Super Bowl Logos – Try Hard with a Reference

-by Andy Dudas 2/2/2021

This is the third installment(part 1 part 2 part 4 part 5) of a five part series where I break down every logo beginning with the First World Championship Game AFL vs NFL in 1967 up through this year’s Super Bowl 55. Some are basic but not boring, some are very detailed but not overly complex, and some are, well…you’ll see.

As I was at the midway point of assembling this blog series, I discovered a common thread in the logos from the first five New Orleans’ Super Bowls that I hadn’t noticed before.  Whomever was designing those logos was laying a subtle foundation for logos to come: a connection to the location of the host city. Super Bowls 4, 6, 9, and 15 all carried a color(or at least a variant) from the host team Saints logo. Shades of gold or brown and the font choice for SB 6, are all very suggestive of New Orleans. And the use of purple, yellow, and green for SB 12 is a nice connection to Mardi Gras. I had certainly noticed the geographical tie-in of logos of more recent designs(the subsequent section of this post) but as I was putting this series together and reviewing it time and again and editing and trying to find the right way to sequence what I wanted to say in a way that flowed progressively, the New Orleans thing just jumped out at me one day. I think these New Orleans logos set in motion the best era of Super Bowl logo design.

A bit out of sequence but this design would become a trailblazer of logos for SB’s 27 – 39. Super Bowl 21 brought to us a full fledged version of what those New Orleans flavored designs were teasing us with. The introduction of a rose(just the second non-font design element used in the first 20 years) was instantly recognizable in the world of football to the hallowed grounds of the Rose Bowl. Keeping in line with their newly established reds and blues this logo was the first to make an obvious choice in branding the game to the location. This is one of my favorites.

Six years would go by before we would see another SB logo with some designation as to a hint at the site of the game itself. Super Bowl 27, again with roses in a nod to Pasadena, CA. and the Rose Bowl but this logo goes a step further in breaking(mildly) from the parameters of just red and blue by adding some green to give the roses more life with stems and leaves. A much more realistic rendering of the flowers than the 80’s inspired futuristic take on the petals from SB 21 in 1987.

Super Bowl 28 burst out of the mold of past logos and shouted from the rooftops: I AM GEORGIA! With a giant peach wrapped in a teal ribbon, this logo would set the bar pretty high for the next twelve years as to where SB logo designs would take us. A wonderful logo that gives me everything I would come to love in a SB logo. This is one of the most important designs in Super Bowl logo history in taking the most bold step in design since SB21. It would be improved upon as more and more designers would use this peach of a logo as inspiration but make no mistake: this is pretty damned awesome.

SB 29 would be one of just a few designs over the next decade to not give us something overtly descriptive about the host city’s location. I give much credit for coming up with a way to find balance to the Roman numerals of XXIX into something symmetrical. They do give us the hint of sunshine with this design but that could be LA, San Diego, Tampa, or Miami, which is where this game was actually played.

Super Bowl 30 is a tough one to beat. The symmetry, the geographical connection, the colors…this may be a perfect Super Bowl logo. What I will call non-traditional colors of maroon and teal paired with a dark blue and a pencil yellow with the balance of the three X’s and to tie it all in to the Southwestern flavor is just all so perfect. This is one of the top few SB logos that will ever be designed. They had the perfect amount of Roman numerals to work off of. They started from a great place to give them much opportunity to succeed. They got everything right. And it feels so different from past logos. I don’t think “red and blue” when I look at this. I love this one!

Super Bowl 31 keeps this wonderful new direction of connecting the logo to the location of the game with a design that’s the furthest departure from the “regular” colors of SB logos to date. The rich combination of purple and green tell us so much about the whats and wheres of this Super Bowl. I’m taken by the subtle height difference in the first X and the I to frame in the the Super Bowl title. New Orleans, in fully realizing how wonderful a SB logo can truly be after laying hints of groundwork from championship games they’d hosted in the past, delivers one of the most unique and dazzling designs we will ever see.

In 1998 the NFL moved the big game to San Diego for the first time. Let’s face it: sunny locales are suggestive to a great many design ideas when creating a SB logo. San Diego’s stunning perfect climate year round and oceanfront communities lend perfectly to this nautical theme. SB 32’s logo is brought to life with vivid colors and sailing flags. And framing the whole logo in what suggests a map’s compass rose is nothing short of beautiful. This is a good one that I would put in my top five.

