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Wasted Opportunity


JohnCresswell
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by Paul Barnes

You may not realise it, but VillaTalk is lucky enough to have one of the top designer and typographers in the world as a moderator to this site. Paul Barnes has just finished designing the logo for Kate Moss's range at 'Top Shop', which will now sit beside work he has done for Givenchy, ABC television, The Guardian, New Order and Joy Division.

In 1998 Peter Saville called him the best young British Graphic designer, and only last year he was named one of the 40 most influential designers under 40 in Wallpaper* magazine.

So what does he think of the new badge?

Gradually Randy Lerner’s revolution is wiping out the previous regime mark and the general consensus is that unless its the early 1980s or the 19th century, there aren’t many times when its better to be a Villa fan. Recent results on the field suggest that the shoots of rebirth aren’t just temporary. Gradually the team is gelling and we are playing some decent football. Come the summer and a few signings and most Villa fans will perhaps be thinking of European adventures. And so Randy’s stamp comes down on the clubs crest and soon we will be seeing a new kit from Nike and a whole new brand identity; yes Aston Villa maybe a football club, but we are also a brand. Randy’s obvious love of tradition has to be tempered by 21st century business. He may love the club, but he certainly won’t be running this as a corner shop or a charity.

A few months ago we heard about how the fans were being consulted on this new mark. On the one hand the club should be applauded for getting us involved. On the other its a bit of a bad omen. Certainly we don’t have polls on what players we should be getting in, or anything else. Personally I would rather trust those decisions to someone who knows what they are doing. Design is a strange business; unlike most jobs, everyone has an opinion on what is right or wrong with design. Now thats fair enough; you pay a designer, you have a right to an opinion. The problem comes when its design by committee and market research. It tends to make weak solutions. Most great design comes from good designers working with good clients; where trust develops and allows for experimentation and exploration of the design problem. 51% might say they want a shield and 49% say they want a roundel. But I am sure most people would prefer a good crest, whether it be round or in a shield. Only 38% said they wanted the wording AVFC, but somehow thats what we got.

When it appeared on Wednesday, my initial reaction was ‘oh no’. The grapevine on Tuesday had dampened my expectations, but this was below even this. It may fit the brief based on consultation, but how many great designs were based upon consultation? Was London Underground Map based upon committee decision? No. And this pigs ear; because thats what I think it is, shows it. It has the overwhelming feeling of a design done by someone who has little feeling for shape or letters let alone combining them together. Even after a day of consideration, I still feel that its simply not good enough. When we were originally consulted, both designers and non designers on the forums came up with better solutions, suggests something somewhere hasn’t quite gone to plan.

Looking at the walkthrough on the club website, which is written in classic brand speak language; fans being referred to as ‘stakeholders’ seems to have come straight out of a text book. With a zippy little presentation you can dissect the logo and find out what it all means. But despite what looks like a lot of clever effects; letters extruding into perspective, it can’t hide some of the problems. It all feels like the club have been seduced by some silky salesman at some brand agency, who gets paid a fortune and then the logo is done by a junior with a knowledge of software. Look down the list of employees at most brand agencies and you see long lists of consultants and account handlers. And then at the bottom you see a designers name. The one who actually makes the thing. It has the feeling of the Emperors new clothes.

So lets dissect this little piece of design. First off is the crest. Well its a crest. Its different from the last one, with the tip at the bottom being defined to a point; its been said that its reminiscent of the one on the old one on the Trinity Road. Well I can’t see it myself. It just looks like a crest; one that mirrors a family coats of arms according to the brand speak. Personally I preferred the old one, but it seems just because it was the old one it has to be different. But thats fine its a personal taste choice. Its what is happening inside that makes me worry.

To me the lion is the key element of the crest, but now it has been reduced to fit the oversize AVFC which now dominates. I ve no idea why it says AVFC. Personally we are Aston Villa, and I would rather it say Aston Villa than AVFC. The complaint was that it used to say Aston Villa, and didn’t mention we were a Football Club. Now it doesn’t really mention either. By its nature AVFC to cover the width has to be much larger than Aston Villa which would be be bigger than ASTON VILLA. Now the typeface Sabon, is an improvement on the old Centaur; its more robust, but its poorly spaced is it AV FC or AVFC? and its too far too the right. The designer in me wishes that they had been a bit braver; most clubs have there own unique lettering, or in the case of Tottenham there own typeface. We just have something that you can buy for $19.95 from myfonts.com. Its got no historical relationship with the club (it doesn’t hark back to our history, and why didn’t they go for Baskerville, a proper Brummie typeface!). It seems that the rest of the brand will be rolled out in Gill Sans.

