As baseball season is now in full swing, this is the perfect time to conduct some MLB fan research, so I recruited 3,792 fans to participate in a MaxDiff market research study with the goal of meaningfully ranking every MLB logo in the minds of fans. This study was conducted similarly to our popular NFL Logos Research. Each respondent viewed 23 sets of four logos. In each set, he or she chose the logo they found to be most and least appealing. At the end of data collection, I applied a fancy math procedure (it’s called Hierarchical Bayes if you are interested) to derive the rankings. This is as interesting as market research gets.
Interpreting The Results
The MaxDiff scores for each team are indexed at 100. For example, the Los Angeles Angels logo’s MaxDiff score of 140 means that logo was ranked 40% higher than the average team in this ranking exercise. It is important to note that these scores should not be interpreted as votes. See our explanation of MaxDiff if you would like more information.
Who is in this research?
Most of the participants in this research are hardcore baseball fans. When asked how closely they follow Major League Baseball on a 1 to 5 scale with “5” being “extremely closely” and “1” being “not closely at all,” 41% chose a ‘5’ and another 40% chose a ‘4’. In other words, about 4 out of 5 respondents closely follow the MLB, which means that most of the people in this research were already intimately familiar with the logos from having viewed them in a variety of contexts. In addition, most respondents had strong emotional ties to a particular team, and I found that the average respondent had a tough time divorcing the love of his team from his perceptions of the logos. However, that in no way discounts the validity of these results. I was fortunate enough to receive an amazing amount of participation from all 30 MLB teams’ fanbases, but due to the large number of Yankees, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Red Sox fans, which combined accounted for one-third of the sample, I weighted the data to reflect equal participation from all 30 fanbases. In the results, each MLB fanbase represents 3.33% of the sample, so any bias in favor of a particular team has been accounted for and corrected.
A Pro’s Opinion
To get an informed take on the logos and the rankings, I partnered with Andrew Crane, a Senior Art Director at VML, a major ad agency based in Kansas City. In his role at VML, Andrew and his colleagues get to listen to the goals and aspirations of big brands, and then translate those into a visual aesthetic. How cool is that? Andrew is a big sports guy, but he’s not a huge baseball fan (he’s a “2” on the 1 to 5 scale), so he did not have any team bias to put aside. It is important to note that Andrew’s opinions had no impact whatsoever on the rankings.
Now to the Results!
#30 Cleveland Indians
FanJuicer: That’s funny you say that because my first thought was that this looked like the Cornell “C.”
Andrew: Yes, I definitely see that and agree with you. This type of stenciled font really screams “collegiate.” It’s simple, but I don’t think this is very memorable at all, and it doesn’t immediately make me think of Cleveland. They really dug deep into their history to find a logo from their past as a replacement for Chief Wahoo. I believe it was almost 100 years ago that they had initially stopped using this form of the “C,” as their primary, but it has been used since then as one of their hat insignias. I commend them for trying to stay true to their history and tradition, because that helps to allay some of the anger some fans were going to feel about replacing Chief Wahoo. In a situation like that where you are changing the team’s traditional logo, it is important to show the fans that you aren’t out of touch with the team’s history and tradition. Still, this logo is so simple that I think it could be updated in a classy way so that it is a little more unique while still remaining true to the team’s history.
#29 Colorado Rockies
Fanjuicer: Are you familiar with with the older Rockies logo that has the mountains in it? Some of the fans in our research mentioned that they liked that logo better than this one.
Andrew: I agree. I prefer the logo with the mountains.
#28 Tampa Bay Rays
FanJuicer: One of the open-ended comments in this research mentioned that this logo looks like Lisa Frank designed it.
Andrew: (laughs) Yeah, I suppose I could see that. There’s quite a bit going on. They used a diamond shape, which is interesting, because I can see this being difficult to reproduce on a hat. I know the Rays have a different official cap insignia, but it’s nice if your official team logo can work on a hat too. In the counter of the “R,” the sunlight is interesting because I know they are supposed to be based on the the animal – “Devil Rays” – not a “ray of light,” but maybe that’s a new direction they are going. I also think the sunlight is coming from a bit of a strange spot in the “R” and the font is maybe a bit boring.
#27 San Diego Padres
Andrew: This one is relatively new, but I think it is a step up from what they’ve done in the past where they spelled out “Padres.”
