2011 CFB Uniform Preview & Critique

Everyone who is excited about schools updating or changing their football uniforms has an opinion to offer, but what I mostly read really lacks in proper critiquing. Im just not interested in reading articles where teams are described as a “downgrade” or “upgrade” or “black for blacks sake” etc. (the exception is this nice article from theSportsDesignblog) So, im combining 2 of my passions in this article in an attempt to offer something more in depth; sports design and design critiques.

But, ill only focus on large or important changes for full time uniforms. No need to involve Florida State just for adding a logo under the collar. I wont get into any Nike Pro Combat stuff now either, ill wait until they’re all revealed and do a separate article on them. I’ll save the one-offs (Notre Dame, Michigan) for another time as well.

A – Exceptional. Design that is unique to the school and/or perfectly captures the specific culture/brand. Technical craftsmanship is without flaws.

B – Very Good. Design is appealing and appropriate. May be a template, but no mistaking for competitors. Perhaps a slight miss on brand and/or minor flaws in craftsmanship

C – Passable. There are issues that need to be addressed in the future, or have overlooked some details. Perhaps a bad branding move, but has a steady foundation.

D – Poor. Too off brand, poor design decisions, and/or poor craftsmanship. Will have to be redone, but there is something worth saving.

F – Fail. Off brand and bad craftsmanship. Poor design decisions and details overlooked.

Arizona State (Nike) more photos
Grade: B
Identity: The trident mark looks great on the helmet (more on that in the brand section below) full of aggression, power, and motion. The numbers are handled well too, I love the gradient on the black uni as it resembles a piece of glowing hot metal. I don’t mind the shoulder stripes, it works well enough and it unique to ASU, but the huge ASU mark on the sleeves is way too much. Its like a fat guy trying to squeeze his way down the isle at the movie theatre. Its just in the damn way and dosnt fit. White helmet is out of place, and theres no reason for 4 helmets here anyway. Its overkill for this team which should focus more on red, black, and yellow rather than an all white “storm trooper” look. You’re re-branding with a focus of getting visually tougher, not setting trends like Oregon.

I love their red and yellow and the black dosnt hurt it. it looks great as accent colors on the all black uniform, which should be used only for night games. When you have an alternate I think you save it for a special occasion as such. It makes the whole experience more special and memorable for everyone and when you get dressed up for a special night what color are you most likely to wear? Black. It’s the color of night and night life, as modern as it is classic. Sophisticated, as it is rebellious and mysterious. If they don’t get carried away with the black and white, it’s a great uniform set.

Brand: Totally off-brand? yes, but that’s the point. They want to change their culture and have added black and a fierce trident (while all but ditching the cartoony mascot Sparky, which is too immature for college sports any way) to dilute the friendly, youthfulness of their red and yellow to appear more mature with a strong dose of bad attitude. I don’t think they’re an Outlaw-archetype, but they sure are trying to appear that way. However if its true that the trident was copied (or even if it resembles too closely) from a Chicago gang, then this whole redesign is a failure. You cant replace that trident with Sparky or the ASU mark and still have this aggression in the aesthetic. It completely falls apart.

Baylor (Nike)
Grade: B+
Identity: For a blend of modern and traditional elements, this fits together really well. The pants stripes are not too out of place like BC’s (see below) because they have the obvious bear claw factor supporting it. it’s a nice design that’s not too ‘in your face’ and gives them something unique. The standard number font and ‘Baylor’ across the chest work so well in contrast with the smooth flowing stripes. Im fairly sure the jersey font is the same as in their monogram logo too, which of course would be the ideal decision but you never know with these designers.

Brand: They’re jumping on some trends here; multiple helmets and pants, an all white option. But its all well done. They’re much more traditional than USF who uses green, white, and gold as well so they don’t get confused. Their logo and typography are solid and un-skewed giving a sense of trust, balance, and tradition but also know they have to be current and have a little bit of excitement. They’ve got something here that can last a long time and still be current and fresh today.

