Six Zero's Official Response to the Big Ten Logo and all of the Resulting Fallout

Submitted by Six Zero on December 17th, 2010 at 11:05 AM

 Alright... I've read enough of these posts and responses about the Big Ten logo and I was actually writing all of this as a response to the "Reconsider Division Names" thread when I finally decided to bump it into its own post.  I'm not trying to come off as some logo elitist, a creative snoot or some kind of uppity know-it-all.  It's just that there's several enormous parts of the iceberg regarding the creative process, decision-making, and ultimate implemenation of a big-time corporate logo that many of you aren't aware of, and so I'm trying to enlighten some people.

Personally, I'll own up and give you my own opinion of the official Big Ten logo at the end of this post.

In the meantime, it's no secret that most of the blog hates and loathes this thing like it came from Columbus.  And that's awesome-- everyone has the right to respond to it however they'd like.  BUT what's bothering me is that everyone, including Brian, is suggesting that we just have a contest and the people will fix what the king's court could not.  And, my whole plumbing analogy notwithstanding, some of you are even suggesting that the Big Ten will save so much money by not having to hire some snooty art company type thing.

I couldn't disagree with you more.  They'd still have to spend almost the same amount of money to get a design firm to adapt a 'contest winner' into a working branding concept and final production suite.  Multi-venue solutions (line art, grayscale, full color, spot color), vector and raster images, RGB vs. CMYK files-- all of these things need to be prepared so that the logo can successfully depart for file management and implementation.

Let's say that Jim Delany saw the shield logo on our blog -- TScherne or Block M or whoever did it-- and decided that was the one he was going to run with.  What would really happen?  Chances are they'd write a little check and have the designer sign off ownership of the design about twenty times.  THEN they'd go back to Pentagram or another design firm, and they'd essentially recreate it in vector format, tweaking it slightly to maximize production and reproduction.  Then they'd create countless format options for the logo, some for web, some for print, some for line art solutions like one-color tees, etc. etc.  And the work doesn't end there.

Perhaps very few of you realize that the design firm is also responsible for the production and publication of a proper creative brief, design manual, or reproduction requirement publication.  Basically it's a manual that follows the logo wherever it goes throughout its shelf life, telling every prepress artist or web developer how it should, and more importantly, how it cannot be used.  For example, the UM sports department probably issued a new brief last year telling everyone NOT to use the block M with 'MICHIGAN' through the middle, and not to use the one with the blue stroke, and instead use only the single color block M.  It might also say you cannot add to the mark, rotate the mark, use different typography for the mark, etc etc.  All of this has to be prepared, developed, and considered so that no handling or manipulation of the logo is open to interpretation.  Many of these documents are small, but several can be up to 40-50 pages.  I've worked with Bucknell's and few others, and have seen countless more.  It's a very legitimate and binding document.

In other words, you just don't draw up a logo and send it in.  Even if it's a contest winner, you're not saving any money, and chances are you're only setting yourself up for future complications.  Let the experts do their job, man.

NOW, if you hate the logo, that's another thing-- but ultimately Delany and the Big Ten are responsible for choosing and approving that solution, not the design company.  I'd bet Pentagram created at least a dozen other solutions that Delany and company passed over.  This is not something that was just whipped up on a napkin, my friends.

If you think the design firm could have done better, chances are they did.  It just wasn't chosen. 


I don't think it's that bad.  Seriously.

But I also think it's no home run.  Yes, the Pac10's logo is so much sweeter.  The new logo is to the point, the typography is relatively clean and is also current without being too trendy.  I also think the whole B10 shortened mark could probably catch on, if it's handled the right way.  Still, they could've done a much better job in promoting the personality and character of what we consider GGRRRRR BIG TEN FOOTBALL by choosing the right typeface.  Typefaces are like voices-- they can all say the same words and yet the meanings can become completely different.

What I really dislike is the color.  That icy blue doesn't have enough contrast to really pop off a white background, and on a black background it'll probably be unappealing in a Carolina Panthers kinda way.  I also don't like how they did the whole black "B" with the blue "10" concept-- looks very bleh, and too NFL on FOX.  I'd have probably done something that combines current with tradition, but that may not have been what the Big Ten as an organization asked for.  We'll never know what the customer requested prior to design.

As far as contests and my uppity opinions, etc., someone has already asked me 'hey why don't you whip something up?'  I will not.  And I'm not ripping on anyone who had the scrotum to work something up and post it here on mgoblog-- more power to all of you and I'm certainly willing to recognize some strong efforts.  If someone were to commission me to create a logo then perhaps I might-- but technically none of you have the right to hire me to create a Big Ten logo-- that would be a conflict of ownership with the Big Ten.  So yes, I have some ideas, but until the miraculous day that I get a call from Jim Delany asking me to knock something out, I'm going to keep my concepts to myself.

