A couple months after the Chicago Fire unveiled the “crown” crest, when criticism of the design was still flowing fast and hard, owner Joe Mansueto issued an olive branch: “I told our fans if the existing badge wasn’t working for them that we’d fix it.”
Turns out, he’s a man of his word.
“That’s what we are going to do,” Mansueto announced today in a statement. “Fans have made their voices heard over the past year and now we’ll undergo a fan-focused process to create an identity that will stand for all Chicago for decades to come.”
The Fire announced today the club is dropping the crown after the 2021 season is over, and you have a chance to get involved in the new design, with roundtables, surveys, and interviews planned in the coming months.
The club will remain “Chicago Fire Football Club,” but basically everything else is on the table, including a return to red jerseys. The old “Florian Cross” logo isn’t coming back, the club said, but the club is open to the idea of elements of that crest appearing in the new one. A version of the popular “lantern” design from the Stand For Chicago patch series is also on the table.
The club is bringing in a heavy hitter to help, too. Matthew Wolff, who has designed a large number of extremely popular crests and jerseys, will help the Fire design the new badge. If you don’t know Wolff’s name, you certainly know his work: he’s responsible for visual identities for clubs including LAFC, NYCFC, Oakland Roots SC, Green Bay Voyageurs FC, Union Omaha, FC Tulsa, Charleston Battery, Louisville City FC and Racing Louisville FC.
Wolff also worked at Nike, where he designed hugely popular kits for Nigeria (yes, that one), France and Paris Saint-Germain, among others.
The Fire were blasted by fans for using non-Chicago designers on the crown crest. This time around, the club enlisted the help of two local firms—brand design and consulting firm Studio/lab, and sports marketing agency rEvolution. Chicago Fire FC’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kyle Sheldon, will oversee the entire project. Sheldon is committed to reading every idea fans send his way.
“While we’ve assembled a talented group of brand and identity experts who love Chicago, it will be the fans’ voices that guide our work,” Sheldon said in a statement. “This project will be open and transparent and our sole focus is to create a crest for which all Chicago can be proud. We look forward to hearing from all who want to add their voice.”
Stand for Chicago Council
The Fire also announced the creation of the “Stand for Chicago Council,” a group tasked with making sure the project “gives voice to the diverse people of Chicago.” The council is chaired by author, poet and activist Kevin Coval, who is the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, and founder of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. He has authored more than a dozen books including “A People’s History of Chicago.”
There are three other members joining, too: Former Fire defender Drew Connor of Cary, Ill., Chicago Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden, and Chicago street artist Sentrock. More members will be announced in the coming weeks.
If you want to get involved, visit chicagofirefc.com/crest.
More questions, answered
The club put out a Q&A document to answer remaining questions. We’ve posted it in its entirety below:
Q: Why design a new crest now?
A: Our Owner and Chairman, Joe Mansueto, told fans that if the current badge wasn’t working for them, that we’d fix it. We felt it was important to evaluate the current identity and fan response over the course of an entire season, and your feedback has been consistent. We’ve been listening and are now making this change so that you can help us write our next chapter, from the beginning, to mark our 25th season in MLS together in 2022.
Q: Will any part of the Club’s current identity remain?
A: We will continue to be the Chicago Fire Football Club. The current Fire Crown badge will be worn for the entirety of the 2021 season on-field as this project is underway – but it will be replaced completely when the new identity is revealed later this year.
Q: Is a return to the original Chicago Fire badge an option?
A: While we know there are many who love the Club’s original Florian Cross badge, this project is about coming together to create a new identity for the future of this Club – and the outcome will not be an outright return to the original identity. Everything from our Club’s history is on the table as a point of inspiration. We welcome ideas and feedback on how elements from the Club’s history and the original Florian Cross badge could be incorporated within the new identity.
Q: Why not just use a version of the lantern you created for the patch series last year?
A: We, too, love the 1871 Lantern design that was a part of our ‘Stand For Chicago’ patch series and is now available on a long-sleeve shirt. While feedback has been positive on that design, we felt fully engaging fans from the start of the process was appropriate.
Q: What about the Club’s colors?
A: The Club’s official colors – both for the identity and the team’s kits – are up for consideration, including a return to red. We encourage you to submit your feedback on color preferences via our online portal and in upcoming roundtables and surveys.
Q: How can we as fans trust that our voices will be heard?
