The Chicago Bulls were established as an expansion team in 1966-67. The Bulls are the third NBA franchise to play in Chicago, after the short-lived Chicago Stags (1946-50) followed by the Chicago Packers who later rebranded as the Chicago Zephyrs before relocating to Baltimore in 1963. The Bulls are the third most successful franchise in NBA history, having won six championships behind the play of Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the 1990s.
The Bulls have maintained a consistent look throughout the franchise’s history. The team has never changed its logo or the design of their shorts and have made only a few relatively minor adjustments to their jerseys.
The primary logo is a forward-facing red bull head with ‘Chicago’ above the design and ‘Bulls’ neatly tucked in between the horns. While the design is a classic and well-balanced in terms of color and layout, it is nevertheless a product of its time and its cartoonish style and generic typeface look dated. The partial primary logo is the same minus the wordmark. The Bulls do not have a secondary or alternate logo.
The Bulls have used the same basic uniform template since the team’s inaugural season, with diamonds at the bottom of each side of the shorts containing the Bulls logo, and a simple jersey unadorned with side panels or striping of any kind. Only the wordmark and numbering have changed over the years, with the current uniform set in use since 1985.
The white home uniform has ‘Bulls’ and the player number centered below in red with a black outline. The trim is white and red with a thin black outline around the white stripe. The diamond panels are red. The red home uniform has the team name and player number in black with a white outline and red and white trim with a thin black outline around the red stripe. The diamond panels are white. The alternate uniform is a black version of the home uniform template ‘Chicago’ replacing ‘Bulls’ on the jersey.
While the uniforms are generally well-balanced in terms of color and, the diamonds on the shorts draw attention to the lack of decoration on the jerseys and the shape, which would pair well with a V-neck collar, conflicts with the traditional crewneck collar. The overly simplistic template is outdated and the Bulls often appear to be wearing throwback uniforms on the court. The diamond design, which was also used by the Spurs from the late 1970s through the late 80s, is the most dated aspect of the design.
Perhaps building on the ‘Packers’ nickname of Chicago’s original NBA franchise, the cattle imagery hearkens back to the city’s days as the meatpacking center of America, made infamous by the novel The Jungle. The color red has obvious popular associations with bulls. The team’s slogan is “See Red,” a reference to the idiom meaning to be extremely angry, as well as a nod to the erroneous notion that the color red can be used to provoke a bull into an attack (bulls do not see the color red and respond to the movement of the matador’s cape, regardless of color).
The Bulls are one of five teams not to feature a basketball in any of their logos.
The Bulls are one of five teams to wear a red uniform as their primary road option and one of eight teams with a black alternate. The Bulls are also one of five teams (along with the Blazers, Heat, Raptors and Hawks) to wear some combination of red and black, but get credit for originating the look in 1966.
The jerseys use a fairly generic block sports typeface for the wordmark. The numbering, which is also used by the Knicks and the Jazz, is equally generic.
The ‘Bulls’ nickname is mostly unique in the professional sports world, with the exception of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, and minor league baseball’s Durham Bulls.
The Bulls get a mixed grade on consistency. While the team’s use of color is completely consistent, the team loses points for using one typeface for their logo and a different typeface on their uniforms. While there are similarities in the use of serifs, the logo typeface is round while the jersey typeface is blocky.
Points to Improve
- Give the primary logo a facelift, bringing the classic design into the modern era.
- Choose or commission a more modern typeface that can be used for both the logo and jerseys, including lettering and numbering.
- Modernize the uniforms. Eliminate the diamonds on the shorts and introduce some unique way to showcase the logo at the bottom. (Interestingly, the Bulls have already designed such a uniform. However, it has only been worn by the team’s mascot, Benny the Bull. Outfitting the players with the look would help bring the Bulls’ visual identity into the 21st century.)
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
Special thanks to Chris Creamer (sportslogos.net) for the logo and uniform images. Other images have been taken from the team’s website or Twitter feed.
All writings contained herein are copyright ©2015 Brian F. Sanford. All intellectual property including but not limited to names, logos and uniforms are properties of the National Basketball Association, its member teams, ownership groups and/or organizations. All images are used for noncommercial educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.