, also having a wheel, also implies movement just as easily, though the spokes on their wheel doesn’t imply any further motion at all. However, this is where the other elements on the logo come in, primarily the wing and the bands of red on the wheel itself. The wings give the logo an obvious directional movement, pushing the whole logo to the left giving the feeling that, if the moment inspired you, you could ride that logo Doctor-Strangelove-style.
But on the tire itself, there’s a thick red band on the bottom half and a thin red band on the top half. These are primarily for shadow and highlight effects, which gives the logo a bit more depth, which contributes to its sense of movement even more. As soon as you take out those bands, or even them out, the logo becomes a little more stoic and a little less interesting. It’s a necessary and well-executed addition to the logo and gives Detroit the edge here.
Boston – 4, Detroit -4
Well, regulation solved nothing. And I’ve picked apart the logos as much as I could. But, like Gary Bettman, I’m not interested in having any tie games.
There’s one thing that I haven’t really talked too much about that I always harp on: simplicity. Both logos have it. Boston has simplicity in the actual shape of the logo and its various elements. Detroit has simplicity in their colour and minimal use of outlines. Some people have said to me that a logo should be simple enough for a child to draw to make it easier for that child to become a fan of the team. I can understand that, but I don’t buy it. When I was growing up, I loved the Canucks, and you can’t get more complex than their logo at the time (honestly, I didn’t even know it was a skate until I was about 10), but that didn’t stop me from drawing it.
Taking everything into consideration, you have to look at the fact that although both logos have great concepts, excellence of execution and all the qualities that I think a hockey logo should have to epitomize the nature of the sport of hockey to some degree, Detroit has more strength and intensity to their logo than Boston’s has gracefulness and movement. It’s an incredibly close call, but…
BTLNHL #2: Boston Bruins
BTLNHL #1: Detroit Red Wings
Okay, so now BTLNHL is over. It got a pretty good following and thanks to everyone who’s been following along. Your comments have made writing this whole list out a great thing for me.
But Hockey By Design doesn’t end here. There’s more designers to interview. There’s jerseys to talk about. Goalie masks. Alternate logos. Teams will be creating new logos over time. And I’m going to start picking apart some of the vintage logos that don’t exist any more, everything from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. Bookmark HbD, follow it on Twitter, or subscribe to have it emailed to you (in the top right corner of this page). There will be more great stuff!
And what would an HbD post be(e) without an Arrested Development clip?
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