Bird Gumbo: 2013 New Orleans Pelicans Identity

The team formally named the Hornets now, the New Orleans Pelicans, officially released their new logos yesterday, designed by RARE Design and Ben Barnes. The reactions by fans to the name change and logos have been mostly negative, but I'm going to be on the defense here . . . sort of.

I don't think anything the team has done here is wrong. Actually, what surprises me most about all the negative reaction to it is the fact that the whole logo package here is perfectly average. The color palette and logo styling places them well amongst the other NBA teams. The primary logo may be one of the more detailed ones out there, but overall I think we're looking at a completely normal and acceptable pro sports team identity. The thing that does excite me about the negative reaction to this is that maybe people are finally tired of highly illustrated, aggressive animal logos? It would be good if we could see less of that from now on.

The name "Pelicans" is the biggest issue I have and is where I have to side with the majority. It's a damn silly name referencing a damn goofy bird. The point made by those who like it is "Not every name has to be fierce and intimidating. Look at the Magic, Lakers, Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Suns, Clippers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder, Jazz, etc". Well, exactly! I don't think all of those are great names either but I do like the Magic, Suns, and Thunder, and don't think the Pelicans fit in with those other names. Reason why is because they're abstract enough that you can come up with your own connotations and visuals. We dont have a universal icon that represents "thunder", the name brings to mind things like: thunderstorms, stampeding cattle, applause from an audience.  It also ties into the local area. All good things that spark the imagination, but "Pelicans" is very directly a stupid looking bird with no attributes of a team of NBA athletes. (Well, I guess the fact they can actually fly might be something.)

But good products can be successful even with a terrible name or a terrible logo. The Lakers is a perfect example. LA isn't exactly the land of 10,000 lakes, and their logo is, at best, good clip art. That brand is strong because they've always been a great product and there would be a lot of negative responses if they tried to change the name or the logo too much. If over the next 10 years New Orleans becomes the NBA's best team and pulls in a championship or two, it won't matter that they have a dumb name. It will grow on people over time. It always does, as long as the product is good.

The direction for the logo is a bit odd. The emphasis on New Orleans is over done, I think. 1.) crescent in the ball. 2.) Pelican being the state bird. 3.) Blue from the state flag. 4.) Hierarchy of New Orleans over Pelicans. 5.) fleur de lis. 6.) Iron fence design. 7.) the font. We get it! You're from New Orleans! Stop shouting! I imagine RARE Design taking down notes on this from the team and feeling like they were writing down their kid's christmas list. "I want this, and then I want this, and I want this, and I want this, and this, and this . . ."

The actual execution of the logo couldn't be much better, though. I thought Fraser Davidson and Tin Bacic both made better concepts, but they weren't given the brief Ben Barnes had to work with. Without knowing exactly what that brief was, I think he did a very good job with it. The logo overall (including the secondaries) feels like an NBA logo. He was able to take a goofy ass bird and a ton of New Orleans flare and bring it all together without any flaws. For that, we should applaud him. For the Pelicans and Tom Benson I say "Meh". It will all be okay if you win. (Worst part about the whole logo system is the "bird de lis" which looks like a big headed bird with tiny wings. Seriously, that ones comical!)

And to think, it all may have been worse. The team also was considering Mosquitos, Swamp Dogs, Bull Sharks, and Rougaro as names.