It has been a long time coming. The Florida Panthers officially turned the page toward a new chapter in their history - and future - with the unveiling of a new uniform and logo. Despite being in law school and having hopes of being an attorney, my original trajectory in life was to be a graphic designer and after embracing the Florida Panthers as my hockey team in 2011, I began to think of possible updates to their look. This site nurtured that desire by allowing me the honor of designing the LBC logo (up top on the left!) you see today.
Once Messrs. Viola and Cifu acquired the team in September of 2013, I came to the sneaking suspicion they may understandably wish to put their own stamp on the club. Here we are today, a new look Panthers and a new day. Let's break down the new logos for symbolism, style choice, and comparisons to other sports franchises.
The New Leaping Cat
Florida Panthers fans are quite a unique bunch from what I have observed over the years. Most Cat fans have rallied around the year of 1996, the Year of the Rat, and possibly until the 2015-16 season, for some, the most important season in franchise history. The Panthers' original logo later seen as a symbol of that run but unfortunately the organization was stuck in the '90s. The new millennium has not been kind to the Panthers and with it came a growing stigma around the hockey world that saw the Panthers team, logo, fans, and hockey in South Florida as a joke. Cats fans, dwindling in number but sustainable nonetheless banded together and kept the team afloat amidst a myriad of bad seasons and poor management that would have other clubs pack the moving trucks to some other location. The Panther logo thus became a genuine part of these fans and for many the news that the team would change its appearance was met with anger, sadness, and eventually acceptance in many cases. But lo-and-behold, it looks like the team has taken that to heart and gave the Leaping Cat a much-needed makeover.
Thank the stars for this new-look Leaping Cat, which will take position on players' helmets. I have criticized the original logo for years, much to the dismay of many Panthers faithful who have been around much longer than I have. The reason for my criticism of the Leaping Cat is not because it is a bad design. It's not. It is because the original logo was a design that just did not work in the grand scheme of branding or marketing. The original logo's intricacies gave it a uniqueness but also was its flaw.
Super-detailed or complex logos are not common in sports or other fields due to their difficulty in reproduction. Take a look for example at the NFL's Seattle Seahawks logo.
Pretty simplistic but at the same time memorable. It's a symbol that has been tweaked over the years but remains essentially the same. Now let me show you one of the alternate logos the Seahawks had but many did not know about from 2002-2011.
This rarely seen Seahawks logo is an absolute work of art. The detail is exquisite. Frankly I am blown away by it. But even Seahawks fans barely saw it in action. The reason for its rare use was due to its extremely difficult reproducability, as such. As much as technology forges forward with ever more ways to put your branding on something from apples to zebras, there are still setbacks. Copying and pasting something to different products and on different mediums requires more work than most imagine. Remember the Florida Panthers management has been working on this re-branding for almost three years. That is pretty common timeframe for a re-brand. As much as the Leaping Cat looked good to many on a hockey jersey or on the ice, that logo was a nightmare to reproduce, it was costly for the same reason, and reproducing it many times did not translate well on certain products.
Above is a chart of the complexity of NHL logos from simplest to most complex (it has not been updated yet to include new Panthers or Maple Leafs crests). The Florida Panthers' original Leaping Cat was by far the most complex logo in the NHL, even blowing away the Chicago Blackhawks' and LA Kings' logos. 103 different solid shapes that needed to be accounted for when reproducing the original logo and for many products that was impossible to match.
This rug tried but could not...
This hat was not able to do it either...
The Florida State Seminoles changed their logo, in part due to the tough reproducibility of their previous logo. Out of all the things the Panthers management could have done, I believe this was the fairest compromise of keeping the old with the new.
Gold on the claws often created issues and the new Leaping Cat has done away with them. The teeth in the mouth were also an issue and the Cats have simplified them to just the four fangs. The eyes have greatly been simplified, while shadowing has been used to a great extent to mask the Cat in areas where the details and lines were overly complex especially on the left side of the face.
The new secondary (to be placed on the helmet) Leaping Cat is a positive step in the evolution of the Leaping Cat. The new image resolves many reproduction issues while also keeping ties to the beloved days of the past however little success there was but an important past that is the reason the team even continues to operate in South Florida.
Next I will break down the Panthers' new shoulder logo and its big shoes to fill. Stay tuned.