On Monday, Appalachian State University unveiled an official new secondary logo for the school's athletic department: a disastrous figure that looks like a Simpsons rendering of Abraham Lincoln’s drunken evil twin. Probably drawn in Microsoft Paint, it shows a grumpy, frowny old man smoking a corncob pipe and with a top hat hiding his bald yellow head. This character’s name is "Victory Yosef," but his face is the picture of defeat.
His victory, I suppose, was in usurping the former, perfectly normal "Yosef Head" secondary logo, which was introduced in 1999. (See the school's primary logo here.) Yosef, the school's mascot, is a sassy mountaineer. Smiling and looking hopefully toward the future, the old Yosef Head logo was not particularly memorable but at least he projected an air of stoic optimism. According to the school’s giddy announcement of the switch, the Appalachian State community much preferred this new "throwback logo," which was used last season for a single game as part of a promotional event. It’s based on the logo the school used in the '70s, which gives it "significant historical meaning," the school says.
What really happened, we suspect—we don't know, because the designers did not respond to calls and emails for comment—is that ASU noticed other sports organizations adopting retro branding, and decided to hop on the bandwagon. "Traditional logos with strong mascots are hot in the market right now and we are excited that Appalachian State has chosen to permanently introduce the Victory Yosef logo to its official logo library," said Lewis Hardy, president and CEO of Licensing Resource Group, Appalachian State's licensing management partner.
This statement gets at the heart of what’s so strange about Yosef’s makeover: it’s retro merely for the sake of being retro. It's an attempt to create nostalgia for something that’s not really worth any nostalgia (a common branding mistake). "Remember the good old days when sports logos all looked this shitty?" is all it really says. It’s fetishizing the old school for no discernible purpose.
ASU would probably argue otherwise. "The excitement that Victory Yosef has generated among our students, alumni and fans since we introduced it as a throwback logo last fall has been overwhelming," Appalachian State director of athletics Charlie Cobb said. "Due to its popularity, it only made sense to make Victory Yosef a permanent part of our branding. We hope that it endures as a recognizable mark of Appalachian athletics for years to come."
On SportsLogos.net, Victory Yosef has a user rating of 3.5 out of 10. In 2012, 7 of their 10 "Worst New Logos" of the year had user ratings higher than that. So what makes it so terrible?
1. It looks like it was drawn by a child, as Deadspin’s Barry Petchetsky points out. Maybe the designers intentionally made it look unprofessional as part of their "throwback" scheme, but what for? Kids in the '90s grunge scene looked gross on purpose, but as a kind of lazy anti-establishment statement—is that what this is? A contrarian screw-your-fancy-mainstream-logo move?
2. It doesn’t serve its purpose. A sports logo should symbolize a team’s pride and power. Even a secondary logo, which serves to reinforce the primary logo (and earn teams some extra cash). This humbug of a mountaineer looks like he hates mountaineering, sports, and everything else. Even the St. Catharine's Stompers' bizarre '90s logo of an angry man with purple feet hints at some kind of athleticism, even if it's limited to grape-stomping.
3. It's simply uglier than all the ugly logos we've come across so far. In 2011, Bleacher Report compiled a slideshow of the 50 worst baseball logos in history. Amazingly, it looks like our friend Victory Yosef worsted all of them, with the possible exception of a terrifying orange demon-elf that was the 1952-1953 logo of the St. Louis Browns. But at least the designers of this nightmare had the excuse of actually living in the '50s and not having Photoshop.
We get the retro vibe ASU is going for, but even the 1950s Red Sox logo of a grinning sock wearing a sock on its head is cleverer than this. What do you think: Is there a logo update worse than ASU's? Sound off in the comments below.