Here at Op Ed, we’re used to designing things like websites, emails, and other yummy digital goods. But as big baseball fans, we just couldn’t help ourselves from chiming in on the recent hubris surrounding our favourite team, The Toronto Blue Jays, and their uniform design woes. And if the HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) at the Jays Front Office are listening, we’ve got one message for you: “Simple Sells”.
Jays are at it again
Yes, it looks like the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to “revive” their uniforms yet again. And this time they’ve decided to throw a curveball at their fans by insisting the new design incorporate more “Canadian-ness” as part of their national marketing strategy.
Whether that means adding imagery of hockey sticks, maple syrup, Sydney Crosby, or lumberjacks, it doesn’t sound like the Jays brass are striving for something we can all relate to when it comes to design: simplicity.
Since 1857,when the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York took the field, baseball has remained a simple game involving a bat, a ball, a glove, and a diamond. Baseball uniform designs should reflect this changelessness tradition.
If you look at some of the most popular uniform designs – The Yankees, The Red Sox, The Dodgers, The Cubs, The Tigers – you’ll notice a common “thread”: they’re all very, very, simple. And because of this, their uniforms have changed very, very little over the last half century.
But before we get into what we think the Blue Jays should do with their new uniforms, let’s recap what others are thinking.
The Toronto Star Solicits Designs
The Toronto Star recently held a “Jays Uniform Design Challenge” where fans could submit their ideas for what the new uniform should look like. The results? Meh.
But what really ruffled a few feathers around the Op Ed office was another piece again courtesy of The Toronto Star. They asked three Toronto clothing designers (see their comments below) to take “a swing” at designing the new Blue Jays uniform, and here are the results:
Shawn Hewson of the menswear label Bustle: “I do like the second incarnation of that logo,” which was introduced in 1997 with a bigger maple leaf and streamlined bird.
Christopher Bates of the menswear line Christopher Bates: “They are Canada’s team. They want to draw from a broader base. It’s marketing. It’s business. But it’s also good for all of Canada to have. This is our baseball team.”
Michael Budman, co-owner of Roots Canada: “True Strong & Free. Those words are very accurate words about this country. That’s important to stress, especially for the image of the Blue Jays all over the world.”
…Strike Three, You’re Out!
Shawner, Bates, and Buddy, it was a nice effort out there, but you struck out swinging.
In Defence of Our Design
As you can see from the main image above, we don’t necessarily agree with Shawn, Chris, or Michael, and have our own ideas on how the Blue Jays should approach their redesign. Is our design perfect? No. Did we spend more than an hour in Photoshop? No. Will it become the new Jays uniform? No. Nevertheless, we suggest that the Jays follow some simple Do’s and Don’ts as they attempt to revive their uniforms, yet again:
DO be simple: We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: simple sells. Respect the tradition of baseball and keep the design simple, and let it stay simple (see Yankees, Red Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, and Tigers uniforms). Our design strives for simplicity in every way: two colours, a simple font, lots of whitespace.
DON’T try to be “Canada’s Team”: Yes, we get it. As Christopher Bates says, “It’s marketing. It’s business”. But it’s bad business. The Blue Jays should focus on what they are, a Toronto- based baseball team with a great (albeit short) history, and not what they are not: a national baseball team that is coveted from St. John’s all the way to Vancouver Island.
DO be “Toronto’s Team”: The uniform should show a little red to reflect the Canadian theme, but it should predominantly be “Toronto Blue”. The official flag of Toronto is blue, the Toronto Argonauts are blue, and the University of Toronto’s athletic team is called the “Varsity Blues”. And let’s not forget a little hockey club called the Toronto Maple Leafs whom, despite being “Toronto’s team” and having no red in their uniforms, have a pretty big following called “Leaf Nation”.
DON’T keep changing: Whatever uniform design is chosen, we ask that it stays the same. Simple tweaks here and there over the years is fine, but these constant wholesale redesigns only serve to hurt the brand and frustrate fans.
DO ditch the logo: Yes, ditch the new logo and all those reincarnations since the original. Simplify the original logo and move it from the cap to the uniform. Replace the logo on the cap with a simple white “T” that is plain, straightforward, but effective against a darker blue background. No more logo redesigns.
DON’T forget to ask the players: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a lot of players care about how they look on the field and increasingly have a vested interest in sporting style and aesthetics. So we ask that the Jays brass seek input from players as they attempt another uniform redesign. Afterall, they’re the ones who wear them.
DO believe that “Simple Sells”: Okay, we’re getting a little repetitive at this point. But we do believe that whether it’s a website, a logo, or a new Blue Jays uniform, simplicity is next to godliness.
Go Jays Go!
If you’re on the same page as Op Ed, please share this blog