HbD Breakdown: Vegas Golden Knights (Name and Wordmark)

By JVDW
In Featured
Dec 2nd, 2016
13 Comments

vegas-golden-knights-part1-636Expansion doesn’t happen very often anymore in the NHL. The last one was in 2000 when the Blue Jackets and Wild entered the league. Even franchise re-locations don’t happen much anymore, with the last one being the Jets from 5 years ago. This is the first time in the history of HbD’s existence that we get to discuss a brand new franchise, a new name, a new logo, a new secondary logo, a new everything.

Buckle up kids, this is gonna be a ride. So much of a ride, that we’ll be breaking this into two parts. First, the name itself and the word mark. Second, the primary and alternate logo (coming soon!).

 

Laying the Foundation

But the importance of an exercise like this for the new Las Vegas franchise can’t be overstated. They are, in essence, laying down the foundation for what they’re hoping will have the same passion and reverence that’s paid to brands like the Canadiens and the Blackhawks. The name, the logo, the visual brand, should outlast everybody currently involved with the team. If there is going to be a bi-centennial for the NHL, the Las Vegas team hopes to be there, with the same name, logo and brand intact – or at the very least, the same general concept.

And if that’s not the goal of the organization, then you’re building on a bad foundation from the very beginning. Whether it’s a lack of understand or caring about this process, or somebody’s ego at play, or a simple desire to cash in on a trend and sell a bunch of jerseys, it’s just hurting the franchise in the long run.

As a designer, I know we all go through this process all the time when building corporate identities. You want something iconic, lasting, and integral to the organization. There’s always roadblocks and hurdles to overcome, but the final product should always be worth it in the end.

TL DR: This shit’s important. You need to get it right at the beginning.

 

The Name: Vegas Golden Knights

 

The First Part

Vegas. Not Las Vegas. Vegas.

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I understand the reasoning behind this decision (nobody calls is LAS Vegas, blah, blah, blah)…but that’s the goddamn name of the city. Officially, it’s not the LA Kings, it’s the Los Angeles Kings. It’s not the Philly Flyers, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers. And it’s not the Angeles Kings, Jose Sharks, Louis Blues, York Islanders, Jersey Devils or York Rangers neither.

Using slang or a colloquialism for a city name isn’t done by any team in any professional sport in North America. If they called themselves “Las Vegas”, chances are people would just say “Vegas” anyway. People do that all the time. The Senators are more commonly called the Sens. The Canadiens, the Habs. The Predators, the Preds. The Captials, the Caps. Etc, etc, etc.

While that sounds like sound reasoning to just drop the “Las”, it’s not. It turns the official team name into a gimmick, a slang term to fit in with the crowd, to seem cool. It’s basically a marketing ploy and not a way to build a solid foundation for a team’s identity. Striving to be a professional first-class organization means you don’t do stuff like this.

Dropping the Las in Las Vegas – the official name of your own goddamn city – just isn’t professional.

 

But It’s Too Long!

The other reason given for dropping the “Las” was because it created a four-word team name, which was deemed too long. We’ll deal with the “Golden” later, but I call bullshit regardless.

Las-Ve-gas-Gold-en-Knights. Six syllables. Hey, guess what…Mon-tre-al-Can-a-di-ens. Seven syllables. Phil-a-del-phi-a-Fly-ers. Also seven. Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche…all seven syllables. The argument that four words is too long is ridiculous because it’s still shorter in pronunciation than those teams. And there’s also more teams with six syllables. “Las Vegas Golden Knights” is still well within acceptable range and the word count argument is garbage.

For example, if the NHL gave a franchise to the town of Webster, MA, and they decided to name their team after the nearby lake, they’d be the Webster Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­mauggs (seriously). Just two words, so totally not too long, right?

Again, I call bullshit on that argument.

 

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The Second Part

There had to have been better options than this (there were). There are some bad team names in the league, but Golden Knights – on its own – isn’t necessarily one of them. But it’s not great either, and I would pin it on the city they’re going to play in. A golden knight in Las Vegas makes me think of a bad statue at the entrance of cheezy medieval-themed casino. Hey, and look, this is outside the Excalibur Casino in Vegas. And this is Excalibur itself. So, maybe something kitschy like that works in Vegas, because Vegas is kitschy af.

