HbD Breakdown: Henderson Silver Knights Brand
Just over three years ago, the world was introduced to the name and visual identity for the NHL’s newest expansion team, and let’s just say it initially didn’t go as well as the front office folks probably would’ve liked… Technological difficulties aside, the name and logo were met with a hefty amount of skepticism and criticism, from the dropping of “Las” from the name, to the kerning in the wordmark (yikes!)
From our breakdown of the logo:
This brand is not off to a great start. As mentioned in Part 1 of our G’Knights Breakdowns, the name and wordmark are not great. The secondary logo is okay, but inconsistent with the rest of the brand (so far) with issues of its own, and the primary logo doesn’t know whether it wants to be modern or timeless, settling on a place that is neither. The multitude of issues with the details in the logo is unfortunate, because the foundation of the logo (its primary concept) is solid. It just needs some more time and refinement to make it better.
Now in fairness, most re-brands or brand unveilings these days face their own share of criticism from armchair designers or internet commenters with opinions (you know what they say, everyone has one!), so it’s rare for a logo to debut with only glowing reviews. However when the Golden Knights introduced the identity for their new AHL affiliate, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and deservedly so.
didn’t know our mentions were gonna look like this 😅 pic.twitter.com/ZqVWhHYy9D— SilverKnights (@HSKnights) May 29, 2020
While we don’t normally dive into the world of minor league logos (can you blame us?), the Henderson Silver Knights made such an entrance that we thought it was worth breaking down for you!
The Name and Wordmark
For Brady Hackmeister, Art Director for the Golden Knights and the designer behind the Silver Knights’ identity, the first priority in tackling a logo for their new AHL affiliate was establishing something that could stand on its own while keeping in line with the look and feel of the Vegas identity. With Nevada being known as the Silver State, plus claiming the nation’s largest wild horse population, it only made sense to be the “silver” sibling to Vegas’ golden brand.
“My boss came to me with just the name and let me run free with it,” Hackmeister explained. “My thought process when I began this was to create something that was definitely related to our VGK brand, but had a life of its own.” The most immediately obvious place where the Henderson and Vegas brands align is in their respective wordmarks, with the Silver Knights adopting Vegas’ custom font and using the same stacked layout.
…But Give It a Glow Up
When we initially reviewed the Vegas wordmark, it got a pretty tough critique for the wacky kerning, odd choice of extending the gold line beyond the width of the type, and the somewhat ungapatchka (for lack of a better descriptor) custom typeface. As John said in his review, “it looks like someone tried to combine Hobo with Acumin and threw in some random serifs for good measure.” Luckily, some of the adjustments made with the Henderson wordmark remedied these issues, producing an overall better looking finished product.
The letters in “Henderson” are mostly rectangular in shape and similar in width, which makes clean kerning far easier and avoids any awkward negative spaces like between the V and E in “Vegas.” Because of the length of the word, the serifs appear more subtle in what’s still a difficult typeface, but certain letters –– the S in particular –– could really use a revamp, as there seems to be no good way to make it look natural beside any other letterforms.
The biggest difference between the Henderson and Vegas wordmarks comes with the use of the spurs, similar to the stars that frame “Vegas” in its big sib’s wordmark, but instead with a nod to the symbolism of earning knighthood by using a silver star gilded in gold, almost like a call up to the big club (so clever!).
Overall, Hackmeister made some great improvements from the initial Vegas logo to create something that feels to be part of the same family while still standing on its own.
The Primary Logo
Creating the Warhorse
When Hackmeister began to brainstorm and sketch, he quickly ruled out the concept of a standard knight helmet, as it’s been overdone, and he wanted to create something that would stand out. “Knights and their warhorse are almost synonymous with each other,” shared the artist. “I felt like this was a great way to tell a new story with the AHL franchise and explore an untapped aspect of the Knight’s life.”