Boston College (UA)
Grade: C+
Identity: A victim of UA’s new pants template* but the stripe coloring is really nice, even something ive used myself on concepts. The 2 tone stripe is just cool, but I don’t think its appropriate as it dosnt carry through out the uniform. Their number font used to be the only element, besides color, that communicated “BC”. Now its standardized and theres nothing else to really carry the identity. So now its all on the colors (which resemble FSU) and helmet, which has been improved with the triple-stripe look. Theres also a stained glass pattern in the white part of the stripe which seems odd, but its subtle enough that it works. Im not sure about the white pants. For a school with such a minimalist look, I think 3 pants options is 1 too many.

Brand: the color palette could easily be confused with Florida State, but the blank gold helmet is the brand hero here which should have a long life. The stained glass texture is something worth exploring in other collateral. The number font can no longer be a strong brand element, and is not something I would have dropped, but maybe altered a bit. But this could be a nice uniform for many years. They still look like a BC football team.

Bowling Green (Addidas)
Grade: D-
Identity: Damn Addidas, who thought this number font was a good idea? Look how the 5 closes up, its almost an 8. You have a respectable 0 and 8 but looks like it belongs to another font family. Terrible tangents and awkward curves all through those numbers. I don’t know whats supposed to happen with the side markings on the jersey, they have such an unflattering flow to them. Those pants stripes don’t follow the muscle structure of the leg and seem to have no sense of direction or clear form at all. They just get “tangled” and twisted as they flow down the leg. The only thing those lines do is make the player look like he has a fat ass. I don’t believe ive seen a worse stripe than that.

For that promo picture is there any wonder why they decided to shoot from the chest up? The upper part of the jersey and helmet is not too bad. Why the stripe flows the way it does I don’t know. I guess because some of the numbers taper off like that, they incorporated it into the helmet. It’s a beautiful color scheme that’s hard to fuck up but Adidas/BG have done a good job if it. The only saving grace here is the wonderful color palette and a nice logo.

Brand: If I were a fan of BG I would be in pain seeing these on the field. I don’t think they’ll be met with a lot of negativity by most, but as a designer I just cant watch. The font is totally their own (as far as I know no one else uses it) so there is brand recognition here, but not positive. “ugh, its that ugly BG font!”. Im sure they’ll change these things soon, so it can only get better from here.

Buffalo (Nike)
Grade: C+
Identity: This set is screaming “Detroit Lions” but I generally don’t have an issue with college teams being similar to pro teams. the number font is much better than the Lions though, it’s a slightly modified block with a nice modern stroking. Id love to see them change their monogram helmet mark to reflect them. Its clashing a bit now. I cant see whats so appealing about those “pit stain” jersey stripes though. Its such a random and awkwardly placed element. It does nothing but take your eye away from what is otherwise a nicely put together design. solid pants dosnt work here. Your numbers have 3 colors in them. You added a silly stripe to the jersey, but you leave the pants solid? They need some kind of rhythm with the jersey.

Brand: They’ve jumped from one outdated modern trend to a current modern trend. If they lose the pit-stain stripes and added something to the pants, it would do wonders for the uniform and give it some longevity. My perception of Buffalo has changed with the uniforms though. They went from looking like a poor high school team to, for the most part, a respectable college squad.

Colorado (Nike)
Grade: B-
Identity: I really liked last years uniforms, they were a modern design and so well done. The color of the helmets very unique and just damn cool. Not matching the pants color I would deduct points there, still there was something oddly appealing about that. Now, the Buffalos have gone back to their 90s uniform. Its quite appropriate, the large bold numbers, stripes, and font carry all the characteristics of the Rockies, but its all a bit heavy for the modern jersey cuts. And the sleeve stripes have no where to go but an abrupt cut off point, but that’s a problem with every stripe like that. So that said, I just think they took a step back when they took a step back into the 90s. I think most will feel like me; you’re torn here. This isn’t a bad design, they did everything by the book and executed as well as they could and now the 2 golds match. Everything besides the sleeve stripes is technically right, I just prefer the other design

Brand: They’ve gone from an exciting modern look with lots of movement (skewed numbers and a charging buffalo on the helmet) to a very traditional, minimalist design. theres no trends or nonsense here, its just a uniform to play football in. I don’t know enough about the Colorado brand to say if it’s a good move or not, but im sure all the old Kordell Stewert fans will appreciate it.

