“Howling at the Basketball”
Playing their first game in the 1989/90 season as an expansion team, the Minnesota Timberwolves are the NBA team of Minneapolis, MN, competing in the league’s Western Division. As with all expansion teams, the Wolves struggled their first years until landing Kevin Garnett in the draft and making the playoffs multiple times but losing regularly in the first round, except for 2003/04 when they made the Western Conference finals. Since 2005/06, though, the team has not had a winning season. They were also next-to-last in attendance this season with an average of 14,809 in their 19,000+ arena. I’m not trying to go out of my way to say the Wolves suck, just to provide some context that a redesign might be the best thing the team has going for them. After announcing a redesign was coming for months, then having its thunder stolen by a poorly-timed ad that leaked it hours before the unveil, the Timberwolves introduced a new logo this week, designed by Hattiesburg, MS-based Rare Design.
A microsite showcasing the new logo can be found here.
The build-up to the logo has been a tad unnecessary, with announcements beginning back in January or February. If this were one of the top teams in the NBA, sure, go for it but this felt like a last-ditch attempt to generate some excitement in a losing season. And when the time finally came to release the logo at halftime during the last game of the season, the logo leaks in an ad that wasn’t supposed to run. Poor Wolves can’t catch a break. They also lost the last game. Anyway…
The new logo keeps the key elements that have been with the team for almost 30 years: the wolf, the blue and green combo, and the obligatory basketball. The new logo is an amalgam of the team’s original logo and its previous secondary logo that showed a howling wolf. So, in a way, the logo is not the most original of solutions but, to its credit, it has been very well executed. The drawing of the wolf is crisp and nicely stylized and abstracted with very nice details that add dimension, like the curve under its eye or the chin hair. I also like how the wolf blends into the circle, creating some nice depth of field against the basketball. The green eyes are creepy but kinda cool at the same time. I could do without the full paragraph about “why” green. The typography is okay… Maybe too much of an Art Deco feel? The “Team Rune A” stands out too much, and not in the best way, as it’s the only letter that strays off the regular construction and, coupled with the difficult kerning and space to the right of it, it calls far more attention to itself than it needs.
The new logo is surprisingly A LOT about Rodney Richardson, with multiple videos of him explaining the process and a whole section in the microsite about him. Rare has designed the logos for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, and the Charlotte Hornets, so they do have a good streak going but there is something very off-putting about text like this: “The visionary behind some of sports most innovative franchise redesigns and founder of uncommonly creative branding agency, Rare Design.” It’s cool that the designer is getting credit, but maybe take it down a notch in the modesty department? I bet this self-promotion will land them a bunch of new clients, so what do I know?
The tagline for the launch, used ads and throughout social media, is typeset in two weights of Futura… the problem is that it uses the two weights where the letters shift from pointy to non-pointy (which I’ve never understood) and it makes those stacked “NEW”s so painful to look at.
For now, the team is still using the custom font designed by Little, which creates some dissonance with the font in the logo but maybe that will get figured out before the next season starts. It’s commendable that the team was excited about the new logo and made a big deal of it and hopefully it’s the start of something positive for them. Overall, the logo is indeed a good change… switching from what was a very elaborate, wide, complex logo that was more like a tableau to a contained badge that will look great in merch.