Go Blue and Merry Christmas everybody.


coastal blue

December 17th, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

more from a purely creative standpoint. In that, if you pay someone a ton of money to perform their profession, they should come up with something that satisfies the investment. I know that if I had put in whatever amount of money that went into this logo and Pentagram had come back with this garbage, the division names, etc. I would have fired them on the spot and went elsewhere, because it's truly terrible. 


December 17th, 2010 at 11:56 AM ^

Delany might have been the client, technically. 

In reality, however, it is us fans who are the clients.  And the clients are not happy with the work. 

I appreciate Six Zero's explanation of the rpocess here and why a logo contest won't work.  That said, I don't think anyone with an idea for a logo contest would be presenting finished work, but rather a concept to be adopted. 

For this logo, I think the color stinks.  I don't like the typface.  I also don't like the contrived use of negative space for "TEN".  Those 3 things comprise the entire logo. 

For the BIG in isolation, I want to know how that works in a monochromatic setting (since the shade of blue sucks).  I don't like the serifs on the typeface, I think it's trying to be both modern and in the traditional block lettering of college football.  In trying to be both, it fails to achieve either goal. 

Blue in Seattle

December 17th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

The fans are the customer who "purchase" the product put out there by the Big Ten.  As long as you are able to identify Big Ten things clearly from SEC things and Pac10 things, then the logo is doing it's job, ugly or not.

Will you stop being a customer of Big Ten sports because of the logo?  It's possible.  But in reality you have no rights into thinking you are the client for the simple reason that you are not paying the money nor are you the person in charge of running the Big Ten conference.

You can write an email, you can stop watching, and can certainly stop purchasing things with the Big Ten logo on them.  All of these you have the right to do.

And I suppose you do have the right to be wrong and post your lack of understanding on message boards.  But you are still wrong.



December 17th, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

That is too simple of an explanation.  Its more than just about continuing to be a customer of Big Ten merchandise and differentiating all that is Big Ten from other competitors.  Branding is all about "goodwill," which is an asset that has a tangible value in corporate financial statements.  By putting out an arguably sub-standard logo, the brand arguably decreases, thereby decreasing the goodwill asset on the balance sheet, thereby affecting profitability.  The Big Ten is akin to a corporation and should have been (if it wasn't) very protective of the monetary value of the logo/brand.

Blue in Seattle

December 17th, 2010 at 5:50 PM ^

Yes, that's the concept I was trying to describe.  Now what's really a debate is to what degree is the "crappy logo" going to damage the reputation/goodwill.  This is not simple.

But, what I find interesting is that recognition it the primary value of a logo, not aesthetics.  Yes, yes, Six Zero's Diary does bring up a good point about fonts are a voice to the words that are displayed, but you have to ask yourself, "what do I think of when I see the Big Ten name?"

Most of us here on the Blog think, "Michigan" and then our minds are filled with all Michigan Imagery, not Big Ten imagery.

Umbrella Logos are typically tame and boiled down, since the diversity of the brands underneath them have the true speaking voice.  And it's easy to dig up all the research that has gone on with Branding.  To bring in an example, one test was with Heineken and testing the value of taking this well known brand across multiple product categories.  What they found is that Heineken meant "beer", and that was not a very diverse umbrella.  Basically you can't brand popcorn as "Heineken Popcorn" and expect a lot of people to rushing into the stores to pick up a box.

So, you attend a Big Ten Conference competition because of the specific Teams/Universities involved.  They are the Key branding elements, all protected under the Big Ten umbrella.

And my main point back to the poster was that now matter how crappy this logo is, I'm not going to alter my habits in the consumption of Michigan Athletics.  Do I think division names of Legends and Leaders is stupid? Yes.  Am I confused about which division Michigan is in? No.  Does it affect how I consumer Michigan Athletics? Not at all.

But at least the logo did one good thing.  It provided the media something new to write about other than the crime of stupidity that David Brandon is committing by not giving them juicy gossip to twist around in controversy.  Instead all us mouth breathers are typing away about how ugly light blue is.


December 19th, 2010 at 2:24 AM ^

But on the other hand, because it's not so all-important, Delany has a mulligan. 

It was a change and he made it worse.  Especially on the Legends and Leaders--that's sure to be mocked nationwide until it's dropped.  He would do well to swallow his pride, take the mulligan, and move on.  If he does that, this episode will soon become a trivia question.

So why not avoid making it worse?

coastal blue

December 17th, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

I suppose either Delaney picked these logos and made a terrible choice on his own or Pentagram sold him on their logo.

