My good friend Norman Hathaway is an avid New York Knicks fan, and follower of Seth Rosenthal‘s humorous Knicks blog Posting and Toasting which boasts one of the biggest communities of Knicks fans on the internet. Apparently Norman spoke or wrote to Seth about my involvement with the NBA, and specifically about how I created the current identity for the Knicks. So Seth contacted me, and we talked about how that whole thing went down. I dug up a ton of my old sketches and comps for this project and sent them to Seth who put them all together, interviewed me and is now posting the story in two parts over two days on his blog.
Today, I’ve reproduced verbatim (below) Seth’s first post, and tomorrow will do so again with the second:
Behind the Knicks Logo with Michael Doret: Part 1
This is the current Knicks logo. This is what the Knicks logo looked like in 1992. Little has changed, y’all. They added a little “New York” and modified the colors recently, but have done nothing else to alter a design that’s been the primary logo for over twenty years. That emblem has been a constant symbol of the team, and its distinctive big, block lettering echoed throughout several other teams’ redesigns in the ’90s, some of which are still in place today. So, where did this logo– which has persisted through multiple Knicks regimes– come from? With the help of P&T citizen normanhathaway, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Michael Doret, the man who made the Knicks logo.
Doret is a New York-raised, Los Angeles-based designer and lettering artist with a rather extensive resume. When the NBA approached him in Spring of 1991, he’d already done some work for the league, as well as designs and design ideas for the MLB, the NFL, TIME Magazine, the band Kiss(!), and a lot more. So, the league felt pretty confident in his abilities and gave him pretty much free reign to try out different logos and letterforms:
“Before starting on this design project I didn’t receive that much input from the NBA other than the directive that they wanted to have something symbolic of New York CIty incorporated into the logo. After discussion we eliminated several options (such as the Statue of Liberty), and settled on the iconic Empire State Building as the only viable alternative that might work in the new logo. So in the beginning stages that was the given which, as we all know, they ended up deciding against as the logo development progressed. I think other than keeping the original blue and orange from the old logo, there wasn’t that much else given me in terms of requirements. The directions I took were mostly left up to me.”
It was a fairly open-ended task and, as Michael notes, the only specific request made of him didn’t even make it to the final product. So, with that dearth of instruction in mind, he set about producing a variety of design concepts. In Part 1 of our magical journey through Michael’s old files, he’ll show us some of the concepts that didn’t make it.
To generate ideas, Michael began with some rough sketches, examples of which are below.
With the Empire State Building icon relatively unchangeable, Michael focused his imagination on the lettering:
“At that time (and even still) my work was all very lettering-oriented. I was trying to open up new areas of letterform design that, up until that point, had tended to be a bit stodgy and traditional. I was just trying to do something different for the time. In actuality I was picking up a lot of cues from bygone eras, from when lettering was really in its heyday-like in the 1930s and ’40s-only this time around with a slight twist.”
Some of the sketches and elements of others eventually made it into color concepts which, before the widespread use of computer design programs, Michael rendered in colored pencil (the ’90s were a dark time).
Any of these could have ended up as the Knicks’ primary logo (and, incidentally, Michael loves all his logo babies, but told me the first of those color logos was his favorite), but alas, they could only pick one
In Part 2 we’ll look at the process behind the logo of Michael’s that the Knicks did choose, and learn about how another familiar piece of Knicks iconography also comes from Michael’s desk.