Pelicans project a personal one for logo designer

January 24, 2013

As a native of McComb, Mississippi, Rodney Richardson grew up roughly 110 miles from the city of New Orleans, close enough to make regular visits.

“When I was a kid, going to a bigger city meant going to New Orleans,” Richardson fondly remembered. “I went to a lot of big events there. My preconceptions of what all major cities were like were based on New Orleans.”

Richardson pauses, before laughing.

“As I got older,” he says wryly, “I was deeply disappointed when I realized that all cities were not like New Orleans. Other cities seemed quite boring.”

Given his Crescent City connection and background, when Richardson and his RARE Design company were chosen by the NBA to create a new identity for the league’s New Orleans franchise, he was uniquely qualified.

Based in Hattiesburg (also about 110 miles from the Big Easy), RARE Design has developed new logos and marks for several major professional sports teams in the past 15 years, including the ultra-popular current looks of the Memphis Grizzlies and the NFL’s Houston Texans. Richardson’s Gulf Coast roots made him particularly passionate about his latest project, the New Orleans Pelicans, which he began working on in the summer of 2012.

“To be part of this from the beginning and to be able to dig in and develop an identity that is uniquely rooted in this region, there couldn’t be another identity that is more exciting for us,” Richardson said of RARE. “The league felt like our history, but also living in the same region (as the team), gives us a unique perspective.”

Richardson’s in-depth understanding of the intricacies of the city are evident when he discusses the perceptions – and common misconceptions – that Americans who live in other parts of the country sometimes have about New Orleans.

“Anyone who is from this region understands that there are many faces and characteristics and personalities of New Orleans,” he said. “What people perceive about the city and think they know on a larger scale, there are many grains of truth to it, but it’s only a caricature. There are much deeper roots to the city than what people hear or see (in media coverage). That’s what the club wanted to tap in to.”

Although there was some initial confusion nationally about how the pelican actually relates to New Orleans or Louisiana, the list of tie-ins is lengthy. In the most obvious example, Louisiana has been known as the Pelican State for many years. The state flag includes a pelican nursing three of its offspring. The flag itself originated from a design that is believed to have been created in 1800.

“There are few symbols that have been used longer to represent this city, state and region than the pelican,” Richardson explained. “It’s a very deeply-rooted symbol. The fleur de lis and pelican are so deeply ingrained in this area that it’s difficult to even nail down exactly when it happened.”

In modern terms, Richardson views the pelican as embodying many of the characteristics that have been associated with the Gulf Coast and Louisiana. The region rebounded and rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as the 2010 oil spoil and several other hurricanes that did severe damage in New Orleans-area communities.

“The pelican is a symbol of renewal, hope and moving forward,” Richardson described. “There are few cities that have had to embrace that spirit as frequently as New Orleans has. The strength of that was something that we wanted to convey in the team’s logos.”