FanJuicer: In our research, fans actually ranked this one pretty low at number 27.
Andrew: I think a lot of that comes down to how new it is. Personally, I think if you were to give this logo some time it could become iconic. This is a modern take on the old school cipher. A really great design choice they made here was taking out this little piece where the upper part of the “S” crosses the “D”. That little bit of negative space creates the illusion that the “S” is wrapping in and out of the “D.” That adds a lot. I also like how it creates the easter egg of the hidden “P” for Padres.
#26 Cincinnati Reds
FanJuicer: Towards the back of the pack at #26.
Andrew:: Okay then I agree with the fan rankings. Let’s start by looking at the drop shadow. I don’t think it is done well here like it is in the Orioles logo which has a black stroke around their script for the black drop shadow to mesh with. This doesn’t have that, and I think with the white on the red, you’ve already got enough separation that you don’t even need this shadow. I’m not sure why they are trying to build depth with that here. I do like the teardrop form of the “C” – I think it’s an athletic “C,” but the issue is that it is being used by some other teams like the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Twins, so it isn’t unique to the Reds. You want something that is going to be identified distinctly with your team. I don’t know if they ever use this “C” without “Reds” in it, so that helps from a brand recognition standpoint. The slab serif font for the “Reds” is an interesting choice.
FanJuicer: What do you mean by slab seriff?
Andrew: You’ll see at the ends of letters, take the bottom of the “R” for example, you’ll see how it ends in this heavy, geometric block, whereas with a regular serif it comes to more of a point. I think it would help this if you got rid of this drop shadow and pumped up the weight of this font, but honestly, if I were the designer, I would consider some other font options because it doesn’t look like a ton of thought went into these letter forms.
#25 Texas Rangers
FanJuicer: Why do you think that is?
Andrew: Because the letter has to overlap the stitching. Without the drop shadow, there might be a few awkward connections. I tend to have a preference against drop shadow effects unless they are necessary, and this is an example of that.
#24 Pittsburgh Pirates
FanJuicer: All the logos in our research were tested against a white background. This one was ranked in the bottom third at #24.
Andrew: I think this one would have fared better if you had tested it against a black background, especially the version of this logo that has the black and white stroke outlining the “P.” You really can’t go wrong with the black and yellow color scheme. A lot of sports fans know that Pittsburgh is the only city in which all three of their pro teams use the same black and yellow scheme, but it’s a good combination and branding for the city. As far as the form of this “P,” goes, it does immediately communicate “Pirates” to me, but I wonder if that’s because I’ve grown up seeing this mark knowing what it stands for. I’m not sure if I can separate the two, but for what it is worth, when I see this “P,” I do connect it to “Pirates.”
#23 Arizona Diamondbacks
#22 Minnesota Twins
FanJuicer: I think I agree with you, but I’m not sure why. What particularly about this logo makes it seem dated to you?
Andrew: I think the font is a little dated to begin with, but the drop shadow they are doing with the gray behind the script is a very 90’s technique. Also, putting the standard baseball back there is a little boring. Although, I want to add that there is an amazing amount of great detail in the stitching to make it look realistic, it’s still just a lot. I’m going to mention this a lot, but I’m not a huge fan of having an actual baseball in the logo. I want to point out that the “TC” lockup that they use on their caps is a much stronger mark. I think that logo works much better than this in representing the Twins.
#21 Miami Marlins
FanJuicer: In a lot of the open-ended feedback in this research, respondents said that there are just too many colors in this logo. There’s blue, gray, orange, yellow, and white. That’s a lot. What are your thoughts on that?
Andrew: I can see that point, but honestly I would make an exception here for any hangups I had about too many colors, because that’s what Miami is purposefully trying to communicate, and it works. With this aesthetic, they do a great job of achieving a unique position in your mind that no other team is going to occupy. It is unique to the city and the brand, and that’s important.
#20 Washington Nationals
FanJuicer: What would you say to criticisms that this logo looks too much like the Walgreens logo?
Andrew: I didn’t make that connection, but now that you mention it, I see what you are saying. It does look very similar. I think it is different enough to stand on its own though. Overall, it is a strong mark.
#19 San Francisco Giants
FanJuicer: What makes you say that?