A: Our commitment is that any Chicagoan who wants to share their opinion, will have the opportunity to do so - and a member of our project team will read every word submitted over the course of the project. Along with the dedicated portal for feedback included here, there will be additional opportunities to participate in the weeks and months to come.
Q: How can I get involved?
A: Right now, you can immediately share your views on what the Club means to you, what Chicago means to you and what you want to see in the new identity via our online portal. Your one-stop shop throughout the process is chicagofirefc.com/crest.
Q: I’d like to get even more involved by joining a roundtable discussion – when can I sign up?
A: Season Ticket Holders and registered supporters will have the first opportunity to express interest in participating in a roundtable discussion in the coming weeks. We’ll provide similar opportunities for additional fans at a later date. We recommend signing up for our new crest email list to stay on top of all future opportunities. We also plan to make the crest project a standing agenda item for monthly Supporters Council meetings where we’ll share progress reports and ask for feedback.
Q: I’ve designed a Chicago Fire identity of my own, can I share it with you?
A: Absolutely! We don’t anticipate using fan-made concepts or designs in the project, but you can submit your files here and we’ll gladly take a look.
Q: Who will design the Club’s new identity?
A: We’ve tapped football crest specialist Matthew Wolff and Chicago-based branding firm Studio/lab to assist with designing the crest and associated marks. Wolff brings a wealth of crest design experience to the project having done branding work with teams at every level of the American soccer pyramid including LAFC, NYCFC, Oakland Roots SC, Green Bay Voyageurs FC, Union Omaha, FC Tulsa, Charleston Battery and Racing Louisville FC. Studio/lab has deep roots in Chicago and has executed identity and branding work for the likes of Navy Pier, University of Chicago, Chicago Loop Alliance, The Wrigley Building, Motorola and Gamut, among others.
Q: Where are the designers and design firms based?
A: Studio/lab’s Chicago office was founded in 1995, and is located downtown. Though he is New York based, Matthew Wolff grew up in the Midwest and has strong family ties to Chicago - and he’ll spend time in Chicago over the course of the project. Sports marketing agency rEvolution - who will support our fan engagement efforts and future campaigns - is headquartered in the West Loop, and was founded in Chicago in 2001. The teams will also be assisted by the Stand for Chicago Council – a committee made up of prominent Chicagoans who love the city and bring unique and diverse experiences and perspectives to the project.
Q: How will the members of the Stand for Chicago Council be chosen?
A: To date, the first four members of the advisory council have been identified. As we continue to add members, our primary goal is having a diverse set of voices and personalities to represent the city and further connect the Club to Chicago culture. Importantly, this group will be supplemental to existing members of the Fire community - including Season Ticket Holders and supporters - who will be provided multiple opportunities to share input throughout the project.
Q: Will there be updates after fan feedback is provided and before we unveil the new crest?
A: Yes, we plan to provide regular updates throughout the duration of the project and encourage fans to sign up for our new crest email list above as well as bookmark chicagofirefc.com/crest, which will serve as the place we collate all updates as the project continues.
Q: Will fans be able to vote on the final design?
A: While we don’t anticipate having crest “finalists,” your collective input and ideas will be used to create the new identity as we solicit ongoing feedback from supporters, fans, season ticket holders, players, partners and staff.
Q: When will the new identity be unveiled?
A: Exact dates will be determined as the project progresses, but we currently expect to unveil the full identity following the completion of the 2021 season.
Q: When will the new identity be worn on-field?
A: The new crest will be on the team’s uniforms in 2022, the Club’s 25th season in Major League Soccer. It will also be worn by all Fire Juniors and Fire Academy players at that time.
Due to the length of production timelines, and because the new identity will not be finalized until the later this year, the first team - and all associated youth teams - will take the field for the 2021 season in the current Fire Crown badge.
Q: I bought a new jersey this year – will I have the option to exchange it for something with the new crest?
A: Hang on to your jersey and wear it in support of the 2021 team as they attempt to bring an MLS Cup back to Chicago. In the coming months, we’ll explore a series of options for fans who purchased jerseys bearing the Fire Crown badge in 2020 and will announce any opportunities after launching the new identity later in 2021.
Q: So, when can I grab some new gear with the new identity then?
A: We expect to launch a series of merchandise collections after the full visual identity is finalized, likely after the 2021 season is complete.