Fresno State (Nike) more photos
Grade: C-
Identity: Another one of Nike’s pit-stain templates. Totally unnecessary for this design and a poor stripe design to begin with. The numbers are nice, the colors work well together. The stripes on the sleeves and side of the pants is absolutely beautiful. I love that fading half-tone look. And it even comes in 2 colors! Id love to incorporate that into some promotional materials. Again, why the pit-stain? Its only a distraction from the rest of the good looking design. the wide helmet stripe is a turn-off though. The green V decal only makes it worse. It just makes the back of the players head look fat and the green is such an eyesore.

Brand: For the most part it’s a solid look. I wished they hadn’t touched the helmet, but its still passable and recognizable for Fresno. Theres a lot to like here but the flaws just bring it down so much. I think this is a school that could take some risk with the color palette. Not in an Oregon sense, but changing the blue or red a bit would really set them apart from all the other red schools.

Hawaii (UA) more photos
Grade: D-
Identity: Hawaii has one of my favorite logos in college sports. If they ever drop that “H” I will be genuinely sad for 1 day. That dosnt mean though, that I want to see all those shapes used in every damn detail of the uniform. UA dosnt care though, they forced the jagged triangles into the jersey stripe, numbers, and word mark on the jersey. Every element is in a boxing match with the other fighting for attention. Its all just way too forced. I don’t mind the all white and all black look here but is this the only team without a 3rd jersey or 2nd helmet? Its begging for a green jersey. Their green is beautiful and unique, not sure if anyone else uses it, but why you wouldn’t have a green jersey is beyond me. Not too bad, but then they turn around.

If the Bowling Green stripes from Addidas wernt bad enough, UA said “hold up; we got something for ya!”. Just look at the dude’s expression in the second picture. If that dosnt say “are you fuckin kidding me?” I don’t know what does. Wow UA, just wow. If not for the amazing logo, id mark it an F

Brand: Theres no confusing these guys for anyone else. Their identity is built on a strong Hawaiian history. The brand story is loud and clear. Its just so disappointing to see a brand with so much potential put in the hands of people who have no clue what to do with it. its hard to get behind a team when they look so ridiculous and don’t feature their strongest color as a jersey option.

Indiana (Addidas)
Grade: C+
Identity: Its nice to see the Hoosiers simplifying their look. Its as if they’re always trying to add more, or coming on late to a trend like last years design. it’s a school who lacks identity. They’ve taken the stripes off the helmet and jersey and for the most part are left with a traditional look in their classic crimson and white, and a great logo on the side of the helmet. It’s a uniform that looks at home in their cleanly designed stadium.

Brand: A lack of brand equity hurts, but that just means they can start building pretty much wherever they want. What they need more than anything is consistency and this is a look that will last generations, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to make small changes over the years, as if they cant decide what they really like or who they really want to be. My main issue right now, is they look very much like Oklahoma.

Kentucky (Nike) more photos
Grade: D
Identity: Heres a white helmet done right. I much prefer the white to blue. I cant really say why, its just a color preference, I don’t think the blue is bad by any means. The word mark across the chest is so good. The same is used on the Basketball uniforms. The more-than-usual kerning suits that typeface perfectly. I would like to see some of that grey in the jersey incorporated in the helmet logo or center stripe. It dosnt look like its used anywhere else, so im not sure of the purpose. This could easily grade out as an A with some small changes but then theres the shoulder pattern.

Brand: This is Nike either not giving a damn or being lazy in research. Or maybe Kentucky just dosnt know any better. But the checkerd pattern can not work for them. It dosnt matter that you did it to honor Secretariat, the public’s association with that pattern goes to Tennessee, their biggest rival. That’s just embarrassing. You can not ignore these perceptions. Im a fan of neither school, but as far as im concerned they have the Vol’s endzone art on their shoulders. That kills the whole thing

Louisiana Lafayette (Russel) more photos
Grade: F
Identity: Adding the FdL pattern to the shoulders sounds like a great idea. The execution here is horrible. It ends up looking like a messy grey-to-red gradient and on the white jersey its even worse. it changes the tone of the red making it look pink.

