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Designing an NFL Team

I recently wrote to NFL guru Jim Considine asking him how a team chooses a style and design, here is his response:

Dear Reagan,

I would be happy to give you some information on the uniforms worn by NFL teams.  I was involved with the Ravens during their first 7 years in Baltimore.  There was a tremendous amount of consternation during the process of picking the team colors.  It seems like everyone disliked the team colors at first.

The first thing that occurred was to determine the name of the team.  The Baltimore Sun conducted a fan survey.  The Ravens was the popular choice.  I suspect that the team colors may have been influenced by Poe’s dark and dreary story.  At this point, the design of the uniform is in the hands of NFL properties.

Northwestern won the Big Ten for the first time in ages during the 1995 season.  The black and purple colors were a departure from the teal colors that were popular at that time.  My guess is that the color combination was influenced by this as well as the dark writings of Poe.  No doubt, the choice was approved by focus groups.  I believe that they presented options to the Modell’s and the upper-management of the football team.

The font used for the numbers on the jerseys proved difficult to read by the fans and broadcasters.  The NFL “fattened” the characters in 1997, which are still used today.  

In 1998, a lawsuit was filed against the Ravens and NFL properties for a trademark infringement.  A fan created a logo, which is similar to the winged shield worn by the Ravens (1996, 1997, & 1998).  The fan claimed he faxed the drawing to the Ravens.  The fan claimed the Ravens used his design as the primary logo.  Once the lawsuit was filed, NFL properties created new logos for the Baltimore Ravens.  The logos are currently in use today.  The NFL won the lawsuit.

One story comes to mind about the team logo.  Art Modell really liked the Maryland state flag.  (This is a combination of the family crest of Governor George Lord Calvert and the Saint George Cross).  Art Modell liked it so much that they added it as a patch on the pants hip.  It is also depicted on the field at M&T Bank Stadium.  The Baltimore Orioles added a similar patch to their sleeve last season.

In addition to the control imposed by NFL properties with respect to the uniform, they also decide what color the seats will be in a new stadium.  The color chosen is designed to blend in so that television viewers will not easily notice an empty seat.  I doubt if this subterfuge stands up to the high definition pictures broadcast today.  It was sufficient for the standard definition televisions in 1998.

Finally, speaking of high definition television, I used to ponder an old peculiarity of the Ravens uniforms.  I could not figure out why the jerseys were purple but on television, they appeared to be blue.  The RGB (red, green, blue) projection of the CRT (cathode ray tube) television could not portray the colors as seen by the naked eye.

Best wishes,

Jim Considine


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