Running with the horse concept, Hackmeister began to sketch. Pulling inspiration from chess pieces, at first nothing quite stuck, until the epiphany came of incorporating the H into the horse’s head. “One night, we were at my in-laws for dinner and this idea just came to me… all those original sketches [in the logo development video we put out] were done that night on my phone sitting on their couch. From there, it was a pretty smooth process. [I] took it into illustrator and created a quick proof to run by my boss, Brian Killingsworth.”
Strong Yet Sneaky
Now is where we get into the good stuff… I once heard Michael Bierut speak about the moment he knew he wanted to be a designer, a moment that came courtesy of the Clark forklift logo and realizing that hidden meanings could be cleverly hidden in logos. Whether it’s the first time you noticed the arrow in the FedEx logo or the H in the Whalers’ logo, many of the GOATs in logo design history have that push-pull of hidden imagery, but executed in a way that looks and feels effortless.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should hold the Henderson Silver Knights up there with the Whalers, but I really love everything about this logo, both in how it looks, but also the clever hidden meanings throughout.
The first and most obvious “hidden” element is the H created from the horse’s armor. Similar to the V incorporated into the helmet of the Vegas logo, the H is really nice way of tying back both to the parent club, and also to the city of Henderson. A less obvious but no less clever element in the armor is the use of the numbers 20 and 21 in the detailing, a nod to the team’s inaugural 2020-21 season.
The horse’s armor has 21 rivets around the inside edges, and the chainmail underneath is inferred using 20 minimalist lines. “We love adding hidden meaning into our work, so the 20-21 element was a fun one to figure out,” Hackmeister shared. “Plus it wasn’t really forced and only had to alter the design slightly to make the numbers work with what I already had on paper.”
The shape of the Silver Knights shield is identical to that of the @GoldenKnights shield, while the filigree on the interior border is a matching element that is found on the Vegas Golden Knights crest. pic.twitter.com/hCmHgIrnlP— SilverKnights (@HSKnights) May 29, 2020
Other design elements like the overall shield shape, the filigree border, and the horse’s gold eyes all connect this back to the Golden Knight’s identity, really making the two feel like a cohesive family of brands.
The Details and Overall Identity
Pizazz and Personality
Looking at the brand more holistically along with some of the finer details, there is a lot to love about this identity and its reveal. The animation in the reveal videos really made this brand come to life, both with the process sketches and the finished product. Everything from the creative use of the spurs to the casino-like sound effects give the brand a real personality that connects to the city of Henderson and tells the community what the team is all about.
Pleased to meet you… hope you guessed our name😆 pic.twitter.com/rRau5A9SQv— SilverKnights (@HSKnights) May 29, 2020
(Some Things) Gold Can Stay
I already touched on the spurs themselves in regards to the wordmark, but it’s almost as if the Vegas stars got a face lift and what I’d hope for them to be. While the Golden Knights’ stars feel a bit cartoonish and clip art-y, the Silver Knights’ spurs look more balanced and well thought out.
The color palette shared by the team is something I find intriguing, as the full palette is just silver, gold and black, which should (or could) make for an interesting jersey set. The “Vegas Gold” hex code is really more of a tan color and would be best suited as an accent –– potentially with metallic thread a la Vegas, so it will be interesting to see if the team goes for a black / white jersey combo, or goes more the Kings’ route and opts for a light gray home jersey.
Eric Dunkel shared a pretty stellar concept on Reddit that mimics Vegas’ template and makes nice use of both the filigree and the gold as an accent color, so it would be great to see the team go with this direction.
Overall, this was a really great brand development that is 100% deserving of the praise it received out of the gate. “I’m lucky he [Killingsworth] was so trusting and he saw the vision immediately,” Hackmeister told us, “so we continued down the path.”
Here’s a closer look at some of our brand elements and story. More details on the Silver Knights Instagram pic.twitter.com/bf8SxuKLHI— Brady Hackmeister (@bradyhack1) May 29, 2020
Special thanks to Brady Hackmeister for providing his insights on the process, and congratulations to the VGK in-house design team for a job well done!