The number font is very poorly constructed. They opened the kerning a bit so the flourishes wouldn’t clash into the opposite number but that’s no solution at all. Its just a terrible font. The inside curves are way too soft and makes the number looks like a bubble letter intended for children. The wordmark dosnt help matters at all. That is no complimentary design. I don’t think that typeface should be on a jersey anyway. Its just not strong enough. Its too thin. I feel like other word marks make fun of it, being the runt of the litter in college football.

They’re using a totally different font on the helmets. Why the dainty serif? How does that compliment anything in this design? ugh! They have some rythym and unity in the pants with the FdL but still, it’s a bad pattern.

Brand: You know they’re from Louisiana because the FdL says so. Like every Canadian sports team with a maple leaf, its only customary to have a FdL in your identity when you hail from Louisiana. It dosnt make them unique, it makes them like everyone else around them. Theres no strong logo. Theres no unique color. Theres nothing here that is uniquely LL and crafted well, so the whole thing needs to be re-done already.

Maryland (UA) more photos
Grade: B
Identity: UA is doing their best Nike impression here, and doing a damn fine job of it. 2 helmets, 1 with a tortoise shell pattern (which is a bit too bold, it should be very subtle) and another matte black. Both work well with the uniforms but are both gimmicky. They need to have a standard helmet with a logo on it. even the script mark on the shell helmet would suffice. Theres nothing that will out last the trend there. The combination of colors is superb! It just looks like an explosion of the Maryland flag and is very exciting and fresh. It just screams “Maryland football!” definitely my favorite new 2011 look and I think my favorite combination is: black helmet, black jersey, yellow pants but its hard to choose. The jersey’s torso stripes are quite out of place and unnecessary and only further indicate how round-bellied the big guys are. The number font is great, the numbers look like the snout of a snapping turtle in some cases. Im not put off by the gradient and texture within either, its appropiate in this design.

Brand: This is like Nike and Oregon in more ways than one. UA is based in Baltimore, so you know they were going all out for their home team, even if all they did is do their best Nike impression. its not a look that will last long, but that’s okay as long as they keep on top of it and roll with the times. It wont please everyone, but im sure the majority of players and students will be excited for this. The colors are such a great palette full of energy, swag, and attitude. Either way, its not a uni you can easily look away from. To see all 3 colors and patterns in the stands would be wonderful, a great mixture that is unmistakably Maryland. You wouldn’t think that so many colors and patterns could build such a strong identity, but its really great. I want to see ticket stubs, shirts, banners, everything. It be so exciting as a designer to work with all they have.

Nevada (Nike)
Grade: C-
Identity: It’s a Nike template anyone can order but it fits Nevada ok. The sleeve stripes shouldn’t be there, theres a clashing of movement with the side/front stripes. I do love how they carried the silver through out the elements though. That trim gives everything a bit of a higher visual value. The helmet logo is poorly drawn, I think that’s what they should focus on rather than re-designing the uniform. That is one of my favorite number fonts though with the matching word mark.

Brand: The logo is so bad they just look like a high school team. This template dosnt help much either. Nice purple color, but a totally forgettable brand that will be redoing their uniform design again in the near future.

North Carolina State (Addidas)
Grade: D
Identity: Just not enough thought put into this. And that’s not a knock against minimalism, NOT doing something is as much of a design decision as doing anything. But NC State needs more. They’re just blending in with Nebraska and Wisconsin and all the other red/white teams. its timeless but its not a strong identity because theres nothing specifically Wolfpack about it.