Either way, it's astounding that they combined to come up with something that over 90% of fans dislike. I mean, if the point of advertising and marketing is to sell a product, you couldn't do much worse than a 5-10% approval rating.


December 17th, 2010 at 11:22 AM ^

Six Zero this is a very respectable post. I for one am not a fan of the new logo or division names, but I completely follow your reasoning and thoughts. The logo is bad IMO but it could be worse. It was as you said Delany and company's choice to use this logo, not the designer's.

Thanks for this explanation of the process and your thoughts. Go Blue and Merry Christmas to yourself as well.


December 17th, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

All of that is excellent information.  I think people definitely need to consider that a lot more goes into the branding of a product/group than "simply" the design of a logo.  That said, I don't think people questioned the work of Pentagram outside of the final design of the logo.  In other words, I don't think people were commenting on the prowessness of Pentagram as a whole, just their logo design.  But you're definitely right, Pentagram probably put numerous design ideas in front of the Big Ten who made the final decision.  The real "beef" has to be with Delaney and those decision-makers.  (As an aside, it would be interesting to be in the conference room with the Pentagram people after the Big Ten officials left - I wonder if the final choice was Pentagram's collective first choice.)

Also, as someone bound by ethical standards (yes, its true, can you believe it?), I fully appreciate your decision to hold off on presenting a competing design.  That said, since you are not technically being hired or formally retained by the MGoCommunity to design a logo, couldn't you simply share your thoughts on a pro bono basis, similar to a lawyer providing legal services free of charge?  For example, you could create a thread that discusses the design process and then give a "real world" example of how a logo is designed based on the Big Ten's recent process.  That's how lawyers comment on recent court rulings and critique them at CLE seminars.  Just a thought in case you were looking for a way around of the conflict . . .

Big Boutros

December 17th, 2010 at 11:29 AM ^

i can't get my ire up for the logo. many if not most logos in this world are ugly or stupid or cheeseball, and that the Big Ten chose some happy lettering in periwinkle blue is neither a surprise nor a disappointment. I think we all just miss the 11 in the negative space.


Naming the divisions Legends and Leaders was the worst thing I have ever seen, and I've seen Carrot Top live. I watched Jim Delany and his disgusting tufts of temple hair ramble on and on about how we didn't want to name them geographically and we couldn't single anyone out bler bler bler. I can't speak for all Michigan fans, but if you wanted to name the West after Jay Berwanger and the East after Gene Smith's grandmother, I would not complain. The hyphenated individual awards are lame enough, but the concept of naming two athletic divisions after some intangible human qualities that you claim your conference represents is ludicrous and indefensible. East and West, screw the geographic inconsistencies. Griffith and Wilson, after the conference's first two commissioners. Fucking Rotel and Velveeta, I don't care. Anything but Legends and Leaders. 


December 17th, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

I think I am with Boutros on this. I can live with the logo, maybe it will grow on me. <shrugs>

I am not happy with the divisional names, I would have preferred a couple of names of footbal related people that represent the Big Ten or Plains and Lakes. I find the current names to be somewhat arrogant and as we have all seen, open to mockery from all other fans.


December 17th, 2010 at 11:37 AM ^

You sound angar.

But seriously, great post. I for one had no idea all that goes into choosing and implementing a logo of this magnitude. I will say my biggest problem is the color. If they made that more attractive I think most people could just get used to it anyway. It's not going to win any logo contests, but it will just be "The Big Ten Logo." That's fine.

Thanks for the insight.


December 17th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

I think the criticism of the designers was unfair because we have seen what the Big Ten powers chose, not what Pentagram offered.  Many make the assumption that everything else was inferior to the chosen design, but it may be that the committee or Delaney or Mrs. Delaney (i.e., the decision maker) made some safe choice and it did not inspire the fans.  You can't blame the designers unless you were the decision maker and they gave you nothing to choose from.  We don't know that to be true.


December 19th, 2010 at 2:07 AM ^

Pentagram, Schmentagram, I don't care who Jim Delany hired.

I hate the results, and Jim Delany had all the degrees of freedom to effect the outcome.

The only thing that might make me change my mind was if the Big East followed with the award name convention and instituted the .... Dingle-Berry Defensive Lineman of the Year.


December 17th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

to another is ridiculously easy. Tons of open source code out there to do it and even otherwise you have photoshop. 

Is this really the reason Delany would take BlockM's logo (say) and go back to pentagram ? I can guarantee any EECS student in North Campus will do this for you in 15 minutes flat. The "creative document" is also a joke. In my opinion, its only purpose is so that Pentagram has something tangible to "deliver" for the 100's of thousands they probably charged for this piece of crap. Just sending out an email to Delany of the shitty design they came up with in the last 15 mins would be really rubbing it in...


