Grand Rapids Griffins Alternate Jersey Concept 2015

When the Grand Rapids Griffins announced their alternate jersey design competition this year, I didn’t quite know how to feel about it.  Last year I entered, posted my predictions on the winners, and was disappointed with the jerseys that were picked.

Since then I’ve disliked the Griffins’ 20th Season logo, their new primary logo, and their new jerseys. Over the last year it has become painfully clear that I don’t have the same design aesthetic as the Griffins’ front office.

On top of that (and as I’ve said before), I don’t love the idea of the contest.  While it’s billed as a fan design contest, many of the winners have been design enthusiasts who are not fans of the Griffins.  If Griffins fans aren’t winning, you’re essentially just asking for free design work.

So why submit a concept if I don’t think I have a chance of winning and don’t quite believe in the idea?  That’s the question I’m struggling to answer.  I did it anyway, though, so I’m detailing it here.


My 2015 Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept.
My 2015 Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept.

It’s immediately noticeable that this is an evolution of the design I submitted last year.  The striping pattern, logos, and numbers are all very similar to the 2014 design and the nameplate is identical.

As the Griffins changed their color scheme for this season, the design has been updated to reflect that change, though I kept the “vintage” palette.  Off-white, dark grey as a faded black, and a rust-like red.  Out of curiosity, I did give a non-vintage color set a shot and it absolutely screamed 1970s Cleveland Barons so I abandoned it.  I will say that going with this color scheme could be a risk as the team doesn’t have helmet/pants/gloves to match it.

With the 2014 design, I came up with a whole set of jerseys but submitted the white one.  This time I went with a red jersey with black trim.  The Griffins used to have a white home jersey, a blue road jersey, and a red alternate.  Now they have a white home jersey, a black road jersey, and a black alternate.  I thought having a red jersey rather than just another white or black one was important so I ran with that as the primary color.  Additionally, playing up the color black helps keep the jersey from looking like a Red Wings clone.

The striping pattern has been very slightly modified from my original design.  The shoulder yoke, wrist stripes, and hem stripe are all black with a white outline and then a black outline.  The two outlines are 50% thicker than they were.  The shoulder yoke is slightly smaller to account for that.

Additionally, last year I couldn’t decide how to render what was supposed to be a straight stripe, given that the jersey template featured curved lines in places that would be straight in three dimensions.  That time I went with a curved line to match, this year I called a straight line a straight line.

The number font changed from a modified version of the Chicago Blackhawks’ (which I deemed to be too wide [due to the modification, not the standard font]) to that of the New York Islanders.  I decided to go with black numbers as another way to differentiate the red jersey from Detroit’s and put a white outline around the numbers to make the black more visible on dark red.

Speaking of the number, I also carried over the placement of the jersey number in the collar webbing, my favorite feature from the Griffins’ now-retired red alternate jersey.

The crest logo from my 2015 Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept
The crest logo from my 2015 Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept

The logo – as it was in last year’s submission – is a griffin silhouette inside a shield.  The griffin stands on two legs with its claws reaching out to the front.  I kept the homage to the Griffins’ original logo in place, as this griffins’ tail is the same as that of the newly-replaced Grand Rapids mark. The only change to the logo is the wing, which I was never happy with.

While I liked the fact that the original wing was raised high, the proportions and shape felt wrong.  As such, the new wing is closer to the griffin’s back, larger but sleeker.  This also allows a second homage, as the wing’s feathers are in the same shape as the wing on the Red Wings’ logo.

The shoulder logos were significantly harder to decide on than the jersey crest.  Shortly after I submitted last year’s concept, I came up with a version of its shoulder logo that added some outlines to the text to give it more depth.  For this year, I started with that design and swapped the colors around.

The first debate I had with myself was whether or not to use a Red Wings shoulder patch, as the Griffins’ actual jerseys do and both of last year’s winners did.  Wanting to keep the vintage feel, I put together a patch design that was the Winged Wheel in vintage colors inside a shield in a shape that is often (mis-) attributed to the Detroit Cougars of the 1920s.

