Todd Radom and the Art of the Sports Logoby Maury Brown
May 15, 2006
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Todd Radom. Chances are very good, you’ve seen his work.
Todd is a bit of an anomaly in sports business these days. He designs logos and brands for professional sport franchises as a single entity. No focus groups. No rolling behemoth of a corporation, just a man and his passion for art and sports.
In baseball, he has designed the logo for the Washington Nationals, the new Angels logo, the logo for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the 2003 World Series logo, the official mark commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the primary logo from 1994 to 1999 for the Milwaukee Brewers, and the logo for Fenway Park’s 90th Anniversary, to name but a few. (Getting into the details on how this process works with MLB Properties is a conversation that is off-limits ... a Professional Service Contract precludes him from discussing the particulars of how the process between artist and MLB Properties functions. Therefore, the links above point to all the logos in question on Radom's website).
Outside of baseball, he has designed logos and brand design for the Basketball Hall of Fame, Superbowl XXXVIII, the official logo for the 2004 Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, the Indiana Fever of the WNBA, and many others. He has worked for 14 years with the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.
As I said, you may have never heard of Todd Radom, but if you’re a sports fan, you’ve most assuredly seen his work.
Radom comes from a family of professional artists. His paternal great grandfather and grandfather were painters, and his dad a graphic artist/photographer/copywriter. While many families might view involvement in the arts a risky career move, Radom says it was encouraged in his family. “I was fortunate in the sense that a career in the arts was looked on as something that was practical and even encouraged,” Radom says. He attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York and graduated with a BFA in 1986.
Whether this is a blessing or a curse, he grew up as a diehard Red Sox fan in New York. When he was a kid he used to vacation in Montauk, on the eastern tip of Long Island. As Radom describes it, "At the time there was no cable TV out there, just over-the-air TV from across Long Island Sound, from Providence, hence the only thing on the tube, night after night, was Red Sox games, all summer long."
He combined his love for art and baseball, he says, when he started doodling logos on scorecards around 1977.
He graduated from SVA and worked at a succession of jobs in the book publishing industry in New York, freelancing at the same time. From 1987 to roughly 1995 he did a considerable number of major baseball book covers, so by 1992 he had accrued enough of a portfolio that he was able to cold call MLB and drop off some logo designs. The rest, as they say, is history.
As Radom explains, "I sold myself as not only someone who could conceptualize and execute the work, but as a consumer of their product with a knowledge of the history of the game and a reverence for the culture."
While logos and design are done by the industry to create brand impression, the design has the ability to become iconic, and certainly a part of the history of the sport. Radom recognizes his place in the history of sport in that context, especially as it pertains to Major League Baseball.
"I always aware of the fact that, whatever the merits of my work, they are part of history," he says. "Just as the great Lon Keller created the Yankees logo back in 1946, I created the current Nationals and Angels." Radom adds, "My work was on the field during All Star Games, World Series, perfect games, etc, and I am very fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to be part of the enduring history of the game."
Given his understanding of the history of baseball as it pertains to logo branding, how does he view some of the designs from the past? "Growing up in the 70s, I come at this from a specific place. The Yankees logo, as iconic as it is, could and would not be implemented in 2006," says Radom. "The equity that this and other "traditional" logos (Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, etc) makes them special, and the fact that they have been allowed to evolve organically if you will, makes them great."
For franchises that no longer exist, he loves the Expos logo, sees that the Colt .45s logo would be politically incorrect in this day and age with its smoking gun in the design, and loved Bill Veeck's Brownie and the Seattle Pilots design.
But how you do a redesign the past, as was the case with the Angels logo? Radom says it depends on the amount of equity that the club desires to carry forward. "Hypothetically, designing a new identity for the Marlins, despite their problems, would require some carryover due to two World Series titles," the designer says. "Tampa Bay on the other hand could be blown up and started from scratch, for every obvious reason."
So, it comes as no surprise that Todd Radom sees more than just a mere brand logo creation when he places designs something that is used in professional sport. The logo and design reach into a further place. "I have often said that the graphic traditions of American pro team sports are embedded in the fabric of our culture," Radom concludes. "American pro sports fans are exposed to graphic design every hour of every day, often from a very early age. Logos and uniform designs connect generations of fans who follow their favorite teams daily, sometimes obsessively—the ultimate brand loyalists."
Given Radom's understanding of how the design of a professional sports logo stands in terms of it's place in history, as well as a design's ability to place an immediate stamp on the consumer's psyche, it's a good chance that while you may not see Todd Radom's name when a new design is unveiled, there's a good chance it will be his work.
Maury Brown is the editor of BusinessOfBaseball.com, co-chair of SABR's Business of Baseball committee, and covers the business of baseball at his blog, The Baseball Journals. His analysis and commentary has been published in the Boston Globe, CNN/Money, Toronto Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, San Jose Mercury News, and Oregonian. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the opinion of the Society for American Baseball Research or its Business of Baseball committee. Maury can be contacted through the miracle of e-mail.