December 20th, 2010 at 8:48 AM ^

You do realize it's more than just going from jpeg to png to gif to tiff to eps, etc, right? They don't just need different files, they need different images optimized for different uses. As someone who has very limited experience, I can tell  you it's kind of a bitch trying to make sure something looks consistent when produced by RGB color and printed in CMYK. 

There logo fundamentally changes for different media beyond just how the file is encoded. This isn't something that can be done with an Automator tast.

Greg McMurtry

December 17th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

is that since the name of the conference will not be changed, and the decision to make reference to the new amount of teams (12) was shot down, why was a new logo even necessary.  Just removed the "11" from the name and use the old logo.  The new logo isn't fresh or exciting.  It isn't powerful.  It doesn't say anything about the teams.  It's just a crappier representation of the Big Ten without the word conference.  The "10" and the "Ten" are redundant and the color, pastel blue, is rather weak if you ask me.  It was a B1G waste of time and money and everyone hates it.  Great job, Delaney!


December 17th, 2010 at 8:24 PM ^

(or inoperative) word.  Pastels are lovely, but one would think the logo for the Grand Old (though changing) Conference would have a color of strength.  If it were a baby conference and we hoped it would grow up and out of the nursery, fine.  Baby blue with white simply fades out of consciousness.  Isn't a logo to have some kind of emotional/metaphoric connection to what it represents?

But thanks, Six Zero, for background in helping understand the complexity of the choice.  Still don't understand the choice itself.


December 17th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

Nice post and good info for people with respect to the way branding works at a major organization. I agree with what you say regarding costs of implementing a new logo. However, as you yourself point out, the design firm likely created several options before this one was chosen. And those most certainly were not much more than what was submitted as options here on the board. Only once one or two of those were chosen (by the Big Ten) as the finalists did the design firm sink anymore money into refining or providing alternate formats, etc. (ie. the things that cost $$$)

So, the problem here isn't the $$$ or Pentagram. It's the fact that Delaney and Co. 1) did this all behind closed doors 2) did so with such obvious bad taste (the overwhelming disdain stands as proof of that.)

I'd be curious to see what other options Pentagram had presented. Also, I definitely think there has to have been some sort of disconnect between the people that made these choices and the ones running the show at the BTN - For the branding to be so different. 


December 17th, 2010 at 5:32 PM ^

The conference logo, to me, is just background noise.  But the names of the divisions are going to be mentioned in every broadcast involving Michigan forever ("Let's take a look at the Legends Division standings, shall we?"), and you know the color guy will make fun of them every time. 


December 17th, 2010 at 12:47 PM ^

 I'm not trying to come off as some logo elitist, a creative snoot or some kind of uppity know-it-all. 

Sorry, man. That is exactly what you sound like. Do you work at Pentatrode or something?


December 17th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^


I appreciate the thought and time that went into the post, but it seems to be largely knocking down the strawman of "cost" of the new logo (and division names, I guess, but design briefs and use guides and all the other mar-com outputs you define don't really speak to those in themselves), when what people have mostly been responding to is the product itself: the logo.  Yes, opinion is subjective and group think may be in full swing, but it pretty obviously sucks.  Sure, it might have some redeeming qualities in ease of use and variety of venues/media/etc that it can be dropped into, but it's not a strong mark.

Also, having just gone through a major re-branding effort at my organization, I find myself underwhelmed with the merits of putting so much value on the effort and documentation that should be a natural component of a successful brand launch - which is really what you're talking about - as opposed to putting the effort into getting the product (logo, brand, messaging) really right.  I agree that the daily work duties of mar-com types and what it takes to create and sustain a successful brand are largely hidden to the world and very likely undervalued. 

But that's life - none of us care much about how much work Greg Robinson has to put in and all the various elements that go into getting freshmen to lock down opposing senior wideouts, we just get upset at seeing them so easily find the endzone.  And we get to call for him to be fired/replaced/shorn.  But it's because we give up so many dang points, not because his work is meritless or we can't understand what teaching moments lead to success and which travel swiftly from one ear through the next on our young wolverines.

But I digress.  Yes, I think we all know that whomever makes whatever logo, it's going to need to be surrounded by a lot of versions and formats and made ready to work in many places.  We just want it to look good when it gets there.

Kilgore Trout

December 17th, 2010 at 4:34 PM ^

I agree with this completely.  Every job has a lot of behind the scenes things that go unnoticed and don't meet the public.  No one cares if I try really hard and mean really well and handle all of the intricacies of my job.  If I fail in the end result (patients end up with neuro-deficits in my case), I fail in the whole process.  The rest of it doesn't matter, that's your job.