Falcons hockey logo

Falcons hockey logo


The Falcons, a men’s rec-league hockey team in Calgary.


One day I got an email from a guy named Graham who was a friend of a past client. Graham said that he belonged to a rec-league hockey team called the Falcons, and they needed a new logo.

Their budget wasn’t huge because they play for fun, not money. But I love sports design and the opportunity to have a logo of mine embroidered and used on real hockey jerseys was irresistible. So Graham and I amicably negotiated a deal that worked for both of us, and then we got to work.

The research

Graham told me that the team used to be called the “Aluminum Falcons”. He sent me their old logo…

Falcons hockey old logo

…and told me that they had dropped “Aluminum” from the name.

“”I liked our old logo because it cleverly incorporated the AF into the wings, but now if we’re just the Falcons the A doesn’t make much sense.”

So right away he gave me a solid strategic foundation: he wants a falcon, and he wants it to be integrated with the letter F. This is a classic approach. Maybe the best example is the Hartford Whalers logo, one of the best logos of all time:

Hartford Whalers logo

Then Graham gave me another design parameter:

“Our new jerseys are New York Islanders colors, so orange and blue. When we get the logos embroidered you pay by color, so I would like any new logo to stick with just orange, blue and maybe white, black or a shade of grey if needed.”

It’s common for amateur and junior hockey teams to use professional jerseys as templates. These are the Islander jerseys that Graham’s team had picked:

New York Islanders jerseys

So now, in addition to “falcon” and “F”, I have orange and blue to work with.

It’s nice when a client has some idea of what they want–especially on small projects like these, where efficiency is critical. Graham left me with this last bit of art direction:

“”A lot of guys have suggested just recycling a team’s logo, but I like originality. I want our logo to be uniquely ours, just like our last one. I would like some kind of a falcon form in the logo but I’m lost for exactly how that would look, and I’m not really a fan of spelling out the name in the logo. I think it’s fair to say I like simpler better than complex logos too.”

Graham has good taste. Lucky me!

Building our falcon

I began sketching ideas for falcons integrated with the letter F. It’s always a good idea to sketch before touching the computer, because drawing by hand, whether or not you’re a master renderer, offers unmatched spontaneity and fluidity.

Falcons hockey sketches

The solution didn’t take long to identify: the falcon’s wing doubles as the upper bar of the “F”, the tail for the lower bar, while the feet and head complete the rest.

Then I moved to the computer. In Adobe Illustrator, I fleshed it out with vector graphics, playing around with the shape of the wings, feet, claws, alignments, etc.

Falcons vector explorations

(Click to enlarge)

Once I streamlined it into something presentable, I showed Graham the logo in different color combinations:

Falcons hockey logos

Graham’s feedback:

“”That looks really good! It is very simple and striking. I definitely like the outlining better than without. Keeping the colors to a minimum is good, but I think we could use both orange and blue in the logo as well as a some white outlining.”

When a client gives you a general direction and a few specific parameters but leaves room for invention, you usually get a positive result like this. It’s more difficult when a client gives you no direction (“I’ll know it when I see it!”) or, at the other extreme, gives you so much direction that you’re essentially just a tool in their hands.

Graham had a suggestion. Personally, I enjoy when clients jump in with ideas like this:

“”I think you might be able to spice it up a bit. I’ve attached the Atlanta Falcons [American professional football team] logo, I think it’s sort of similar. I’m wondering if you can use the opposite color to give some of the texture that the red gives in the Atlanta logo. You know what I mean?”

Atlanta Falcons logo

I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t thought of the Atlanta Falcons logo before I created my “falcon-F” logo. (I’m Canadian: I’m more of a hockey fan…)

It should’ve come up in the research. Always do your research! Nevertheless, I dodged a bullet–I hadn’t accidentally ripped off their logo. (Note how my falcon points left, and theirs points right……..the same concept can have more than one unique execution. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything!)

But to the point: Graham’s wanted our falcon to feature the kind of dynamic wedge-like “shadings” seen in that and many other sports logos. So, I made that addition:

Falcons hockey logo

Meanwhile, I still owed Graham another concept.

The alternate falcon

“”I’m happy with the concept and I am pretty confident that everyone would like it, however if you did have anything else sketched it may be nice to be able to present two options to the team.”

Clients almost always want to see more than one option. I suppose it has something to do with psychology. Think about it: a big part of the fun of buying anything is choice. What do we get on our pizza? What color car do you want? Where should we go for a holiday?

I created a second concept, this one a falcon not doubling as an “F”:

Falcons hockey logo concept

Click to enlarge

Graham had expressed doubt about the “cartoon character holding a hockey stick” approach (“too common”), so I gave him two sub-options: with and without a stick. (It does look cool to wrap a falcon’s claws around it!)

Due to the tight budget and the first concept being a probable lock, this second design was a bit of a throwaway…a one-dimensional, rough-draft illustration that didn’t quite rise to the level of a “logo.” But it did its job by providing choice and suggesting an alternate route. If they had liked it, I’d have been glad to push the concept into a great logo. It’s typical to give 3-4 unique concepts, but sometimes you have to work quick and dirty.

The feedback:

“”That logo’s kinda cool, but I do think I like the other one better. The consensus seems to be to go with your first idea, it’s pretty awesome.”

No surprises here.

The home stretch

Returning to the first concept, Graham asked if we could make some little “feather-cuts” to the edges of the wings, as well as:

“”I think the textures between the body and the leg need to cross, otherwise I find it accentuates the leg too much and when I look at it all I see is a giant wing and leg, LOL”

He even provided a helpful visual

Falcon leg

After making these revisions, the final step was to settle the colors:

Falcons hockey logo

Graham picked the blue falcon (far left and far right in the image above). He felt that it would work best on both the orange and blue jerseys.

By the way: a logo-design fundamental is to ensure that your logo works in one color, i.e., black on white. Here’s how the falcon holds up in a one-color format:

Falcons hockey logo

And that was that! I sent him an EPS (vector) file that he could send to his printer, and my work was done.

The Falcon takes flight

Some time later, I got my filthy paws on some great photos of the Falcons in action! As someone interested in getting into sports design, it’s thrilling to see my design on actual hockey players:

Falcons hockey logo

Killer stick-handling!

Falcons hockey logo

Come on! One-timer!

Falcons hockey logo

Plotting strategy…

Falcons hockey logo

Falcons protecting the nest!

Falcons hockey logo

Waiting for the pass!

Falcons hockey logo

Playing the puck like Marty Brodeur!

Falcons hockey logo

Breaking out of the zone, and looking sharp doing it!

Falcons hockey logo

Congratulations, you handsome devils!

The final word from Graham:

“”Just wanted to let you know that I got our jerseys back with the new logo and they look really good. The boys are really impressed with it too.”

And the icing on the cake…

“”We wore them last night for an inaugural 8-2 win!”