It was fall 2016 and the logo looked almost perfect — almost — so Mark Lerner, an owner of the Nationals, sent it back with one suggestion.
Lerner, the club’s logo liaison, had been working with MLB since April 2015, when this All-Star Game was awarded to Washington, D.C. The Lerners were proud of bringing baseball back to the nation’s capital, and they wanted the logo to reflect that, because they knew it would serve as the game’s lasting image and will pepper the caps, jerseys and memorabilia sold on Sunday at Nationals Park as the festivities begin with the Futures Game at 4 p.m.
“I always wanted to have something special for hosting it in Nationals Park,” said Lerner, who discovered a passion for graphics when working on D.C. development projects at Lerner Enterprises. “ … We were hoping to possibly get all the monuments in the Nationals Park logo, but it didn’t really work.”
Anne Occi, MLB’s vice president of design services who is working her 28th All-Star Game, and her eight-designer team helped the Nationals adjust. The entire process took them about six months — “It’s a labor of love, I love it,” she said — and they aimed for something “a little more traditional” than 2017, which was peak Miami: a silver-accentuated neon star, from the top of which a marlin’s bill burst.
This year’s was straightforward, a red, white and blue circle cleaved in half by “ALL-STAR GAME” in a custom typeface, which looks like a condensed version of Copperplate Gothic. (Every All-Star Game gets a custom typeface.) Above the name, the stylized dome of the U.S. Capitol building jutted from two smaller semicircles of stars and stripes. There, Lerner examined the draft closer.
At the top of the dome, the nearly 20-foot-tall, 15,000-pound warrior woman, also known as the Statue of Freedom, was white. Lerner knew, as only a D.C. veteran would, that in the sun, it would appear gray.
“It was really nothing, it needed a little bit of shadow to emphasize the design,” Lerner said. Otherwise, he loved the draft. “[The logo] is not subtle. It very much tells the story of the city. You don’t have to look twice to know where the game is going to be held. I love seeing it on TV because … it pops off the screen, and we wanted something like that.”
Occi shaded the statue, and it was ready to go. The previous six months had presented a new challenge, one that has grown consistently in recent years, because it’s no longer good enough for the logo to work only on letterhead.
When the logo is just a sketch on paper, long before it’s computerized with designing software like InDesign or Dimension, Occi has to consider how the logo will appear three-dimensionally, because it must also translate to polo shirts, mowed grass, television broadcasts, video games and virtual reality headsets.
“It used to be you had to worry about the stitching process,” she said. “Now, that’s far less important than a 3-D rendering that might move through space. You have to be forward-thinking.”
Now, their work plasters signage all over the District, and for the first time, Occi said, every banner hung in the city will feature a player. She credited MLB Deputy Commissioner of Business and Media Tony Pettiti with the idea and said it was to market the stars as well as the game itself.
On the Freedom Plaza, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, MLB put up seven-foot-tall posters of each player by team. Next to them is a 3-D cutout of the logo and, in the distance, the Capitol building itself.
“Our dreams are coming true with how the stadium is coming to life,” Lerner said. “The first graphic presentation, it started to hit home, and it hasn’t stopped since.”
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