Super Bowl 33 would mark the 8th time Miami would host the championship game and the designers broke out the best Miami logo yet. Tying the location to the design by this time had hit full steam and was running beautifully. The lovely art deco architecture of so many buildings in the South Beach area is boldly put on display with a balanced use of the Roman numerals and a sense of depth giving a three dimensional look to this great logo. With an overall soft color palette, this design is inviting and big. I can easily imagine this constructed in the real world on the facade of building on Ocean Drive. This is one of my favorites.

Super Bowl 34 wasn’t about location. It was about the NFL. We see a crossover with the NFL league logo and a return to red and blue. This is strong and tough with beveled edges and some shading. It’s a departure from recent efforts of tying the design to the site of the game but I do like this logo.

Tampa, like many locations in the NFL I suspect, when building a new stadium do so with Super Bowls in mind. Raymond James Stadium is practically a motion picture set complete with a full sized honest-to-God pirate ship in the north endzone with cannons ready to fire after each home team touchdown. The Buccaneer/Pirate theme was carried over into the logo for Super Bowl 35. Looking very much like a crest that should be carved into the transom of ship carrying hordes of booty and using colors that I can assume weren’t accidental as the Roman numerals are reminding me very much of the shades of orange of the original Bucs logo design. To nitpick, I think the Roman numerals should have extended underneath the ribbon scrollwork. That’s a very, very minor complaint. I love this logo. That may have something to with the fact that I was originally a Cleveland Browns fan and the newly minted Baltimore Ravens won this Super Bowl.

Two days after the kickoff of the 2001 NFL season, was Sept. 11, 2001. There was a huge call to patriotism. A huge call to America. We were hurt and we needed many things to remind us about how unified we can be, even if those emotions were the result of unimaginable circumstances. The NFL, now being as American if not more than as baseball and apple pie, scrapped their original SB 36 logo design and went full, “AMERICA, F**K YEAH!!!” While it may seem like some understandable patriotic pandering, I actually like this one a lot. Red, white and blue, baby.

The person(s) designing Super Bowl logos for San Diego is a genius. Super Bowl 37 again uses a nautical theme but it’s not like it feels worn out by any means. Incorporating colors from the host team Chargers, this lighthouse logo is literally a beacon to which designers of logos future should look to for inspiration. This may be the best one out of all of them. It’s just so wonderful. I love, love, love this one!

As we are beginning to wind down this era of SB logos with direct tie-ins to the host city location, you would think we might start to wane a little. Not so with this out of this world design for Super Bowl 38 from Houston. Balanced and colorful you can almost see this design embroidered on a patch on the shoulder of an astronaut suit. Damn, this logo is great!

Apparently there are a crap-ton of bridges in Jacksonville. I had to look that up to know that. Jacksonville is the most populace city in the state of Florida with well over 800,000 citizens. I had to look that up too. So while the logo for SB 39 is nice, it’s trying to tie me into something geographical I don’t know much about. Maybe that’s my fault but the truth is Jacksonville is the 29th smallest market of the 32 NFL teams with only New Orleans, Buffalo, and Green Bay behind them. All either teams with a long history, an international geographically known tourist draw, or both. The Jaguars are the third youngest team in the league. All of this is to say, I don’t feel a connection to what the logo is displaying. I know what the logo is but it feels like trying to reminisce with a stranger. I understand the words they’re saying, but I don’t have any reference for them. It’s not a bad logo. I don’t mean that at all. I like it. It just doesn’t resonate with me.

These fourteen designs are the best the NFL have ever given us. The direction of Super Bowl logos for the next sixteen years isn’t what I would call overly creative. A couple are good. Some are ok. And some, actually most of them, feel like they rolled off the assembly line at a mass production marketing and design firm. Go to part 4 to read the next installment in this series when I will go over this next phase of Super Bowl logo designs: 40 – 55.

12410579_10205670940677771_1882142758445994632_nAndy has interests varying from painting and singing, to photography and prop making.  Pretty much anything that has a creative element.  Amateur status in all endeavors, he finds art everywhere he looks.  Always seeking his next inspiration.

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