Ahead of the 2015 season, the Rochester Rhinos announced a special logo for the club's 20th season. Team general manager Pat Ercoli was very excited about the club's longevity but, beyond the achievement of lasting two decades in a volatile environment like American soccer, Ercoli was buzzing about a commemorative logo for the milestone campaign.
"We knew that we were going into our 20th year and we wanted to do something new for this season," he said. "In conjunction with the new logo, we also have a special jersey for our 20th season that I'm pretty excited about. We should be able to unveil it in the next month."
"It's supplementing the existing stuff. The rhino that's in our 20th anniversary logo is in the jersey as well. I'm looking forward to it and it should be pretty neat."
I speculated at the time that the team would only use this logo for a single season as its shelf-life appeared to expire after the 20th season concluded. Does that mean that the team returns to using its old logo or will they opt for an update?
Because of the cartoonish nature of the original logo, above, Rochester has long been a favorite pet project among graphic designers (and anyone on BigSoccer with a basic grasp of photoshop).
Several proposed rebrands have popped up around the internet over the years, some less than professional and some incorporating significant local flavor by including lances (a throwback to the Lancers of the 1970s) or the city's flower mark. Many of these designs are better than the original or the below alternate image that was used about a decade ago.
The two most compelling rebrands floating around the web were from Derrick Anthony Jones and Mark Bing Crosby, both graphic designers.
Crosby explained to me via email some of the pitfalls of the team's imaging and the thought process behind his project. "The current Rochester logo is pretty much what you see from every local print shop in terms of animal mascot logos: Insert name and colors into a teeth-gritting, standard font that looks decent on a 90s crewneck logo," he said.
"I wanted to create a shield logo, like most soccer logos worldwide, but keep the American style mascot as an integral part. The ball on the horn was really the only aspect I wanted to keep. It's as close to iconic as the current logo gets."
Crosby admits that he returns to tweak the Rochester Rhinos logo from time to time. "I played around with a few variations, some with a striped field in the shield, some with a more muted color palette, and all kinds of different sized rhinos. For some reason, it's one that I love to take a stab at over and over again."
Crosby says the version above has gotten the most positive feedback and points to the simplicity of the logo for that. It's not hard to see why as the curved shadows provide dimension to the image without the messy, childish aspects of the original.
Mark Bing Crosby has worked on other team logos among dozens of projects and you please browse his portfolio here.
This design from Derrick Anthony Jones incorporates the traditional cartoon rhinoceros head and leans a bit on the Tampa Bay Rowdies crest but is still much cleaner than Rochester's current logo.
So, will the Rhinos go for something new in 2016. There is some evidence out there that supports the idea.
Besides the obvious expiration date on the 20th anniversary logo, a new wordmark on a schedule that the team recently released points to an imminent update.
The font on the top of this image posted to the team's facebook page on Friday, February 19 is different from anything the team has released before. It appears that the new ownership group, David and Wendy Dworkin, are following through on a much-needed update to the team's appearance.
Wendy explicitly told Jeff DiVeronica and Sam Fantauzzo on KickThis on February 13, "We definitely want to refresh and modernize the actual branding of the Rhinos." It doesn't get much clearer than that. You can listen to Wendy Dworkin discuss immediately planned improvements to the team's image at 38:07 of the show.
Is the font at the top of this recent schedule image a sneak-peek of what's to come for the Rochester Rhinos brand image? Either way, we can expect a new logo and wordmark for the team in the coming weeks and we can expect it to be professionally done as the Dworkins have talked openly about spending the requisite funds to make a great first impression with the fanbase.