Brand: Looking at the photo, could you tell what school this was instantly? I don’t believe NC State is a strong enough brand to pull off the “State” jersey. Theres nothing else here that communicates NC State and red and white is certainly not a unique enough palette either. If I say “red and white” how many schools do you think of before you get to NC State? (im around 4) This is a school that lacks personality and is totally forgettable. I always say “the difference between simple and boring is simple is effective”. I think this is boring.

Oklahoma State (Nike) more photos
Grade: B-
Identity: Talk about a trend rider. 3 helmets (2 of them in matte), 4 jerseys, and 3 pants, all in the Pro Combat template. grey helmets are exploding onto the football scene and they’re carrying one too. I would expect a skewed number font. The OSU mark is skewed, and theres so much energy and motion is this palette those numbers need to “move”.

The best part is how Nike has treated the sleeve stripe. Because of modern day cuts, sleeve stripes are more like single shoulder elements anyway, so that’s what they’ve done here. A great solution, taking the stripe and making it work for the new jersey. Its something that works in any space and can be a strong brand element. The “spur” locks it into place visually, giving it a nice home on the shoulder. Its reminiscent of old western wood cut type, but the problem is these cowboys don’t use those types of fonts in their identity. Adding those small “spurs” to the Cowboys mark and OSU mark would tie it all together very nicely. my favorite combo is grey/orange/grey.

Brand: For some schools its no longer about having 1 helmet as a brand hero with icon status, its about using all your colors and making each game unique. if they plan to ride the trend to the end then change again, I can live with that. They’ll have to though, this isn’t something that will last for more than a hand full of years. It should get their fan base excited for this season, they could almost wear a different uniform in each game. It’s a dramatic difference from what they’ve had so it will be met with some negative responses but I think over all, it’s a good move for 2011. I would recommend staying away from too much black and orange, as its way too close to Oregon State.

Purdue (Nike)
Grade: A-
Identity: This seems like change for the sake of change. their old uniform was traditional but not outdated by any means. They’ve gone to a full-on modern feel now. Nothing is out of place here, they can actually pull off the solid pants, but id love to see a hip logo or a small single stripe down the leg for better color balance and to match the helmet. I love the number font which is not too trendy and helmet which now has a single stripe. Its also painted in a beautiful gold.

Brand: They’ve just gone from traditional to modern. It feels like a steady evolution that wont upset anyone. There was no real reason to change, but im not mad at them for doing so either. I think they made the helmet even better. They managed to keep all the brand equity and all that makes Purdue important.

South Carolina (UA) more photos
Grade: D+
Identity: I really like their solid color looks. All white, all black, or all red. The numbers and word mark are strong and work well together. The striping all over the uniform is spastic and odd. I just have more questions than anything else. I cant figure out why the inside jersey stripe is missing where is connects to the shoulder. UA just cut that little piece out. the pants stripes don’t match at all, theres thin weird stripes on the back of the jersey, and the helmet has traditional stripes down the center. Its just all over the place, with no unity or consistency at all.

Brand: Theres nothing gaudy about the uniform that the fans will be turned off by, but its those little details that kill UA in so many of their designs. Especially here, its just like they pick random shit to throw at the uniform and roll with it.

South Florida (UA)
Grade: C+
Identity: 3 helmets is 2 too many here. if the logo were a solid color it would be great and would work better in all their combinations. I love white helmets but not for them. With a modern styled logo, a white helmet just looks unfinished to me. Its usually best for simple, solid designs (Colts, Jets, Miami U, Texas). Same to be said with ASU’s white helmet. Why the addition of the stripes to the white helmet? If they did it there, why not in the white pants too? Maybe they thought the same as I do, “it looks unfinished on white, lets add a stripe”. That was totally unnecessary though. the jersey stripes are really clunky and awkward to me. They taper in the wrong direction, moving your eye down. at least with South Carolina they taper up and have an upward motion. Its an UA thing though, they seem to love it. I do dig the gold/green/green combo.

Brand: Theres nothing that has changed the brand archetype or that would get the fan base in a riot. Its still USF, green and gold, and something they’ll be proud of. That logo is one of the better ones in sports, it just needs the strokes eliminated.

