You won’t find Todd Radom’s name anywhere over at Baseball-Reference. The Sabermatricians (or whatever they’re calling themselves) won’t be arguing his value at their upcoming conference.
But if you’ve set foot in any major sports stadium or watched a sporting event on television over the last twenty-plus years…you’ve seen his work.
You see, Radom is a graphic artist and, frankly, he’s probably one of the best out there. Buster Olney recently went as far to call him the “foremost historian of baseball branding and aesthetics”. Some of work includes the Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, the World Baseball Classic and even Derek Jeter’s historic march to 3000 hits.
HOVG: The presence of sports apparel in popular culture has to be at an all-time high…specifically gear worn by kids who have no idea who the team is or much less care. Going off of your rant on raised embroidery on hats, does that trouble you? Do you feel that revenue stream created by this will pollute your process by a client suggesting that it will "sell well with the kids"? And since this revenue stream gives rise to a team’s colors being substituted with say camouflage, does that upset you?
RADOM: I'm not troubled by this all as it's really been going on since at least the late '80s when LA Raiders jerseys started to cross over into popular and celebrity culture. The reality is that the work has to sell at retail, but sports fans are what I call the ultimate "brand warriors." They see through a lack of authenticity in a way that other consumers generally don't. We have a special bond with our teams and their brands that fans of, for example, FedEx or Amazon or Oreos don't have. The local and franchise dynamics come first, everything else comes second. And don't even get me started on camo uniforms.
HOVG: In that same vein, let’s talk branding of minor league affiliates. Should they draw from the team they are affiliated with? Or…since their main goal is to get butts in the seats, is it okay to go with more clever, local names so the team can potentially sell hats?
RADOM: I personally like the idea of Minor League franchises having their own unique identities. Affiliations come and go these days, and Minor League teams are incredibly hyper-local. I go to a few Minor League games a year in various places and am always struck by the absolute purity of the baseball experience.
HOVG: Pittsburgh is the only city with all sports teams sharing the same color scheme. I love that. Is that an idea that needs to be replicated in other markets?
RADOM: I don't think so. Although I love how it works in Pittsburgh, kind of a unique city with a unique set of dynamics. People sometimes forget how this evolved. The Steelers and Pirates were championship teams when the Penguins switched from black and blue in 1980. The city was going through an industrial collapse and a shift in local identity, so the alignment of team colors was sort of a gesture of solidarity with the city and with the region. I like the fact that Philadelphia is the ultimate red, white, and blue city, yet the Eagles are green and silver and the Flyers are orange and black.
HOVG: With your knowledge of sports branding, should events like the World Series or the MLB All-Star Game logos carry some type of consistent branding and not be a logo in a logo with the leagues specific logo being included?
RADOM: Each "jewel event" is kind of different. All-Star Games absolutely need to be unique in embracing the community that's hosting the event; it's very important to reach out to the local fans and show respect to the host franchise. World Series logos were standardized when they first appeared in the late 1970s. It's only been over the last decade or so that they have changed every year. I like the idea of a different look for each Fall Classic, the words "World Series" carry so much meaning and history that they can stand up to a unique logo year-over-year and still be meaningful and relevant. On the NFL side, I have been adamant about the recent standardization of the Super Bowl logo. Played in a neutral city each year, the Super Bowl logos used to be colorful and always reflected the time and place for each game. The current look is shiny and monochromatic, static, corporate.
HOVG: How you feel about throwback uniforms popping up everywhere? Does it hurt the brand, a desperate revenue stream or a good history lesson? Oh, and with Mother's Day pink working its way in...are we looking at a door that can't be closed once it is opened?
RADOM: Personally, I can never get enough throwback. I went to one of the first “Turn Back the Clock” games (at Candlestick Park in 1992, Giants vs. Phillies) and remember thinking how awesome it was to see the vintage uniforms in person, a real treat. Any time you can connect with your fans on a deep level it's a great thing. And getting those vintage uniform details right shows that a franchise cares about its history and its fan base. As far as the pink thing goes I think MLB does it right (along with blue on Father's Day). A single day with pink, that's it. There are 162 games in an MLB season, if a club dresses out of character a handful of times a year then it doesn't dilute the brand at all.
HOVG: Some quick hits for you. Baseball player names on home jerseys…love it or hate it?
RADOM: Names work for every team except the Red Sox and Yankees and maybe the Giants. When the Indians go out there with no names, it seems a bit contrived to me.
HOVG: Speaking of jerseys. What do you think of custom jerseys? Meaning…fans with their names on the back.
RADOM: Not my thing…never was. And I never say "we" when referring to the teams I root for either. But that's just me.
HOVG: Do we need to go back to old style stirrups in baseball or are you okay with the assortment of socks we’ve got going on?
RADOM: Stirrups used to be an integral part of the design of a uniform. I remember the beautiful striped Red Sox and Cardinals of my youth. The fact that the White Sox and Phillies and Twins had individual logos on their stirrups, that made them unique. I think that the loss of stirrups has lead to a lack of color these days that takes us further away from the traditional visual beauty of the sport.
HOVG: What would be your dream logo re-design and why?
RADOM: I'm lucky enough to say that I've already worked on some of my dream jobs. When I was a kid I used to doodle team logos. I have a Yankees scorecard from 1978 game in which I drew every American League team logo. I have actually replaced a few of those marks and have seen my work on every one of those team's uniforms.
HOVG: Lastly, an actual design question. Very few people get to create iconic brands that are known by millions. But sports logos are not only known by millions, but they are loved/hated by millions. Does that emotion a sports logo must possess, make the design process different? Are you looking at your designs and thinking..."people are going to make rooms covered in this brand and probably poorly dress their children (sometimes against their will) in this brand" or is it just a good design is a good design?
RADOM: A great question. Designing for sports is definitely a different animal than designing for a typical corporate brand. Sports fans tattoo these logos on their bodies. They pass along the traditions of these identities from generation to generation. People feel a sense of ownership in what their teams wear, for a multitude of reasons. Sports identities are different, and need to be treated as such. Tapping into the passion and loyalty of sports fans requires a commensurately passionate response. I have found that large advertising and branding agencies treat sports brands like cereal or coffee or automobiles…and that's a huge mistake. Finally, a great design doesn't make for a great identity if it's assigned to the wrong team. The Detroit Tigers' Old English "D" has tons of history and meaning, but it would be a bad fit for the Miami Marlins.
HOVG: Where can people find you?
RADOM: You can find me at toddradom.com. Check out my blog there too, I try to keep up with it fairly frequently. "Like" Todd Radom Design on Facebook! Follow my musings and such on Twitter at @ToddRadom. We live in an interconnected world and I enjoy hearing from all sorts of people…including The Hall of Very Good. Thanks!