Now on to the lion; its a development from the last one. Again its a change for change sakes. I would have liked to see them go for something else. But thats fine. The problem is that it looks a little on the pale side. The previous logo for its problems actually made the lion pop out a bit more. Pale blue and yellow are recessive. The size really bothers me; have a look at the old logo and see how big the lion was, and how now its become reduced. Will it look so good small?

The star; representing our European victory seems like a good idea. Something we can all be proud of. Sadly it seems to have been an afterthought in the design. It was always going to be a problem; and so it has been placed the lions paw. Maybe he’s juggling with it? Lets hope he has more to do with in years to come. Its white, which together with its size means it tends to disappear. Its not a sharp and fit five pointed star, but one where the inner corners have started to bloat out.

And finally for the last element. The club motto. In the original design this was placed in a band below, but in recent years has been intergrated into the crest. In the previous version it disappeared in the confusion of the stripes. Here you almost wish it had disappeared totally. It doesn’t match the AVFC which I can live with; but is appeared in a faux art nouveau script, reminiscent as so many have mentioned of the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh. However its not half as good, and frankly just looks inappropriate. If we were doing a catalogue on flowers or opening a tea room in Glasgow then this might be right. But we aren’t. It has no conviction. ‘Prepared’ sounds like a motto for the commandos; would they go into battle with this? Its not even as though this or the AVFC reflect where we come from; these aren’t letters from the late 19th century. Rather they are a kind of poor projected traditionalism. Instead this ‘tagline’ as our marketing people will call it, seems to serve the purpose of what the lion can stand on.

Now each of the indvidually elements may not be too my taste, but when they are combined, in what is a relatively simple design, we end up with something that looks poor and weak. Simplicity is the hardest kind of design; it requires confidence and assurance; this seems to have none of this. It doesn’t show professional competence, rather competence at using a computer to place some elements in a shape and that doesn’t make a good logo.

Now all of this might sound like a rant; and it certainly feels like one. Alot of people have said; why should it matter? Well I believe that every part of Aston Villa should be as good as it can be. It should reflect excellency and in my opinion look to the future, with a respect to the past. This logo seems to be no improvement on the past. Just because it was under Doug’s reign and without any fan consultancy doesn’t mean that the old one was worse. I was no fan of the old, but this honestly shows a desire for change for changes sake, but without any improvement. Yes what happens on the pitch is all that matters in the end. But everything around it does play a part; in the way we perceive ourselves and the way the rest of the world perceives us. Does this look like something a merchandising empire could be built on? Do the fans think its a better logo than say Chelsea? Or Manchester United. Now I am no fan of these logo, but they have a level of professional competence that we don’t. We should be proud of our new crest. Instead it feels like a wasted opportunity that has been painted over with market speak.

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Good article well written. Emperor's new clothes alright. I do think it will look very nice on a claret shirt, but I'm still unconvinced that it can stand up on it's own merits.

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I agree totally. There's no doubt that the club acted with the best of intentions when consulting the fans, but there are some decisions that need to be made on the basis of professional knowledge. Clearly we all have our differences in what we perceive to be aesthetically pleasing or not, but that's a separate issue to whether something looks professional or not.

The positive side to this is that we know we are dealing with a club that listens now (ironically in this case it seems to have tried too hard) and will rectify the situation I'm sure.

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100% agree.

I think the last section where you mention putting it up against the other major 'brands' is where we see the huge gulf in class and professionalism. I certainly was not expecting this excellent new Board to fall flat in this category.

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Completely on the mark. As a designer myself, I was instantly disappointed when I saw it:(

It has some nice aspects, in theory, but the final execution is weak and unprofessional. AVFC is too vague... we're not trying to market a bank... Those who are new to football will have no idea what it refers to. It should say "Aston Villa" across the top (ie. Chelsea, ManUre, Arsenal, etc.).

Oh well, at least the shade of claret and blue are nice:) Who knows, perhaps this new logo will bring us much fortune.

Up the Villa!

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I'm also a designer and a villa fan but i'm afraid Peter Saville has never said anything about me (or not as far as i know anyway). I totally agree that we have tried too hard to do the right thing. Yes it's a little recessive but my biggest problem is with the choice of type for 'prepared'. i have no idea were that has come from and just adds to the general feeling that the entire logo has been designed in Coral Draw! and yes the star is not exactly dynamic. we had a chance to create a mark and wer've ended up with a modge.

i'm very keen on hearing the fans point of view and keeping it in the community (local designers i guess) but i think this is an oppurtunity missed.

on the other hand i think getting nike in on the party next season is great and the fact we are looking at the crest in the first place shows we are loooking at everything to get the club were they should be.

generally a big thumbs up to the people up top but on this particular point i reckon they should have not listened quite so inventively to the designers spouting on about every element standing for something. sometimes things should just look good!