Andrew: In my subjective opinion, I think it is probably better when you see more of the orange than the black with this color scheme. Also, when you use orange as an outline color, it gets lost against white backgrounds. At first glance at this, I kind of wanted to change the arch of the letters to be more straight and in line, but I looked at their older logo that actually did that, and I didn’t like it. So, I actually like that they’ve added this arching a bit. You know, my main criticism of this logo is the huge baseball. It doesn’t say much about San Francisco, and that’s a unique city with a lot of personality. San Francisco is such a cool, unique city, and I wish they pulled some of that into this logo.
#18 Chicago White Sox
FanJuicer: One of the criticisms this logo got in the open-ended feedback was that it looks like it is spelling “S-E-X.”
Andrew: I can see that, and one of my criticisms is that the “o” is a bit cramped, and a bit messy. I guess I could see if a lot of little kids are seeing that as an “e,” that it could cause some issues, but obviously it isn’t because they’ve kept this logo for a long time. I think the color scheme is brilliant with the black, silver, and white. I don’t think you can go wrong with that. I would put this in my top half, but more towards the back end of the top half towards the middle of the pack. I think it is a strong mark overall, but the “o” gets a bit messy.
FanJuicer: Which would you say is stronger between this logo and the Cubs logo?
Andrew: I would say The Cubs logo is stronger, but one thing I would give this logo over the Cubs logo is the color scheme. I think this black, silver, and white looks good and it is distinct in representing the White Sox. There’s a lot of teams with the red, white and blue color scheme.
#17 Oakland A’s
#16 New York Yankees
#15 Atlanta Braves
FanJuicer: I’m just now noticing that for the first time now that you are pointing that out.
Andrew:: Yeah, that throws me off a little bit. I’m not sure if it is something that the average person is going to notice at first glance, but it is a little strange. I think the tomahawk has a nice placement the way it is slotted in at the end of the script. One criticism I might point out is the level of detail on the leather straps. On more modern logos, you usually don’t see this degree of detail on a feature like this. On a lot of the older MLB logos, you’re going to see some unnecessary detail like this because it is just a sign of the time in which they were created. It’s not a terrible feature to have because it speaks to tradition, but it communicates “old school baseball.”
FanJuicer: In our research, the fans ranked the Braves logo in the middle of the pack at number 15. Does that surprise you?
Andrew: It is a little surprising just because I know how popular the Braves are in the southeast. I grew up and went to college in the southeast US, and the Braves are the only baseball team you hear about in that area. We’re only looking at logos here though, so I guess it makes sense that the Braves were ranked about average. There are definitely some stronger logos than this one. Still overall, I think this logo does a great job of representing the Braves. It classily makes a nod to the team’s rich history, while distancing itself from some of the more problematic imagery the team may have used in the past.
#14 Detroit Tigers
#13 Milwaukee Brewers
#12 Boston Red Sox
FanJuicer: Do you want to hear what the fans thought?
Andrew: I bet they liked them.
FanJuicer: You are right. They were ranked at in the top half at #12. What makes you think the fans would like these?
Andrew: You know, I’ve mentioned this a lot, but baseball is weird in that there is such a nostalgic element to things. Old school is cool in baseball, and the nostalgia is through the roof with this logo. I don’t have a ton to say about this one, because it is hard to critique. I’m not sure this logo would work without context, but it is hard to say it hasn’t worked for the Red Sox. I suppose it has nice simplicity in that it symbolizes exactly what the team is. One thing I really like about this logo is that it doesn’t fall into that trap of trying to create something ferocious or threatening. People argue about this all the time, but I don’t think it is necessary. You are not going to strike fear in the heart of your opponent with your team logo or imagery. Baseball logos are generally better at this than those in other sports. This logo exemplifies that.
#11 Houston Astros
FanJuicer: At #11, so almost in the top third.
Andrew: That’s pretty impressive because this is one of the newer logos in the league. Nostalgic elements can play a big role in design preference, especially in baseball culture, which is very rich in history and tradition. This one doesn’t have that going for it as much as some of the others, so I think the fans ranking it this high speaks to good design. This would also look good as a secondary logo.
#10 Baltimore Orioles
FanJuicer: What makes you say that?
