West Ham United are a football club in East London who can trace their routes back to the city’s shipbuilding industry, when they were founded as Thames Ironworks F.C.. The club has the nicknames; ‘the hammers’ in reference to the riveting hammers used in shipbuilding and which appear on the badge, and ‘the irons’ for equally obvious reasons.
Since a takeover in 2010 by David Sullivan and David Gold the club’s fortune has been on the rise after a few years of being a bit of a yo-yo team. Their 2015-16 season can be considered a successful one, finishing in seventh (the highest in years) and gaining entry to Europe, all be it the hard way. Last season also saw them leave their historic home (the Boleyn Ground) near Upton Park where they had played for the last 112 years. Over the summer the move is being made 2.5 miles west to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Their relocation to a larger state-of-the-art stadium has been seen negatively by some as an upheaval of a working class club from their beloved home into the heart of gentrification. The new money has brought a new stadium, new ambitions and now a new badge. Creative director of WTF Creative and life-long irons fan Neil Felton was enlisted by the club to develop the new design.
The club release a few videos about the rebadge, like this one asking for feedback (the interesting section is between 6:50 and 11:30) and the one below that launches the new design:
The old badge depict the crossed hammers which have represented the club almost since their first game and the castle facade adorning the old Boleyn Ground. Without prior knowledge, it would be hard to pick out the what the key element was, the castle was almost the star of the show. Bringing the hammers back to the forefront is exactly the right thing to do. With fans potentially getting nervous that the times are a changing, creating a design that heavily reflects the club’s history demonstrates their future is in trustworthy hands. Over the years it is interesting to note how much the hammers have changed, in the latest rendition they have been redrawn closely resembling the later versions in style. The little mark on the head of the hammers is not an error, but an acronym that when enlarged reads TIW (Thames Iron Works) in another nod towards their history. Whether many fans will noticed this subtle mark will remain to be seen, it is a nice inclusion nethertheless.
The typography is more challenging. The addition of the word London has caused a stir with some, but in the commercial and global world of Premier League football indicating you’re a London club to outsiders probably is a wise idea. Typographically, London is position very nicely between the two handles, following the circular path created by the overall shape of the hammers. Things feel a bit wrong at the top of the logo. West Ham sits large and proud right at the summit, following the same curve as the top of the badge. However, it appears to have been pinched so that all the characters as leaning slightly towards the centre with the S coming off particularly badly. This distortion doesn’t really fit with the rest of the elements which have been drawn flat. United sits below, apologetic and small, uncomfortably cramped between the two hammerheads, encroaching but not complimenting the circular layout of the hammers.
Part of the problem maybe due to the shape of the shield, which in another reference to the shipbuilding history, is based on the hull of HMS Warrior that was built in the docks. While it is good for an ironclad warship, it maybe just a bit to wide for this badge. The reason West Ham is so large is due to the shield width and wanting to fill the space neatly. While the hammers and London sit neatly at the bottom, they are quite far away from the edges once the frame gets to full width.
As well as a 3D version, the badge comes in three flavours of shaded options and a flat/monochrome version. For a redesign that has focused some much attention on history, the flat version does feel the most reflective of it. Overall the redesign is a successful one, it shows fans the club is changing but demonstrates a respect for the history. Some elements may feel more suitable than other, but the final product achieved what it set out to do and it will probably look smart as hell when embossed on to a new shirt.