Design gives boost to Baltimore City's identity, history take flight in Ravens logo

June 06, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

When you see the Ravens take the field in their new uniforms, the NFL wants you to think of two things: Baltimore and football.

In that order.

The designs unveiled yesterday feature several local touches, from bits of the Maryland flag to a giant "B" at the center of the primary logo. The only thing missing is a "From Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the Citizens of Baltimore" stencil on each helmet.

This is a team, after all, hemmed in by competitors to the north and south, and playing in a city intimately aware of how fragile the connection is between a team and its zip code.

"We wanted something that was unique to the city," said Bruce Burke, vice president of advertising and creative director of NFL Properties.

There is precedent for this in the league, but not recently: the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos have the hometown's initials on the helmets. But an initial and flag is a first for the league.

"The goal of the logo is to capture the spirit of the Ravens as a powerful bird and, at the same time, have an identity with the city of Baltimore and state of Maryland," Ravens owner Art Modell said in a written statement.

Burke, whose office coordinated the two-month creation process for the Ravens' look, said the municipal emphasis, though not used in any recent redesigns, may grow more common as the NFL wrestles with fan reaction to franchise relocations.

Focus groups held in Baltimore also showed considerable interest in such symbolism, he said. For example, the shield with the "B" on it was vastly preferred over a version with an "R."

There was also a push from within the team to identify itself closely with the city, both as a contrast to the Orioles -- a franchise with many Washington fans and no city on its uniform -- and to appeal to local passions, according to sources involved in the effort.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke also favored the idea, Burke said.

"Jack Kent Cooke made it clear to us that this team was close to his and he wanted a mark that was unique to Baltimore," he said.

Burke said the colors came first, shortly after the name was picked. Sports leagues often employ color trend forecasts, but that wasn't necessary this time.

"With a name like the Ravens, you look at the bird and there is black with some purple. That was a no-brainer," Burke said.

Ravens are jet black with a purple and green iridescence to their feathers.

From there, the league went to work on a logo. Burke said he sought to avoid putting too much emphasis on the bird because of the widespread avian influence in the NFL. Four teams have birds on their helmets: the Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals and Eagles.

"We worked with a bird symbol, and the more we looked at it, we realized that it wasn't unique and wouldn't be enduring," he said. "Birds have been done."

A crest or shield, however, was only being used by the Raiders. And it harkens to the heraldry in Maryland's colonial history, something the NFL's research discovered was popular among potential fans here, he said.

A similarly shaped shield was also the basis of the logo selected for Baltimore during its failed expansion bid in 1993. That team would have been called the Bombers, and its shield had the silhouette of a Baltimore-made warplane and bursts of sun rays.

The Ravens' shield comes in several variations. All have the "cross bottony" stylized cross found on the 17th century seal of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore and founder of the Maryland colony.

Centuries ago, families were permitted by the pope to top their flags with the cross if they had fought in the Crusades, a series of ecclesiastic conquests of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. The cross was part of the crest of the Crosslands, Calvert's maternal relatives.

Ravens players will wear a small shield on the front pocket area of their pants that is partitioned into quarters occupied by a "B," an "R," the Calvert crosshatch, and the Crossland bottony. A shield with the letter "B" will appear on both sides of the helmets.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to design a uniform in the NFL. We wanted a look that is timeless and will endure," Burke said.

Because of the time it takes to manufacture uniforms, players will continue to wear generic white uniforms in practice and the preseason. The black and purple duds will debut with the regular-season home opener Sept. 1, Burke said.

Ravens-related merchandise will begin hitting store shelves today.

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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