You'll have to look closely to distinguish the Super Bowl LIII logo from the other recent ones. (Rick Osentoski/Associated Press)

If you thought the NFL was silly strict with its rules for player uniforms, stop and think for a moment. When was the last time you saw a colorful, cool distinctive Super Bowl logo that really popped?

The answer? It was Super Bowl XLIV. Since XLV (the game in 2011), the logo has conformed to a simple, admittedly classic design with the Lombardi Trophy and the Roman numerals of the game prominent. Gone are the bold colors, with only the Super Bowl 50 logo deviating from a silver color and Roman numerals. In place of creativity is a logo that varied only by stadium back drop and game number. And, since the Super Bowl 50 logo ditched Roman numerals and the silver color for one year, the logo has gotten even cleaner. It’s now just Roman numerals and the Lombardi Trophy.

Just look at how they’ve evolved and note how the last three, from LI to LII to LIII, are virtually indistinguishable from one another (although the NFL did walk on the wild side with a splash of red on the LI logo):

Granted, it was a good idea to clean up the design, partly because of the unwieldy abundance of Xs from those Roman numerals and partly because the NFL overcame its aversion to commercializing the Lombardi Trophy.

This new design was unveiled at Super Bowl XLV in North Texas (feel free to blame Jerry Jones). “It’s a unique mixture of icons that represents what this whole thing is all about. It’s well done,” Bill Lively, the president and CEO of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host committee, told ESPN in 2010. “We’ve approached our mission not just for 45 but for many, many [Super Bowl] games to come.”

A tweet by Jordan Heck blasting the conformity on Sunday struck a nerve, with more than 17,000 likes and a vigorous conversation. (Chris Creamer has more on the game’s graphics here.)

One Twitter user noted that the old logos were “fun and almost felt like an Olympic logo reveal.” Another noted that “the crazy part about it is I can look at the old logos and can tell you who played in that game (if I was old enough to remember it when it was played). The new ones, no chance, and they’re more recent.”

Graphic designer Todd Radom, who created the Super Bowl XXXVIII logo, pointed out that the NFL was aiming high for an iconic image, one to rival its vaunted “shield.” He tweeted: From Landor, the agency that worked with the NFL to create the system: “A sports event of this stature needed a consistent, iconic identity — a symbol that fans could immediately recognize, much like the Olympic rings.”

Radom, in a 2013 blog post, described how the logo he designed and others of that time period served “as miniature visual guides to American popular culture, colorful, often optimistic, usually brash and unabashedly aggressive and, by all means, American. The current look is shiny and monochromatic, static, and decidedly corporate.”

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