Grand Rapids Griffins Alternate Jersey Concept 2016

Once again, the Grand Rapids Griffins are holding their annual jersey design contest and, even though I know I disagree with their design preferences, I’m throwing my hat into the ring.

Two years ago I entered a design featuring a griffin silhouette on a shield as the primary logo, with the jersey in “vintage” white, blue, and red. The shoulder logo was a roundel with an interlocking GR logo the team had previously used. Last year I tweaked the logo to make the griffin’s wing a little cleaner, switched up the shoulder logos, changed the number font, and updated the colors to go along with the Griffins’ color change, but the striping pattern stayed the same.

This year I thought for certain that I was going to enter another red jersey, so I started with my previous design. I swapped out the “vintage” colors and simplified the striping pattern. Rather than black numbers with a white outline, I went with white numbers outlined in black as they would be more legible.  I kept the player’s jersey number in the collar webbing because, as I’ve said before, I loved that feature of their old alternate jersey.  I also brought back the shoulder logo from my original entry as a 20th Season patch no longer made sense.  Finally, I broke down and put the Winged Wheel logo of the Detroit Red Wings on one shoulder, as the Griffins do that on their standard jerseys to denote their parent club, no matter how much I dislike the practice.

The first version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The first version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

I felt like that design was too simple, though, so I continued evolving the design. For the second generation, I switched the order of the sleeve colors and removed the shoulder yoke. I wanted the Griffins’ jersey to have an homage to the alternate colored sleeves of the Red Wings’ white jersey. I also brought back the black numbers outlined in white as I figured for a one-shot jersey, legibility is less of a concern (in fact, the Griffins wore dark red numbers on a dark blue jersey for one game two seasons ago).

The second version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The second version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

Unfotunately, I thought that looked far too close to the design of the Texas Stars. While the Griffins selected a design two seasons ago that was basically a color swapped Iowa Wild jersey, I wasn’t comfortable submitting something like that.

As such, I decided to fully embrace the alternate-colored sleeves. I made the jersey body red with a black stripe bounded by white and the sleeves black with a red stripe and white outline. I also changed up the shoulder logo, replacing the interlocking GR with the griffin silhouette I used on the crest as I didn’t want to re-use one of the team’s existing marks, even modified.

The third version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The third version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

At this point, I thought that I had my final design. I started showing it to a handful of people and near-universally the feedback was that they wanted to see a black version. Of course, I had started out trying to make a red jersey, so at first I ignored this.  Eventually I hit the point where I had to listen to what my informal focus group was saying and did a switch of the colors. While a quick Twitter poll showed 53% of fans would have preferred a red jersey, 100% of people who saw both the red and black jerseys picked the black one. As such, the black one was my final design.

My submission for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
My submission for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

There are some coincidental homages in this design.  The Grand Rapids Owls, an International Hockey League team in the late 1970s, wore jerseys with red sleeves that had black stripes outlined in white.  Additionally, the Red Wings sold “fashion” jerseys (alternate jerseys that were never actually worn in-game) that had a black body with a red stripe at the waist, red sleeves with a black stripe, and numbers that match this design.  The stripes did not include a white outline.


The Griffins explicitly stated that they wanted a dark jersey from this year’s contest.  I imagine that’s because of the AHL’s new rule that will see light jerseys worn at home until Christmas and dark jerseys after that.  Previously there had been some flexibility with regards to alternates but I’d guess that’s out the window with these new rules.

At any rate, just for fun, I created a white version of my submission.

An alternate white version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
An alternate white version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

As I mentioned, the primary logo is carried over directly from last season’s submission, aside from the color switch.  This is a logo full of homages.  The shape of the shield is that of the DetroitHockey.Net logo as a reference to my previous work.  The feathers on the griffin’s wing are those of the Winged Wheel.  The griffin’s tail is that of the original Grand Rapids logo.

The crest logo for my 2016 Griffins jersey contest submission.
The crest logo for my 2016 Griffins jersey contest submission.

The shoulder logo went through a number of revisions as I sorted out what color it would be placed on, how much detail should be included, and what element would be inside the roundel.

While I think that having a silhouetted griffin on both the crest and the shoulder is a bit repetitive, I see the different uses to be somewhat like how the Tampa Bay Lightning have a lightning bolt on both the crest and the shoulder.


As I’ve said every year, I don’t expect to win this contest.  This year is interesting because ten finalists will be determined by fan vote and then the Griffins staff will decide.  Additionally, this year submissions do not have to follow a standardized template.  If I had to guess, the vote will skew towards submissions that look like they come out of a video game, as they come across as the most impressive.  Whether or not those are actually the best designs will have to be seen.


Update: After posting this I noticed that the shoulder logos are incorrectly depicted on the view of the back of the jersey.  They should be switched so that the Winged Wheel is on the right shoulder and the roundel is on the left, as they appear in the view of the front of the jersey.  I’m not going to update the graphics, just use your imagination a little.

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.

Griffins Jersey Contest: Sour Grapes

I was going to do a write-up of the winners of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ jersey contest over at DetroitHockey.Net – where I’d already done a review and posted my predictions – but I realized doing so after my design didn’t win would come across as sour grapes. Instead, I decided to own that; accept the label and go forward anyway, posting my issues with the winning designs here instead of at DH.N.

And since I’m complaining, I should mention my write-up of my original submission.  Obviously I designed that for a reason, it’s my style.  Apparently it wasn’t the style of the Griffins but we have no word from them on what criteria were used to make their decision so I stand by it.

Let’s look at the winners in the order they were announced…

This is the one that annoys me most.  It’s a fantastic jersey.  I said right off that bat that I knew the Griffins would wear it.  It’s not an original design, though.