Using a colour as an adjective isn’t anything new in pro sports (Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Red Sox, White Sox, etc), and there’s an historical charm that goes along with it. “Golden” is less often used, but it works in the right circumstances. There’s the Golden Bears of both the Universities of Alberta and California (Berkeley), or the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. And of course, the NHL used to have the California Golden Seals all those years ago. There’s also the Golden State Warriors, albeit used as the place name and not the moniker.

• More: BTLNHL Vintage: California Golden Seals

And Knights is among the most commonly-used team names, with over 30 US college teams alone using it. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, Las Vegas Knights sounds pretty good (and there’s a double entendre there). But the problem is, there’s an OHL team called the London Knights, which owns the rights to that name in Canada and apparently wouldn’t permit Vegas to use the name. So, no go.

Of the three rumoured “Knights” names – Golden Knights, Silver Knights and Desert Knights – I’d consider  Golden to be the least of the three. Desert Knights is the most unique and interesting of them, and Silver Knights is at least less kitschy.

• More: The NHL’s Best Team Names

But, it looks like even Golden Knights is having issues, given that the same name is used by the US Army’s Parachute Team…and are considering their options. But don’t expect a name change to happen. If a professional hockey and baseball team are both allowed to have the name Rangers (and there are many other examples in pro sports), I’m guessing a hockey and parachuting team will be allowed as well.

 

Final Verdict

As you may have guessed already, I’m not crazy about the name. Dropping the “Las” is just pandering to the masses and an unprofessional mis-step for a new franchise desperately wanting to connect to the city. Golden Knights is an alright name partly pushed on it by uncontrollable circumstances, but there were better options available.

 

The Wordmark

 

vegas_golden_knights_wordmarkLessons in Kerning

Hooooooboy, and you thought I didn’t like the name. There are some small redeeming parts, but overall, this word mark is simply turrrrible. For a few different reasons.

First off, have would ever heard about kerning? If not, simply put, it’s the spacing in-between letters. Doesn’t seem like a big deal until you do it badly, with potentially horrible consequences. Like this. Or this. Or this. Or it can be used comically, like this. The point is, it’s a subtle but important part of a designers’ job, especially when designing any type of logo. And this Vegas Golden Knights wordmark is kerned turrrribly.

Not the “Vegas” part. That part is fine. It’s the “Golden Knights” that needs work, as the spacing between the letters seem to keep getting looser and looser (that is, the letters keep getting farther and farther apart). And it’s inconsistent with the kerning in “Vegas”.

Good kerning is not about having the letters spaced exactly apart, it’s about making sure there’s an equal amount of negative space between the letters. For example “AV” will need to be a lot closer together than “LA” to have an equal amount of negative space between them.

If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend trying your hand at it Kern Type, a kerning game to test your skills. I just did, and here was my score.

Back to Vegas, here’s a better-kerned version…

vegas_golden_knights_wordmark-kernedSee? Much better. Plainly put, the one they unveiled was just poor and sloppy execution.

 

Lessons in Alignment

Here’s another thing that bugs me about the wordmark (but keep in mind I’m extremely OCD about this type of thing). Why is the gold line extending beyond the G and S of “Golden Knights”? Any design, especially logos, are so much more stronger when things just line up and make sense. And this is a pretty easy fix:

vegas_golden_knights_wordmark-alignedOkay, it’s getting better. The starbursts were also moved out a bit to line up as well.

By the way, the starbursts are probably the best element on the wordmark, as they’re a subtle but immediate connection to the famous Las Vegas signage. That was a smart and elegant inclusion, so kudos on that.

 

Lessons in Typography

What kind of a strange typeface are they using? It’s either (a) a custom-design for the team or (b) something they found for free on dafont.com. It looks like someone tried to combine Hobo with Acumin and threw in some random serifs for good measure.

There’s curves on the left side of the G and S, but none on the right. The angled tails on the Es, Ss and Ts add more angles into the letters than there needs to be, especially with the serifs at the top of all the letters. And those serifs, especially on the Gs, Ss and Ts, are happening in completely unnatural places for the letters. It’s just…strange.

The curved-in A is strange too, especially when compared to the V, the only letter in the wordmark that has a natural angle to it, and probably the best-designed letter in the font.

To be fair, the V really works to make a visual connection between the primary logo and the wordmark, and to make it standout from the rest of the letters, but it also makes the other letters look horrible.

