The Milwaukee Bucks were founded in 1968 and won a championship in just their third season behind the talents of Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Oscar Robertson, but have been a largely lackluster team ever since. The organization changed ownership at the end of the 2013-14 season and the new owners commissioned Brooklyn-based design firm Doubleday & Cartwright to give the club a new look that would signal a new beginning and promote Milwaukee as a world-class city.
The Bucks have had a fairly consistent look throughout most of their history.The team originally wore forest green uniforms with red trim before dropping the accent color altogether in 1986. The team’s most recognizable look are the Irish rainbow uniforms worn from 1976 to 1993, so called because they featured horizontal side striping in various shades of green.The Bucks’ original cartoon logo was replaced in 1993 at the same time purple was introduced to the color scheme. The Bucks returned to a forest green-and-red color scheme in 2006.
The team’s new color scheme and logo set were unveiled in April 2015, followed by new uniforms in June and October. The new color scheme replaced red with cream and added blue as an accent color.
The primary logo follows the pattern of the previous logo template, featuring a forward-facing forest green deer, but this time placing it over a partial circle rather than a triangle. The current design builds on the antler design from the previous logo, expanding the inner portion and using the negative space to create the illusion of a basketball. The neck of the deer is formed by a stylized M. Both of these clever design elements are subtly done. However, the incomplete cream-colored circle leaves the impression that something is missing. The green block with the ‘Milwaukee Bucks’ wordmark is an awkward solution and further disrupts the balance of the design. The partial primary logo is the deer head design used on its own and is the stronger of the two because allows the M portion to stand out more. The design is simple but too flat, giving it a somewhat cartoonish look.
The secondary logo takes the negative space basketball from the primary logo, adds the stylized M and places it in a forest green roundel with ‘Bucks Basketball’ in white at the top and ‘Est. 1968’ at the bottom.
The tertiary logo is in the shape of the state of Wisconsin with blue lines indicating the parts of the state that touch the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and the basketball marks the location of Milwaukee on the map. While the diagonal wordmark is a natural fit for the shape, the overall design looks more like it belongs to an old college sports program than to a modern professional team.
The custom ‘MKE Block Varsity’ typeface was designed to convey an industrial aesthetic. While the typeface borders on generic, the simplicity meshes well with the logos and uniforms and is distinctive enough to become a classic in time.
The white home uniform features the arced ‘Bucks’ wordmark with the player number centered below it in forest green and has forest green trim around the neck and armholes. The forest green road uniform features the ‘Milwaukee’ wordmark and player number in white and has cream trim. Both of the uniforms feature forest green side panels outlined in cream that continue down the sides of the shorts, ending in a point above a cream section containing the dear head logo. The negative space between these two design elements creates the shape of the letter M. The blue, black, white, cream and green side stripes at the top of the panel are an homage to the Bucks’ classic Irish rainbow uniforms.
The uniforms are well balanced in terms of color and layout, however the side stripes and jagged nature of the cream portions of the shorts add unnecessary complexity to the design. The Bucks lose points for adopting a somewhat retro look.
The black alternate uniform features the partial primary logo with the player number in the space between the antlers. The the cream-outlined side panels extend to the bottom of the shorts which features the partial secondary logo. The trim at the bottom of the shorts is green except where a blue strip connects with the side panels, balancing nicely with the the blue at the top of the side panel on the jersey.
All three jerseys feature a blue strip on the inside of the back collar and a slogan tag on the bottom left of the jersey bearing the team slogan ‘Fear the Dear’.
While the ‘Bucks’ moniker would be appropriate for any region with a devoted hunting culture, it is the team’s color scheme that earns it high marks for relevancy. The primary ‘Good Land Green’ represents the surrounding landscapes that host the deer population. The secondary ‘Cream City Cream’ highlights Milwaukee’s ‘Cream City’ nickname, a reference to the cream-colored bricks used in many of the city’s older buildings. The sparingly used ‘Great Lakes Blue’ tertiary accent color references the importance of the Great Lakes to the city and the Algonquin term that became ‘Milwaukee’ which means ‘gathering place by the water’. The color is used to make a blue collar on the inside of the jersey to symbolize the working-class ethic of the city.
While the Bucks are one of only two NBA teams using green as their primary color and the only team using dark green, they are one of eight with a black alternate uniform. The use of cream, here as the secondary color, is unique not only in the NBA but in all of professional sports. However, the Bucks lose points for becoming the third team in the last few years to adopt a roundel logo with their new secondary logo (and, one could argue, a partial roundel with their new primary logo).
The Bucks get top marks for branding consistency. Elements of the primary logo are used as secondary logos. The custom typeface is used in both the logo sets and uniforms. Even the holes in the uniform fabric are shaped like Ms.
Points to Improve
- Refine the current primary logo, replacing the partial circle with another device that better incorporates the wordmark.
- Use the stylized M, which currently only appears by itself on the jersey collar, as the secondary logo and replace the subpar tertiary logo with the current secondary logo.
- Introduce a cream alternate uniform to be worn at home.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
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.