Andrew: A lot of the other logo scripts have this hand drawn aspect to them where the weights of the scripting can be a little unbalanced, whereas this one’s weights are very balanced, cleaned up, and modernized. There’s variation in the weights, which keeps it from looking too artificial, but they keep those variations consistent across the board. I’m not usually a fan of using this dark black to almost create this shadow casting effect, but I think it works here because it blends into the black stroke around the script. The Reds logo doesn’t have this, and I think it suffers because of it. Something that calls this out as an old school logo is the detailed, anatomically correct oriole. I know I’ve talked a lot about reproducing logos, but this one is going to be difficult to reproduce in small formats because of the detail in the oriole, so I personally would prefer something a little more abstract like what the Toronto Blue Jays do in their logo. If you compare those two, the Blue Jays logo is a stronger graphic mark. Between this one and the Blue Jays logo, which was ranked higher by the fans?
FanJuicer: The Orioles logo was ranked #10. The Blue Jays logo came in at #2.
Andrew: That makes sense.
#9 Kansas City Royals
#8 New York Mets
#7 Philadelphia Phillies
FanJuicer: Yes, it was ranked #7, so it is is in the top fourth.
Andrew: I think there’s a great nostalgic effect here with this script. The bell does a great job connecting the imagery to the city of Philadelphia and its history. I thought the fans would rank this one high, but this one isn’t one of my favorites because I’ve got a few hangups. I think there is a lot going on. That diamond shape encases everything well, but I think it is a little too tight – I wish there was a little more breathing room. An old design cliche is “make it touch, or don’t make it touch.” Right now there’s a lot of visual tension with the edges of these shapes all on the verge of touching. The stars as the dots of the “i”s are nice, but when you scale this logo down, you are going to completely lose those.
#6 Seattle Mariners
FanJuicer: Really? You’ve agreed with the fans for the most part. This one was one of the higher ranked ones at #6.
Andrew: I’m a bit surprised it did so well. I know this bevelled look is a traditional way to show the compass rose, but it is so intense that I think it immediately dates the logo and screams “90’s.” I give them props for owning the blue and teal color scheme, but they could have pushed it a little bit more and used those colors a bit more aggressively here. I’ve mentioned this about a few of these logos, but I think the baseball is a bit hokey. Maybe I’m the minority opinion here because the fans apparently like it. I honestly wish they would bring back the trident!
#5 Los Angeles Angels
#4 Chicago Cubs
#3 Los Angeles Dodgers
FanJuicer: So you are saying maybe bring down the right side side of the script a few degrees?
Andrew: The script and the baseball could be brought down five degrees or so. I read once where someone said the baseball basically looks like a popup fly, but if you were to decrease the angle, it would look like it is heading out of the park. I can’t claim that I came up with that, but I agree with it. To nitpick a little bit, I wish they would have used some stitching on the baseball because it almost looks like a tennis ball without it. It’s been around for so long that I think people recognize this imagery, so that’s just nitpicking.
#2 Toronto Blue Jays
FanJuicer: What do you mean by “inline typeface.”
Andrew:: I’m referring to how you have this inner white line running through the text. You’d call that an inline typeface. I think that’s the only thing on this logo that looks a little dated like from the 80’s or 90’s. For example, this kind of typeface is used in the logo for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. You know, nostalgia is such a big deal in baseball, that I don’t necessarily think this is too big of a deal. I personally don’t like the inline typeface – I think they could have just made the “Blue Jays” text a lighter blue to differentiate it from the “Toronto” text. The last thing I want to point out on this logo is about the baseball. I personally don’t usually like it when there’s an actual baseball in the logo, but I think it is done as well here as it can be done. It’s only a small portion of the logo, it helps fill the space, and it is done in a nice way that is in line with overall abstract look of the entire logo. This is a great logo.
FanJuicer: I don’t have any graphic design expertise, but this struck me as one of the best ones in my amateur opinion, which doesn’t matter.
Andrew: Everyone’s opinion matters, especially the fans, because that’s ultimately who is going to be buying all the stuff with this logo on it. I can pick a part things all day long, but it doesn’t matter if the fans don’t like it. I sometimes say that “good design and successful design aren’t always the same thing.” However, this logo might be an example of where they are.
#1 St. Louis Cardinals
FanJuicer: Would this be your #1 logo? This was #1 in the minds of over 3,000 fans.
Andrew: Actually, it wouldn’t be my personal #1. I think the Blue Jays would be my #1. I think that one is stronger than this one. The Cardinals logo is still a pretty good one, so I would put it in my top five, but not #1.