This morning the Atlanta Gladiators revealed an updated look for the 2019-20 season. The ECHL club gave a new paint job to their existing logo suite in a rather significant and surprising move for a team that’s had a unique identity since its inception in 2003. Gone is the garnet and gold color scheme they’ve worn for 16 years. In its place is a more common blue and gold combination.
In fact, it didn’t go unnoticed that the new color scheme is strikingly similar to that of the Nashville Predators. More than that, it’s practically identical to a fellow ECHL team, the Toledo Walleye. Personally, I saw a little bit of the old Atlanta Thrashers in the new branding, but that seems to have been unintentional.
For what it’s worth, the Gladiators have been the ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins for a few years now. However, during the 2017-18 season, after the Nashville Predators cut ties with their affiliate in Norfolk, they loaned players to the Glads from time to time. It seemed a future affiliation setup was possible, especially smart given the proximity of the teams. Then the Preds signed on with the Florida Everblades in May. So there’s that.
Here’s a pull from the Gladiators’ press release:
The fresh new colors and revitalized logos form an integral part of the team’s efforts to connect and attract fans throughout the highly diverse landscape in metro Atlanta. The Gladiators’ new colors of navy blue and gold are a marked difference to the standard black and red that dominates Atlanta sports, something the team believes will help to create a unique identity for them in the market.
For those unfamiliar with Georgia geography, the Glads play in a town about a half-hour northeast of downtown Atlanta called Duluth. They played their inaugural season in 2003-04 as the Gwinnett Gladiators—Duluth being in Gwinnett County. A few years after the Thrashers left for Winnipeg, the Gladiators adopted the Atlanta locator to make sure locals knew they still had a hockey team to support. Such branding changes as those announced today suggest that hasn’t quite worked yet.
There’s something odd about the details of the new logos. It takes a very critical eye to detect—graphic artists will certainly pick it up—but the lines of these logos aren’t as clean as the versions they’re replacing. In fact, it almost looks as though someone used the Image Trace tool in Adobe Illustrator, used to generate vector artwork from pixel-based images, then simply swapped out some colors. In fact, when you look at the original side-by-side with the new design, it couldn’t be more obvious. Look closely at the finer details.
The sloppiness visible here is an affront to the original designer—the inimitable Joe Bosack Design Co., who created the Gwinnett Gladiators logo package back in 2002. They’ve been responsible for some of the greatest sports branding ever made. It’s a little sad to see their work treated this way. But the ultimate irony can be found in an article written in 2015 for SportsLogos.net about the history of the Gladiators’ identity.
Early concepts for the logo, designed by the prolific sports brand firm Joe Bosack & Co., featured futuristic, blue tones. But the team’s president and general manager Steve Chapman suggested a more traditional Roman red and gold look.
Cool. This might mean the folks at Bosack can actually peer into the future. Here we are 17 years on and their original pitch has, in a way, finally come to be. They were just ahead of their time.
But please can someone over there get the original artwork to these guys so we can stop relying on bad vector tracing for professional sports identities? I mean it looks like the ripped off their own logos.
While the Gladiators have essentially retained their original marks, they have introduced a new font to go with the new colors. Trajan Pro 3 Bold makes up the “Gladiators” text in the primary logo up top as well as the “G” seen here in the lettermark. “Atlanta” is set in ITC Kabel for some reason. It just feels low-rent compared to the original. I’m sorry to be so blunt but it's true.
All told, this is not a strong update. If the Gladiators want to claim this change is part of an effort to stand out in a crowded sports market, going with generic colors will probably prove to be a miss. The garnet and gold were true originals. I can’t name another team that ever looked quite like them. Certainly not the Hawks, Falcons or Braves. Then again, the Gladiators came under new ownership in 2017-18 and sometimes this is the kind of thing that happens after a regime change.
What about the jerseys? Those were not released with the new logos. The ECHL announced in April that Athletic Knit will take over production of all its team uniforms from CCM beginning in 2019-20. I expect to see a lot of new looks across the league by the end of this summer. In other words, August is about to get pretty busy.