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The new Chief Exec when interviewed about the badge said it was designed through somethng called 'voice of the crowd'. I'm not sure whether he meant that this was used for the consultation or whether it actually played a heavy part in the design itself.

I'd suspect the latter as the badge/crest does appear a bit 'paint by numbers' . . .80% said wanted a star, right put that there, 52% said shield not round, so that's shape sorted then.

You can almost imagine the mac monkey (sorry, junior designer) pointing and clicking as the survey results came in.

I'm still undecided on the overall effect. I definitely don't love it but I have a feeling it might work in situ on a shirt.

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Brilliant article. It's great to hear a designer's perspective on it, and although i don't speak from a position of similar authority, I agree with every word. Picked up on a few things i hadn't noticed to, such as the corporate nonsense-speak explanation of the design.

However, a poorly designed crest is a small price to pay for all the other positives that this board are driving through.

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A good article and interesting.

I don't mind the new crest bar a few small things. And I csn see why they did it, but its good to have a reply with more weight than "it's designed by a 10 year old".

The Star??

I like to think that the Lion is reaching for another European Cup success i.e. ambition. As I say, I'd like to think that.

And I doff my hat to anyone who can make hundreds of morons queue for hours for a Kate Moss label. We really are a nation of idiots who follow everything the media tells us to do.

So, I have jumped on the bandwagon

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220108526125

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great Great post.....i agree with everything you say...and it is what i have been trying to say...this is supposed to be the start of a new era......our crest id our face....and it is not convincing..it is very poor and weak......no conviction..i especially like where you said eveything about the club should speak excellence......!!!My sentiments exactly...however it seems as long as money is thrown at us..and everything else is ok...some people dont mind.......and can't grasp the concept you have mentioned..and what i have been trying to say...

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Isn't it great to have something to moan again. I wonder what you lot would have said if they hadn't consulted the "stakeholders"

Its not a moan for moans sake. Its because I don’t think its very good, and explained my reasoning. When we see a player play badly we generally moan, don’t we? I ve also questioned the whole process of consultancy as something hasn’t done us any favours. Remember the club down the road; well there badge was the result of consultancy and getting a fan with no qualification to design it; and what do we think of that?

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as long as money is thrown at us..and everything else is ok...some people dont mind.......and can't grasp the concept you have mentioned..and what i have been trying to say...

So if I find a designer that says opposite will you "grasp" what he says?

Do people really, really believe that a board containing an exec who is CEO of one of the biggest sports marketing companies out there will throw something together?

Granted, I don't give a damn about design or advertising (advertising I despise) but to use the design of a badge for more one-upmanship (not a real word I think) between villa fans is frankly insane.

This is not aimed at you jamaica, but at all sides of the "argument".

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Excellent excellent post.

Though I don't detest it as much as some, I'd be lying if I didn't say my heart sank on first viewing.

Does it stand out against our peers? No. (well actually yes, but for all the wrong reasons). Does it echo our glorious past. No. Finally, will we be proud of it 5/10 years from now? No.

Top Brass dropped a bollock on this one I'm afraid. Which is a shame. There is/was so much goodwill directed towards them that no one wants to be critical for criticals sake.

But it really is poor. Right concept and well intented but let down with weak colourscheme (light yellow + white on light blue ???) and frankly looks rushed and unprofessional.

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I dont think the club can sitisfy every villa fan as we are too used to moan... I think its a great step forward and the logo will look good on the new shirt. Basically im to fed up with fans wanting this and that like spoiled brats, where nothing is ever good enough. keep up the good work Randy, im all for youre changes, its all for the better!

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excellent article, and i'm glad the professional's can see what a poor crest this is,

i fear some of the people who actually like it just like it because its here and the chosen badge, i find it hard to believe that if we put some of the designs on this site and our previous crest alongside this one, that they would choose our current one as the badge of choice.

we should be looking for the best one, and as i said in another thread, one with a WOW factor, the only WOW factor this badge has is WOW this is really poor.

Main queries i have read on various forums is why has the lion been tamed? why have they used such poor fonts? why did you change a badge that was a pretty good one, in exhancge for this bland, basic, amatuer design?

Wasted opportunity somes all this up perfectly for me.

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