That’s a Grand Rapids Rockets jersey updated to say “Griffins” instead.  It looks awesome and it’s a well-done update but Roberts did not design the jersey.  I feel like in a competition with a prize on the line, it’s akin to plagiarism.  How can you win a jersey design contest without designing a jersey?

As I wrote in my review, I like a bunch of the individual elements on this jersey.  Overall, though, it comes across as weak.  The blue crest gets lost on the blue jersey.  The lack of red loses part of the Griffins’ identity.  The “Tuebor” on the collar works but “Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amaenam Circumspice” on the back just seems slapped on there (I’d suggested it go on the cuff). Especially with at least six stronger jerseys in contention, I don’t get why this one was picked.  But there is a conspiracy theory out there…

Sure is easy to reproduce a jersey that already follows an existing template.

Like I said off the top (and in the title): chalk it up as sour grapes if you want.  I’m disappointed I didn’t win.  But I don’t think that means my thoughts on the winners are invalid.

Grand Rapids Griffins Jersey Concept Revisited

As of a couple hours ago, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ alternate jersey contest is closed.  I wrote about my submission early in the contest but with it done I feel a little more comfortable iterating on it a bit.

After staring at my work for nearly a month, wondering if it would hold up to the other incoming designs (I’m not sure it does), I kept finding little things I wish I’d taken the time to think about.

The shoulder logo, for example, comes across as a little flat to me.  That’s going to be the case with the “vintage” colors as they’re more muted, but I think making the text blue with a white outline and adding an outline to the interlocking GR (as the version I inadvertently recreated had) helps add some complexity.

The updated shoulder logo for my Griffins concept jersey.
The updated shoulder logo for my Griffins concept jersey.

For the primary logo, I neglected to take into account that every logo the Griffins have ever selected has featured the team’s name in some form.  As such, I added a “banner” across the bottom of the shield with “Griffins” in it and re-positioned the griffin inside the shield to make room for the banner.

The updated crest logo for my Griffins concept jersey.
The updated crest logo for my Griffins concept jersey.

I didn’t change the design of the jerseys at all but with these updates I think the red version is the best one.

My updated Griffins concept jersey, red with blue shoulders.
My updated Griffins concept jersey, red with blue shoulders.

I actually don’t know if I like this better than my original (aside from having come to prefer the red version) but I wanted to at least document it.


There is one thing about the contest that, as I’ve followed it, has bothered me a little.  I’ve seen reference to this as a “fan” design competition but pretty clearly there are submissions from people who are not Griffins fans.  If that’s the case, aren’t the Griffins just asking for spec design work?  And one of their last winners was a professional designer.

I don’t know.  I entered knowing what it was and I’m sure everyone else did, too.  Just feels wrong.

Grand Rapids Griffins Jersey Concept

I’ve written before about branding a fake hockey team, but with this week’s announcement of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ formerly-annual alternate jersey design contest, I got to try my hand at doing it for an actual team.

The contest is still running so, unlike usual, all of the images included in this post are watermarked (I should probably do this anyway). Also, if any Griffins employees are reading this and the existence of this post somehow breaks the contest rules, please let me know, that’s not my intent.

I’d had a few ideas kicking around in my head for awhile, waiting for this contest to come back. I knew I wanted to go with a “vintage” look, with a muted red and blue and an off-white instead of the Griffins’ standard colors. I also knew that I wanted to use an interlocking “GR” logo of some kind and a more “traditional” griffin in silhouette rather than Grand Rapids’ primary logo.

My initial thought was that the GR logo would be a standard block font and would appear on the shoulders. Then I decided to work with the team’s existing lettering from their alternate logo to make something similar to one of their old alternate logos. I didn’t think the lettering would stand on it’s own so I placed it inside a shield to use as the jersey crest. That didn’t really work, either, so I relegated the letters back to the shoulders and decided to keep the shield as a crest, with the griffin silhouette inside it.

To finish off the shoulders, I reached to my design work for DetroitHockey.Net and placed the interlocking letters in a roundel based on that which I use for DH.N. The text in this version of the logo reads “Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Club – Est. 1996” (the Griffins use their original IHL founding date of 1996 rather than 2001, the year they joined the AHL).

The crest shield is actually the same shape as DH.N’s primary logo. The griffin itself is based on several griffin designs (it’s hard to find a live griffin to use as a model these days) but the tail is taken directly from the team’s primary logo as an homage.

The jersey design I submitted for the contest is primarily vintage white with blue shoulders outlined in red and then blue again. The cuffs of the sleeves and the waist follow the same pattern – blue outlined in red and blue. The player’s nameplate is a standard block-serif font in blue while the back and sleeve numbers are a modified version of those used by the Chicago Blackhawks. To keep the vintage feel, the numbers and nameplate have no outlines. Carrying over my favorite design element from Grand Rapids’ red alternate jersey, the webbing in the collar features the player’s jersey number – something only possible in the AHL as the NHL has reserved this space for the league’s logo.

My submitted Griffins concept jersey.
My submitted Griffins concept jersey.

One thing that was a little difficult for me to decide on was how to present the striping. In the template I usually use, I would show a straight line with a straight line. However the contest template showed more stitching detail than my template does so I had to decide whether to follow those curves with the understanding that they would appear straight in 3D. As such, the hem stripe appears curved but isn’t intended to represent a curve, while the sleeve stripe is straight. The shoulders would follow the curve of the jersey template. I clearly over-thought this.

I could only submit one jersey for the contest so I went with the white one as the Griffins typically wear white at home and three of the five past contest winners were white jerseys. That didn’t stop me from designing a full set, though. There are two blue jerseys and two red ones, each a color-swapped version of the white. My favorites are the blue with red shoulders (represented with Anthony Mantha’s name and presumed number above) and the red with blue shoulders (Tomas Jurco above). I worry that I gambled wrong by submitting the white one over these.