"My design idea is to not change a thing. They already look perfect."
That was the most common response to Uni Watch's recent call for readers to redesign the Cleveland Browns. It's an understandable response -- many Browns fans love the team's no-frills look (although many other NFL fans think it's totally snoozers). But for better or worse, sticking with what the Brownies already have isn't an option, because owner Jimmy Haslam has already announced that the team will have new uniforms in 2014. About 100 Uni Watch readers accepted the invitation to present their own take on how the team's look should be updated.
There was a twist, however: Haslam has also stated that the Browns' logo-less helmet won't be changing. That presented a big challenge for our reader-designers. How do you revamp a football team's look when you can't make any changes to its most prominent visual symbol?
Readers took a variety of approaches to solving that problem. Here are five of the best solutions (for all of these, you can click on the design to see a larger version):
1. Best logo: Scott Haury
Many readers took the Browns' longstanding Brownie the Elf mascot logo and modernized it for use as the team's primary logo. The design shown above, by Scott Haury, was by far the best of these efforts, although Daniel Gold's version is also worthy of mention.
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2. Best conservative redesign: Ross Hazlett
It's amazing how adding just a simple element -- in this case, block shadows on the uniform numbers -- can give a uniform some fresh pizzazz. The alternate uni with the orange pants and orange numerals is nice, too. Obviously, this is more of a tweak than an overhaul, but sometimes that can be very effective. And as a nice bonus, the block-shadowed numbers echo the team's original uniforms from 1946.
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3. Best radical redesign: Charles Noerenberg
Granted, your friendly uniform columnist has always been rather partial to stripes, so Noerenberg's entry made a nice impression here at Uni Watch HQ. Not sure what to make of that diagonal stripe on the pants, but it's hard to argue with all the thin orange stripes on the shoulders, base-layer sleeves, and socks, especially on the road uni. For good measure, Noerenberg threw in an outlandish but not unattractive alternate uni ("a mixture of elements inspired mostly by some throwback hockey jerseys," he says) and a simple but powerful logo.
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4. Best ridiculous redesign: Vincent Garibaldi
Since the Browns don't have a helmet logo, the helmet essentially is their logo. Garibaldi's design takes that concept to its logical extreme, with the helmet icon plastered on the sleeves, pants, and even the socks. It's silly, of course, but it also serves as a good commentary on the state of the team's design program. And having the front uniform number represented by a big, numbered helmet is a pretty clever move -- especially since the Browns actually wore numbered helmets back in the late 1950s.
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5. Best overall design: Soukie Outhavong
Northwestern's football team made waves last fall by introducing a uniform set with stripes across the chest. Uni Watch readers apparently took notice, because many of them proposed their own variations on this approach, including David MacMoyle, Jarrod Gable, Mark Dion, and Nicholas Rogers. But Soukie Outhavnong's design, shown above, is the keeper of the bunch. The effect feels simultaneously updated and old-school -- perfect for a team that needs a bit more visual punch but doesn't want to abandon its hardscrabble roots. Nicely done!
Want to see the designs that didn't make the cut? You can view all of the reader submissions for the Browns redesign contest here.
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Meanwhile, over in Jacksonville
While we're pondering theoretical changes for the Browns, the Jaguars have unveiled a real change to their primary logo. You can read more about that here.
Paul Lukas would love to see a physical prototype of Vincent Garibaldi's design, just for kicks. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.