Prior to the 2015 update, the Clippers had maintained a consistent look for approximately three decades, with occasional minor tweaks to their logo and uniforms. The team continued to use the basketball logo introduced in San Diego and from 1987 the Clippers wore red uniforms with white and blue trim, and either ‘Los Angeles’ or ‘Clippers’ written in cursive script with an offset number. The 2015 refresh changed the logo but kept the same uniform template, replacing the old wordmark and numbering to match the new look.
The primary logo is centered around the ‘Clippers’ wordmark in black, with slightly curved blue and red lines above and below, topped with a white basketball containing a stylized ‘LA’ wrapped inside the letter C. The wordmark contains a barely perceptible ‘silver lining’ on the top and left edges of each letter. This feature, which is intended to convey optimism for the franchise’s future, is only visible when displayed at a large size and conflicts with the otherwise flat nature of the design. The red and blue lines are intended to allude to the nautical nature of the team’s nickname. The design is overly simplistic and has little inherent visual appeal. While generally well-balanced in terms of color, the layout essentially relegates the actual logo to secondary status, merely topping the oversized wordmark.
The alternate logos are elements from the primary logo used on their own: the white basketball and the ‘LAC’ from inside the white basketball. The ‘LAC’ monogram is supposed to represent the shape of a basketball court, with the Clippers ‘C’ literally embracing the city of Los Angeles. While the red ‘LA’ catches the viewer’s eye first, leading them to see L A C, following the left-to-right convention, this mark should be read as C L A. The design is likely to confuse anyone unfamiliar with the brand and fails the fundamental design rule for clarity. An argument could also be made that if the viewer is supposed to work inside-out, the monogram could also be seen as A L C.
The alternate wordmark takes the red ‘LA’ and pairs it with the ‘Clippers’ wordmark in blue. The stacked nature of the ‘LA’ is likely to be misread as ‘La Clippers’, which might be incorrectly interpreted by some as Spanish for ‘The Clippers’.
The typeface is clean and modern but simple to the point of being generic.
The current uniforms retain the basic design template from the pre-2015 identity refresh, but have been updated with the new branding elements. The template itself is modern and generally well-balanced, with the exception of the abbreviated V-neck collar.
The white home uniform uses the black ‘Clippers’ wordmark and red and blue lines from the primary logo with a centered number and is the most traditional of the designs. For a uniform with no other black elements, the wordmark overpowers the rest of the design. The primary and alternate road uniforms eschew wordmarks in favor of logos. The red road uniform pairs the ‘LAC’ monogram alongside the player number while the black alternate uniform displays the white basketball logo over the player number. The use of logos in lieu of wordmarks cheapens the overall design and more closely resembles a practice jersey than a regular season on-court uniform. The logo/number tandem on the red jersey is especially problematic because single digit numbers throw off the balance of the design.
The disjointed white collar on the red uniform resembles rugby shirt.
Neither the ‘Clippers’ nickname nor the red-blue-and-white color scheme hold any particular significance for the city of Los Angeles. A nautical-themed team name could be applicable to any port city with a history of sailing. The ‘Clippers’ name would be most relevant for a team in Baltimore, since it was there that the term ‘clipper’ began to be used to refer to speedy schooners. The logos fail to connect in any way with the nautical nature of the team name.
The Clippers get a mixed score on uniqueness. On one hand, the aforementioned use of various branding elements on multiple uniforms is novel, but the Clippers branding itself continues to be uninspired and unoriginal.
The previous Clippers logo was criticized for being too similar to the Lakers’. When the current logo was unveiled in 2015 many observers noted its similarity to the logo for the EA Sports video game NBA Live ’06. Even the ‘LAC’ monogram immediately invites comparisons to the Chicago Cubs logo.
The Clippers are the only team in professional sports not to use the full name of their geographic indicator in any of their branding—nowhere in the logo set or uniforms is ‘Los Angeles’ to be found.
The Clippers are one of five teams to wear a red uniform as their primary road option and also one of eight with a black alternate uniform.
Many of the unique aspects of the Clippers’ current branding could be labeled as different-for-different’s-sake. While brands should always strive to differentiate themselves, novelty alone is never a justifiable reason.
The Clippers get mostly high marks for branding consistency. Elements from the primary logo are used as secondary logos, and those elements as well as the wordmark are used on the uniforms. This rectifies a previous inconsistency, where a cursive script, completely unrelated to the logo wordmark, appeared on the uniforms. The Clippers lose points, however, for having too many different looks on their jerseys. Greater consistency would be achieved using the ‘Clippers’ wordmark on every uniform.
Points to Improve
- Redesign the logo(s) to incorporate nautical imagery. For example, a red basketball doubling as the sun in the sky over a clipper ship sailing on blue waters. The lines on the current white basketball logo could easily be extended and stylized to give the appearance of a ship’s steering wheel.
- Rebrand, choosing a name more reflective of the rich culture and history of the city of Los Angeles.
- Invert the white and blue trim on the red uniform improve the color balance. Replace the collar style of the jerseys with a connected design.
NBA Branding Assessment Ranking
This assessment is 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.