old pistons

The Evolution of the Magic Logo

A logo is a symbol that singlehandedly represents every little element of an organization in one concise graphic.  A logo has the ability to encapsulate images like brand quality, personality, memories, and successes (and failures) into a specific visual representation.

Essentially, a logo is the face that everyone sees.  And, as they say, a pretty face goes a long way.

Since the Magic began hooping in Orlando 21 years ago, the team has had three different logos, essentially one for each decade at this rate.  These logos serve an important role to represent the overall persona of the Magic organization.

However, as opposed to the mascots of most of Florida’s other professional sports franchises, the Magic face a unique issue: a lack of a tangible object to base a logo’s foundation.

Think about it: one of the biggest hurdles in creating a logo for the Magic would have to be the mere difficulty to actually define the word ‘magic.’

Many logos are pretty straightforward to create.  Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jaguars…the list goes on and on.  Throw a helmet on a dolphin, fly a pirate flag, and sport a teal-tounged jungle cat.

Done, done, and done (although I’m not sure too many jaguars actually roam the streets of Jacksonville now, or ever, for that matter).

Even the word ‘heat,’ although rather intangible, can be associated with the image of fire, which the Miami Heat use as a major element in their logo.

But, then you have the Magic.  It is arguably one of the most creative team names in professional sports.  No other team in professional or collegiate sports has the ‘magic.’  It’s a cool name, but how do you graphically encapsulate ‘magic’ into a logo?

For me, the first things that come to mind when thinking of ‘magic’ are rabbits jumping out of top hats and Harry Houdini sawing assistants in two.

Now, while a saw-wielding man does sound intimidating, a graphically violent magic trick logo might not sit well with many.  Furthermore, a logo filled with bunnies, as adorable as they may be, will never strike fear into any opponent.  

So, without any particular physical attributes, the Magic have naturally turned to a solution adopted by other teams that lack a specific tangible image: playing with text.

(More after the jump)

And, in my opinion, using the basics of text and a basketball image, the Magic created a pretty kickin’ logo to start the franchise. 

Registered Trademark of the Orlando Magic 

The trademark whimsical font with a star replacing the ‘A’ in ‘Magic,’ paired with a blue basketball flying so fast it leaves a trail of stars, was and still is very cool to me.  It always had a nice old-school look, even when it was brand new.  Although it has always had mixed reviews, the Magic are still known for this classic look.  (I once heard the first logo compared to a frantically drawn Sharpie sketch on a napkin…and, well, I can kind of see where they are coming from.  But, I love the old look.)

The logo really conveyed an image of ‘magic.’  The original logo managed to provide the Magic a distinctly unique identity, something very difficult to accomplish for expansion teams. 

Just ask the Charlotte Bobcats, a team still trying to make a name for themselves after six seasons and still plagued by the Queen City’s bitter Hornets hangover.  They continue to tweak their logo every few years trying to create a concrete look, along with various jersey adjustments.  Nothing has really ‘stuck’ yet.

Yes, Charlotte’s problems definitely go far beyond graphics.  The Bobcats are bland - the NBA’s white bread.  You know its bad when Michael Jordan can’t even spark much local interest in your team.  But, there is something to be said when a team looks sharp when it takes the court.

Now, I’m definitely not saying that the quality of a logo results in the popularity of a team.  The Indiana Pacers have had a plain-jane “P” as a logo for decades and enjoyed a lot of success and popularity in the Reggie Miller days.  There really is not much pizazz in Indiana to begin with, but the Pacers did develop an identity as a quality basketball team.  The exact same could be said about Oklahoma City and it’s recently born Thunder.

But, so much about sports is based on image.  If image doesn’t matter, why are so many fans today clamoring for “vintage” Magic apparel covered with the old-school streaking starry ball logo or the black pinstriped unis, adorned with funky lettering.  That logo was solid and clearly has had an impact on the team.

Fast forward to the year 2000, after 11 years with the original logo.  Orlando moved to freshen up its image in the new millennium with a more sleek, modern look while not straying too far from the team’s first look.  

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The new logo kept the original font, star ‘A’ included, and cleaned up the somewhat dated flaming basketball into a much neater image, although many of the jersey designs during the mid-2000′s left a lot to be desired.

I like this logo – it is essentially Original Logo 2.0.

I appreciated the move to “stay true to the roots” while not looking too dated.  The starry basketball evolved, and really became the identifiable logo.

There is not much to say about this look.  All in all, while this logo is pretty cool, it really looks even better because it served as the face the new era of Magic basketball.  This image represents a lot of good memories for Magic fans throughout the late 2000′s, sitting at center court while Dwight began to take the league by storm, capped off by the 2009 Finals visit.

Then comes the third and current logo.  

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Yawn.

It would be very cheesy to say that with the new logo, the magic is gone.  But, I really think that the Magic went too simple when designing the team’s new look.

Ironically, while the Magic recently brought back the stylish pinstriped uniforms, the Magic simultaneously “bore-ified” the logo.  It makes me wonder what the graphics team was looking to accomplish with the new image.

It kind of reminds me of the Pistons logo change in the mid-2000s, going from cool and unique to plain and run-of-the-mill.

The team sported a really unique horse/engine image for nearly a decade, then changed to a very generic “Detroit Pistons” font on a red basketball.  It seems as though the team was looking for a more professional, simple look, but I think they went too simple in doing so.

Enter the Magic.  I like that the flaming ball was carried over from the previous logo, but the new logo is just so plain.  It’s not that I do not like the Magic’s new look.  Its clean and simple.  It just lacks flair and doesn’t really look all that magical anymore, unfortunately.

A trend in professional sports recently seems to be a general going-back-to-basics when designing logos.  Perhaps such a shift is centered on today’s teams trying to imitate the successful sports teams dominant decades ago.  In the 1960s, football teams like the Packers and Giants did not have flashy, creative logos or Nike/Adidas/UnderArmour designed jerseys.  They threw a simple letter on the helmet, took the field, played gritty and tough football, and won championships.  I don’t think I am taking a leap of faith when saying the last thing these teams were concerned about was fashion.

Perhaps the Magic were going for this old-school, simple look, emphasizing that the team is focused on just playing the game and playing it well.

That’s fine with me.  Honestly, as long as the Magic win the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, they could have a Microsoft Word clip-art logo for all I care. 

But, in the end, the new logo could use a little more pizazz.

Having an actual letter ‘A’ in “Magic” just doesn’t look quite right.

What do you think?  Which has been your favorite “face” of the Magic?

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