My closest association with the Miami Dolphins is that I enjoy Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, so I certainly don’t have a dogfish in the race when it comes to the NFL franchise’s apparent new logo. Though I can certainly understand the backlash fans are launching against it.
First, some history. The Dolphins, created in 1966, were a late addition to the American Football League. (In four years, the AFL-NFL merger would go through, creating the One League to rule them all.) As such things sometimes are, the name of the team was decided by a contest open to the public. The name “Dolphins” won with 622 out of nearly 20,000 entries. And ever since their debut in ’66, the Dolphins have worn essentially the same uniform, with the same colors, with the same logo emblazoned on their white helmets.
This is the most “modern” version of the classic logo, but it hasn’t really changed much over the last 47 years. It’s always been a helmeted dolphin leaping in front of a stylized Florida sun. It’s also a very 1960s-looking design, which isn’t bad, really, but I can certainly understand the urge to update it. There’s a lot of dead space in there. The sun, while an integral part of the hometown, could be represented better. Then there’s a dolphin wearing a helmet, which you have to admit is pretty ridiculous. Forgivably ridiculous, but ridiculous. The logo is trying to very obviously say three wildly disparate things at once: We’re dolphins, it’s football, and it’s very hot. We are dolphins that play football where it is very hot.
For some perspective, I give you the Pittsburgh Steelers logo:
This logo has served the Steelers completely unchanged since 1962. Granted, it wasn’t really theirs — it was designed by the American Iron and Steel Institute — but its simplicity and deep ties to the “Steel City” of Pittsburgh have made it a timeless symbol that is both eye-catching and easily-recognizable. It both literally and figuratively says only “Steelers.”
Not to imply that every logo has to be that spartan to be successful, but I think it’s important to keep a logo’s messages to a bare minimum. That being said, there’s a right way to do that, and a wrong way…
And this alleged new logo certainly simplifies things in a distinctly wrong fashion. It keeps the weakest parts, the dead space and 60s-style sun, but excises all visual interest from the dolphin itself. The dolphin no longer has a helmet or even a face. He’s barely more than a silhouette, and a very corporate one at that. This is a dolphin you’d expect to see adorning a sign for a Miami hospital or emblazoned on an aquarium. It is the dolphin of letterheads and inter-office e-mails. There is not a former-placekicker-turned-psychopathic-transgendered-murderer alive who would have any interest in kidnapping this dolphin as part of an elaborate scheme to get revenge on Dan Marino.
If we must hew so closely to the original logo, there were certainly better options available. Like this one:
It keeps all the recognizable elements other than the helmet, but modernizes them in an aggressive, forward-leaning way. There’s a sense of motion here. And some of the orange color has been incorporated onto the dolphin, which helps marry it to the sun better than any other version. It certainly isn’t perfect, and is as much a product of its era as the original was, but it is absolutely a better alternative than the timid half-step that the real “new logo” is.
Of course, those too upset with the upcoming logo change can take solace in the fact that the old look will return in some form or another on throwback days or in a few years when nostalgia (or a need to boost jersey sales) kicks in.
Ray Finkel certainly can’t wait for that to kick in.