I then thought about the fact that this is the Griffins’ 20th anniversary season and that it should really be commemorated on the jersey, as it is on all three of the sweaters in their standard set.  I replicated the shoulder patch from the team’s home and road jerseys and recolored it to match this jersey design.  I also modified the anniversary mark to use the interlocking GR logo rather than either the old or current Griffins’ primary, as I didn’t think they fit with the griffin silhouette crest of my jersey.  To give the GR logo some added heft in the anniversary logo, I surrounded it with a kind of “keystone” effect.

With that done, I decided that I wanted to balance out the roundel on the left shoulder with one on the right.  This also gave me the opportunity to play with something that always bothers me about minor-league team jerseys: The seemingly-random appearance of another team’s logo.  I started by creating a true roundel based on the design of the Griffins’ 20th season logo.  I added text to the circle reading “Detroit Red Wings” across the top and “Primary Affiliate” across the bottom, giving reason for the slapping of a Detroit logo on a Griffins jersey.  Inside the circle I went not with the Winged Wheel but with the Old English D, as I felt it fit both the circle and the overall feel of the jersey better.  The D is outlined in black, a modification I wouldn’t have wanted to make to the Winged Wheel anyway.


As I said, I don’t think this design will win the contest.  I don’t think they’ll pick another griffin silhouette so soon after picking one last year.  I don’t think they’ll go with a design that they don’t have matching pants and helmets for (for the record, I imagine a black helmet and black pants [well, vintage black] for this set).  Also, I think that there are some really… off parts of the 20th season patch but I copied those elements directly from the Griffins so I kept them in.

I don’t know.  We’ll see.

One last note, here’s that Barons-esque standard red/white/black design:

A bright red version of my Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept.
A bright red version of my Grand Rapids Griffins jersey concept.

The Tools We Choose

So a little while ago I was thinking about Ricky Robinett‘s blog post about using Twilio to get notified about World Series ticket deals.  Specifically, I was questioning the use of Twilio to drive the notifications.

Personally, I prefer my notifications via email.  To the point that I look at that post and think, “Come on, he only got his notifications via SMS because he works at Twilio.”  I mean, why involve an API when PHP can send email pretty much out of the box?

Then I look back at my own posts.  My recent bit on how I’m using Trello to help track my finances.  And all the other ways I’ve used Trello.  And I’m sensing a theme here.

We use the tools that we know.  That shouldn’t be a surprise.  What hit me is just how much I’ve stayed inside the Trello ecosystem, at least with regards to things that are worth writing about.

So I’m going to get out of my comfort zone a bit and rewrite my financial tracking tool to make use of Twilio.  I’ve been saying that I wanted to play with Twilio for awhile now but I had an opportunity to do so and chose to shoehorn Trello in instead, since it was what I was more familiar with.

I’ll write about the Twilio implementation when I get around to it.

Bugs and Accidental Branding

The team I’m on recently released a new product. We’ll call it ShinyNewThing. Several weeks of work and discussion and a soft roll-out to some beta users and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. People were excited about ShinyNewThing.

Oh, sure, testing had revealed an issue early on, but that was clearly an invalid test, the product would never work like that in the wild, right?

Of course it would.

ShinyNewThing only works on root domains and a lot of people want to put it on subdomains. In retrospect, we’re left asking why we ever assumed they wouldn’t in the first place. In fact, noticing the “bug” (as people were still calling it at the time) was kind of embarrassing.

So the team looked into it and started work on fixing it and included it in our weekly status report. Item six of six, tucked in right at the bottom:

ShinyNewThing for Subdomains

And it hit me.

By labeling it that, we had accidentally created a new product. Retroactively we had eliminated our mistake.

If we’re working on ShinyNewThing for Subdomains now, clearly ShinyNewThing was never meant for subdomains. We didn’t make an assumption, we simply followed a business decision.  That that business decision never happened doesn’t matter.

It’s an example of the importance of branding.  Nevermind that we’ll never actually use this name publicly, that we’ll own up to it as a bug caught while the product was in beta, and that it’s not intended as a brand.  It’s pretty clear that we could hide behind this name if we wanted and no one would be the wiser.