Under Armour Rebrand doesn’t seem like three words that would go together, but designer Sean MacLean seems to think otherwise. He recently created a rebrand for the apparel giant, and we wanted to get an in-depth view as to why he thinks the logo mark needed a new identity.
You can follow Sean on Instagram @sean_maclean
Why did you feel Under Armour needed a rebrand?
To be honest, it stemmed from a bit of joke. I didn’t to buy an Under Armour hat for my daughter due to my lack of love for their logo. I was quickly labeled as a logo snob… and a mean dad. I was never a fan of the Under Armour monogram or their typography. Mainly because I’ve always viewed it as a neutered sprite “H” – a neutered sprite is one of those swoosh-like people symbols you see in a handful of medical industry logos from the 90’s – apparently I wasn’t the only one to think this.
A few friends said they thought it was a new Hurley logo when UA first launched. I’ve been designing for 15 years, so I understand the process and I’m aware that sometimes the final logo isn’t always what was favoured by the designer or agency. I can’t speak for what happened with the Under Armour logo years ago, however, I think with such a great name, the logo has so much potential to evolve. One could argue that the current logo is fine as is and timeless, but in my personal opinion it’s the complete opposite. I see something stuck in the mid 90’s with room to grow.
What was your inspiration behind the new mark?
I knew I would ruffle a few feathers from the diehard UA community, but I wanted to ignite a conversation and confirm that I wasn’t the only one to think of it as an H. I might’ve just scratched the surface with the logo I created. I think there could be more exploration with typography and the icon.
Maybe it’s not a monogram at all. It could be a shield or mesh-like icon representing strength, teamwork etc. Or, perhaps they lose the “UNDER” and just go by “ARMOUR” considering the brand has evolved from under garments to shoes, hats, and more. The overall idea and inspiration was to create something bold with thick lines. The icon I created started to resemble wings, horns and a skull face. From there I developed the story of it representing perseverance and new heights, power and strength, and a confident presence.
What would you want customers to feel if they saw the new mark?
I would want customers to feel like it was the right move and perfect fit for the brand. As if it the logo was created in the 60’s or 70’s and it’s been going strong ever since. I understand there’s a handful of people who have a difficult time accepting change, but eventually I think they would wear the UA badge as confidently as they do now.
What is your process when creating a logo?
Music. Wine. Young Living Essential Oils. Push shapes around on screen. Truthfully, I don’t sketch… often. The only time I’ll sketch is if the client wants to see more ideas outside of the original pitch. All my sketching happens in my head. I’ve always admired the idea of sketching, but who has time for that? 99% of the projects I’ve worked on during my career were always “due yesterday!” If I spent time sketching a logo, a print deadline would’ve been missed.
I’ll have a few ideas floating around in my head and then I’ll start to implement those ideas via Adobe Illustrator. More often than not I stumble upon new ideas through happy mistakes. In this case with the UA logo, I moved the “A “character down too far and thought, well, that’ll do too! I removed the bottom portion of the letter A and that’s how I ended up with the arrow/triangle. I liked how it wasn’t too literal. I’m a sucker for monograms, but perhaps they’re becoming a trend or an easy way out for logo ideation.
I then show my client three to four options. I have a simple selection process to make things easier on my end – would I tattoo it and would I wear it on a shirt. In some cases I’ve only presented one logo because I was confident it was the only answer. Anything more would’ve meant that I wasn’t sure. Murphy’s Law says the client will choose the one you like the least. It took me years to learn this lesson. Show them what they want, give them what they need, and leave out the filler.
In your opinion what makes a timeless logo?
I think the obvious answer would be to avoid trends. However, sometimes the trend could be in it’s infant stages and you’re unaware that you’ve created a trendy logo. This happened to me with a font choice. Months later it was everywhere. The logo still gets attention, but if I could go back in time I would’ve explored other typography options – the font was Brothers and it’s on every single craft beer and coffee label.
Personally I think a logo with longevity usually holds a great story or hidden gem as it’s foundation. For example, my favourite logo of all time is the Go Transit logo. Big beautiful shapes with a T hidden in the negative space of the shapes that build “GO”. That logo looks like it could’ve been built 100 years ago or last night. Timeless.