PRO Rugby unveiled their uniforms for the upcoming season yesterday and the reactions have been mixed – a mix of “these are alright” and “these are terrible”, which aren’t exactly in-depth criticisms. I admittedly had low expectations knowing that none of the teams have a set identity and was pleasantly surprised that the jerseys weren’t completely bland. The designs give the teams a few elements, mainly the color schemes, from which they can build their identities.
But there is still something about these uniforms that gives them a very amateur look. The uniforms feature the city names, which is highly unusual but necessary without logos for the teams. It almost works too, but the typeface they use is too generic. A typeface can say a lot in a design, but all this one says is “uninspiring and perfectly legible”. It looks like a basic design that someone slapped together in a custom uniform builder that every sportswear company has on their website. What puzzles me the most is that PRO Rugby has a very simple league logo, a wordmark on a rugby ball, with a typeface that is much better suited for these jerseys. While I couldn’t find the exact same typeface, I used a similar one with some adjustments to get a mock-up of what the uniforms could have looked like. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the real jersey and a mock up for the San Diego away jersey.
It’s a subtle difference, sure, but it’s one that legitimizes the design by using a non-standard font that appears to have been chosen more carefully. It adds a bit of character that the original is missing, and doesn’t scream “placeholder” nearly as loud. Even if used league-wide, it still doesn’t look too generic since the other elements of the jersey designs make such a clear difference.
When I was in college, I had a number of design-oriented classes where we presented projects at various points of completion and so I’m critiquing this the same way that I would for a project that’s halfway finished but missing a few critical parts. There are parts of the jersey design that they knew would not be complete, so the designer needed to concentrate on getting the completed parts correct. The font is one place where they didn’t.