Tonight could have been a disaster. After a long buildup, an indifferent design would have been deflating to the team and fans, but in a way that head coach Gregg Berhalter would admire, the Crew's redesign team pulled through and closed out with a win.
The team made some very big decisions early on. It was the right move keeping the black and gold color scheme. There is no other soccer team in the U.S. that owns that combination and the all yellow kit is iconic in MLS. The yellow strip, banana kit, whatever you want to call it, Crew soccer is black and gold.
The other decision was to retain the Columbus Crew name. This, again, was likely the right choice. Other teams have jettisoned their old nicknames in the past. The Kansas City Wizards became Sporting Kansas City, the Metrostars became New York Red Bull, and the Dallas Burn became FC Dallas. Kansas City and Dallas moved to reclaim some lost momentum in their markets. Red Bull is a special case as they took the name of their corporate owners. Columbus hadn't lost it's momentum in the market; the Crew name still resonated.
With the colors and name in place, the new badge would have to fit within those existing constraints. The new badge would also have to reflect the goals that investor-operator Anthony Precourt had for the team, primarily to better tie the team to Columbus and reaffirm the history of the Crew. With all of that in mind the end result is a near perfect execution of those goals.
The New Crew SC badge (Columbus Crew SC)
Starting with the shape, the Crew chose a shape that only three other MLS clubs were using, a circle. Rather than keeping with a shield motif, the designers looked to the Bundesliga and some of the visually striking elements in use in Germany. Many Bundesliga badges are visually spare without intricate detail. The new Crew SC logo certainly references that ethos of clean lines.
The Columbus Crew SC wordmark wrapping around the design makes it clear where the team comes from and who they represent. This is Columbus' team. Along those lines, the checkerboard is an excellent and clear nod to the Nordecke. The waving checkerboard flags are a staple of Crew supporter culture and placing them in the new badge is a rare step in the sports world, officially adopting a fan generated idea.
If there is a part that may not work as well as intended, it may be the diagonal lines. They are clearly designed to invoke the upward trend that the team is taking, but the narrative of the nine stripes representing the other founding members of MLS seems forced. The stripes do however provide an excellent foundation for the "96" shield. With history a key component of the team's ethos, adding the "96" and original badge outline is clear recognition of the team's past.
While the team chose to keep the "Crew" name, they did choose to add SC as an additional differentiator. The design team had several options open to them. They could have chosen FC as Dallas or Toronto has, but in Columbus, football means Buckeyes. The Crew weren't going to win that competition. The team could have also chosen to chose another non-anglo moniker such as Sporting Club. The team however kept to the midwestern roots and stuck with the straight forward SC. Soccer is the name of the sport in America.
This has the effect of changing the nickname. In the team's rebrand reference, they note that the team is no longer "the Crew", it is now "Crew SC". Unlike a new badge, a style change like that is much harder to implement. Fans need to buy in and Crew SC doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as the Crew. At least not yet.
Perhaps the most underrated part of the rebrand is the new wordmark. The team ditched the antiquated Copperplate Gothic and used a timeless, and absolutely gorgeous, font to replace it. The font isn't so anodyne as to go out of style in the next decade. It references some of the athletic fonts of the past while remaining modern. It's graceful, clear, and eminently readable. Everything you want out of a font.
Impressively, the badge continues to grow on me. Its overly simple first impression gives way to the nuance contained in the design. It's a clean and no-nonsense badge. Hardworking without fuss. Exactly what a Columbus Crew badge should be.
Now that I've finished my critique add yours in the comments. I'm interested to hear other opinions on it.