Also, when you compare the Gs in Golden Knights to the G in Vegas, you can tell that “Vegas” is a condensed version of the font, which is strange because it forces “Vegas” to be so much bigger than “Golden Knights” which is unnecessary.

I could try re-work this typeface to improve it, but at this point, it’s easier to just scrap the whole thing and use a different, better-constructed typeface:

vegas_golden_knights_wordmark-fontOkay, now we’ve got something. This is using the Industry typeface, and it has some similar qualities to the original, just without the flared serifs. With a little bit of work, those could be added in. Regardless, this is much, much better.

 

Lessons in Colour

Well, no lessons here really. This is the one place where they kept a simple colour palette: gold (well, more bronze really, but we’ll save that for Part 2) and white. Or gold and black when on a white background. It’s simple, elegant and works.

 

Final Verdict

The typography, the kerning and the alignment are a sloppy, poorly-executed mess, but the starbursts and colour work well. So, the worst parts of the wordmark are the words. Yikes.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we break down the primary and alternate logo for the Vegas Golden Knights!

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation TwitterFacebook and Instagram! And if you’re interested, we’re now on Pinterest too.

 

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13 Responses to “HbD Breakdown: Vegas Golden Knights (Name and Wordmark)”

  1. […] • Further breaking down the name and logo of the Vegas Golden Knights. [Hockey by Design] […]

  2. nightfly says:

    Silver Knights would have made sense since Nevada is “The Silver State.” I had, in fact, held out hope that they’d be the Quicksilvers, like the old indoor soccer team, with a color scheme to match (with updated logos and such, of course).

    Golden Knights is just dumb.

  3. IsleInOhio says:

    I completely agree that leaving the Las out of Las Vegas is ridiculous and gimmicky, but the Carolina Hurricanes don’t include the North in their name. At least their reasoning holds a little more weight by trying to include a larger geographical area vs. distance locals.

    • JVDW says:

      Very good point, forgot about Carolina. And yes, I’m more okay with that one because of exactly what you mentioned…there are two Carolinas, so at least it makes more sense.

  4. I’ll play a little devil’s advocate with you here. Keep in mind I have the benefit of context because I did lots of work on this project (though most of the final stuff is not mine). I’ll try to follow the order of your review with the points I address, but some of them will overlap.

    KERNING

    I’ll start here: I’m not convinced the kerning of Golden Knights is, as you put it, “turrrrible” (and yes, I’m a good kerner according to the game, if that’s your standard of trust). The letters in Golden fit together a bit more naturally than those in Knights because they are more similarly shaped, but if anything, I would only tighten Knights up *ever* so slightly to match Golden. I’d also argue that the adjustments you’ve made would be better defined as tracking (adjusting the space between all the letters), than kerning (adjusting the space between two specific letters).

    There are a few reasons this wordmark was constructed the way it was, though (this is where that context thing comes into play). First and foremost, this wordmark had to work in conjunction with a full Las Vegas version. It was more desirable to maintain consistency between the two versions of the wordmark than create dischord by making marginal improvements to only one of them. Second, opening up the tracking and giving the letters more breathing room de-emphasizes the natural gaps created by letters like L and T. Those gaps are much more prominent when the letters are moved closer together, as seen in your versions. Extended lettering is also usually a better candidate for extended spacing, and since we needed to space Golden Knights out across Las Vegas, extended spacing was the given, and as a result, it called for creating an extended, subordinate version of the Vegas lettering.

    Having said all that, I think your version looks rather nice, other than the E being too close to the D. Sometimes in design, you just have to fit a square peg into a round hole the best you can. This was one of those times.

    TYPEFACE

    As for the style of the lettering itself, it is custom for the team, not from DaFont. Las Vegas is full of fun, quirky typography, and this is simply one person’s interpretation of how that might translate to a sports team. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. The serifs may be placed strangely or unnaturally, but I’d also argue that viewpoint is relative to the typographic norms of today. By no means do we limit ourselves to those typographic norms when we gather inspiration for creating new typography. In this case, those serifs, while serving to stylistically connect the other letters to the V, are inspired by something very knightly:

    https://jakerainis.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/blackletter-alphabet.jpg
    http://www.dancingpencalligraphy.com/imagesaf/Blackletter1.jpg

    I understand it’s unmodified, but the final version you’ve shown with the Industry typeface is completely devoid of personality, and Golden Knights begins to compete with Vegas in the hierarchy at this size. It also illustrates why we chose not to use an angled A. The negative space created by that type of A in such a short word puts a lot of unintentional emphasis on it. Instead, the V (the important part) is treated like a drop cap (more blackletter manuscript inspiration), and As that better blend into the E, G, and S were used to keep the emphasis squarely on the V.