Texas Tech (UA)
Grade: D
Identity: The white jersey has a 2 color stripe but only 1 color on the black and red jerseys. Where the attention to detail? And if they did it on purpose, it’s a bad choice. Stroking the word mark only makes that bad typography clash into each other even more. Heres a team that uses a heavy slab-serif in their logo and sports this strange number font (is it Marylands?). completely out of sync. They also are using a “butt hat” design on the pants. Even if that were acceptable, im not sure “Guns Up” is.

Brand: They’ve never had great uniforms, and this is just another subpar design to add to the history. Everything they wear is just ugly. They try to pull off an edgy, aggressive look with pointy numbers and a lot of black, which could work but so far in their history has always looked cheap due to poor design. they need help and UA isn’t doing them any favors, but they arnt helping themselves either if the school is involved in any design decisions.

Washington State (Nike) more photos
Grade: A-
Identity: Grey helmets are growing in popularity but for WS it works well, as their colors are red and grey. They didn’t just re-brand the football team here, like ASU, they got everyone involved. I don’t think any helmet is great. The grey ones need a red face mask for better color balance and the red one just screams Oklahoma. If anything, THAT’S the one that needs the grey mask. I never liked this style of jersey shoulder stripe either. Personally, I think it looks odd in any color scheme. It dosnt connect to anything and crowds the numbers space. I do love the typography, the school name spelled out looks nice and is different from the norm. its nice to see the whole name used and not a large over bearing “STATE” on the chest. Everything has a nice rhythm and unity from the 3 football unis to the matching alternate sports uniforms. My favorite combo is grey with red logo/red/dark grey.

Brand: They’ve added a lot of consistency to this brand. all the sports uniforms look similar and the use of grey has strengthened the whole identity. They look modern and cutting edge without being too trendy. It’s a school that wants to compete for championships and be respectable. They’re not there yet program wise, but they look like they belong.

Wyoming (Nike) more photos
Grade: D+
Identity: I love the youthful and rugged color palette of Wyo. Perfect colors for the area and history. So im glad they decided to use a lot of brown and yellow. Having 2 white helmets is unnecessary. You have to be able to choose one between the two. Its ridiculous to have that little variation if you’re going with multiple lids. The brown logo works best but dosnt need the stroke. The matte brown helmet is kick ass but I think they missed on the logo. It would look great in yellow there. More schizophrenia in the jersey department, all 3 use a different template, even the pit-stain template on the road jersey. Theres also 2 diferent pant templates. My favorite combo is brown/yellow/brown.

Brand: Theres got to be some consistency somewhere and its like Wyoming did all the could do to avoid it. the only thing consistent is the number font and logo, but it changes colors. Somebody needed to make some decisions about who they wanted to be here, but its like they missed out on all the trends the last 2 years so they’re making up for all of them this year. If its Nikes doing, then shame on them too. Beautiful colors, great logo, but nothing matches.

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* Under Armour’s new pants: They’re using a new pant template which cuts off the bottom of the pants stripe at an angle at the knee. That’s where a seam is running up the leg and the color ends at that seem. It creates a terrible tangent with the stripe’s point right on the base of the pant leg. Its not so bad for those like BC because of the duel stripe, but if you have a solid or 3 stripe look (Auburn), the tangent is far worse. Terrible decision by UA with that. They tried to give the pants an element that would be instantly recognizable as their design like Nike did with the Pro Combat. But, Nike obviously understands design principals better than UA, at least when it comes to the pants department. Nike’s PC stripe is cut at the top on the thigh, so their stripes are roughly in the golden-ratio range and being cut at the thigh donst look as strange as having a small corner removed at the base of the pants.

* The “butt hat” or “tramp stamp” mark is as it sounds. It’s some sort of mark or typography on the back of the pants along the belt line. I for one like the look of a clever phrase along the belt line but I would never actually use it on a design. Because no matter how cool it looks, theres always that negative connotation with stupid girls getting dumb, meaningless butt decorations. As a designer, you can not ignore these things.

Southern Miss: This helmet is too damn cool to leave out. not sure how the uniforms will look yet.