    HIERARCHY

    You noted that Vegas is set in a more condensed version of Golden Knights. This is true. Your opinion is that it *forces* Vegas to be much bigger than Golden Knights, but I contend that it *allows* Vegas to be much bigger than Golden Knights. The word Vegas is, by far, the most valuable element of the wordmark, and probably of the entire identity. To minimize its prominence would run counter to the team’s best interests.

    COLOR

    I’ll quickly address the bronze color. The CMYK versions of the logos are being used on screen by many outlets, and it is the worst version when it comes to depicting the colors properly on screen (it is a print file, after all). The PMS versions (I lean toward the ones labeled “metallic”) are a much better option for displaying the logos on screen.

    https://www.nhl.com/goldenknights/team/logos

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    As funny as it is may be to link to Charles Barkley yelling “Turrrrible!” to describe others’ work, using internet memes to critique does not send a professional message. It’s really juvenile, to be honest, and I’m not sure you would have used the same approach had you been talking directly *to* the person who designed this stuff. This is your website, though, so run it however you like. That’s just my two cents.

    • JVDW says:

      Andrew, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to get insight and content into the design of this, so first off, thanks for your comment, it’s awesome!

      Didn’t realize that CYMK/Pantone issue, so it makes a lot more sense seeing the PMS versions, thanks for sharing that.

      I write these things in a vacuum, and there’s pros and cons to that. Pro, I see the finished product just as everyone else in the world sees them, and judge them accordingly, but with the eye of a professional designer that can give insight into what’s wrong and what’s right with the designs. Do people agree with me? Sometimes, but I hope that my particular insight helps create a better understanding of the elements that go into any design.

      Con, I have zero context, and that is always a huge factor is any design process, and I realize that. I love it when teams show some snippets of it, but there’s rarely any sort of context given when a new jersey/logo/etc is unveiled, much to my detriment when writing these posts and, I would say, the detriment of the public in general.

      But, at the end of the day, I’m trying to run a site and trying to make my articles engaging and enjoyable and entertaining to read, because very few people have the patience to spend 10 minutes reading about kerning. So, I throw in some jokes, memes, whatever, here and there to liven things up. Is that unprofessional of me? Maybe. But I need to entertain a bit.

      You make a lot of good points, and I would have some counter-points to make, and I’d love to make them. But maybe off of a website’s comments. Would you be okay with an email response?

      And seriously, thanks again for your comment! As much as I make this site for as wide an audience as possible, I love nerding out over kerning conversations and such, and would love to engage other designers more consistently about this stuff.

      Cheers, John

      • For sure. I think it’s good that people care about this stuff, and people like you have a big hand in that. My only goal is to help everyone better understand and respect the work that goes into it by giving a point of view from the other side. You definitely evaluate differently (for the better, in my opinion) if you’ve worked on projects of this nature or if you know people who have.

        • sparky chewbarky says:

          It’s a little hard to respect an identity that basically has a ripped-off name, a ripped-off primary, and a ripped-off secondary.

    • Charles Noerenberg says:

      Andrew–awesome work on this project, and thanks for all the insight into the process. As someone who very much wants to do this type of work, I love getting to see behind the scenes. A thought and a question on your response:
      1. It’s funny that on the very website you linked to showing the correct PMS screen versions of the logos, the team has used the incorrect print version of the logo and gold color in the header and footer (Also, the kerning in the header when the wordmark goes to one line–WOOF.)
      2. I can understand the wordmark’s serifs based on the blackletter forms you referenced, but my only beef with the wordmark is that, when combined with the black and gold color scheme, it looks very similar to the Ducks’ type. Was this considered when developing the look of the type for Vegas, especially since they will likely (I’m assuming) be a division rival?

  5. […] • Breaking down the name and wordmark of the Vegas Golden Knights. [Hockey By Design] […]

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