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An inside look at “Phase Two” of the Chicago Fire’s logo design project

We now know some specifics of what the new crest will—and won’t—include

Fire players Miguel Navarro (left) and Ignacio Aliseda hug after a goal against FC Cincinnati at Soldier Field. The club’s current, unpopular “Crown” logo appears in the background.
Chicago Fire FC

The Chicago Fire’s “A Crest for All Chicago” project enters Phase Two today, and we now have very specific clues of what the club’s new logo will look like.

“We believe that we’re headed down a path to create something that will represent all Chicago,” Fire SVP of Marketing Kyle Sheldon tells Hot Time in Old Town during an in-depth look at Phase Two. “When you see it, it will say ‘This is from Chicago. This represents Chicago. And it represents the Fire. And it represents a club that has 20 plus years of history.’”

First, a quick look at what we know:

  • When it’s complete, the new crest should remind fans of the club’s original logo. It will include some, or perhaps all, of the following four elements: A Florian Cross, the letter ‘C,’ a six-pointed star, and the Chicago city flag
  • However, this will not mean a return to the original Florian Cross crest, at least not in that exact form
  • The new logo will not include the Water Tower, a lantern, the municipal device, axes, or the “crown of flames” from the current mark
  • Lead designer Matthew Wolff is far along in the design process. He’s showing Fire executives new work every week, and they’re excited about what they’re seeing
  • The Fire hope to return to red jerseys at home in 2023, but because of production deadlines, the club will continue to wear navy at home in 2022
  • We could see new logo before the 2021 season is over, perhaps even this summer. The Fire are hoping to show fans the crest—or at least elements of it—sometime before the mid-season deadline to submit it to adidas and other merchandise partners.
After 20 seasons. the original Florian Cross (left) was replaced by the unpopular “Fire Crown” in late 2019. A new crest, more closely aligned with the original logo, will take the place of the Crown in 2022.

In Phase One, fans were loud and clear

In Phase One of the project, the Fire asked fans what they wanted to see in the club’s next visual identity. Through roundtable discussions, social media, surveys, and web submissions, the Fire have heard from more than 15,000 fans. Fans chimed in from every one of the city’s 77 neighborhoods, the suburbs, all over the U.S., and even several other countries. After 20 seasons under the old “Florian Cross” logo, the club’s current mark, the “Fire Crown,” was severely panned immediately after being introduced in late 2019. This is the club’s chance to make things right with the fans, and Sheldon feels the pressure.

“We know that despite the response to the overall project being largely positive, the entirety of the project will be judged on the result, and the outcome, and the crest itself,” Sheldon says.

Four themes emerged across all the touch points with fans: The Chicago city flag, the six-pointed star from the flag, a version of the Florian Cross, and the letter C.

This isn’t surprising. Three of those elements—the star, the letter C, and the Florian Cross—all appeared in the club’s original logo. And the Fire have used Chicago flag imagery since at least 2005, when the club introduced an iconic light blue third kit with four, six-pointed stars across the chest.

This move to Phase Two means the Fire are officially setting aside several other popular ideas to focus on those core four elements. The next logo will not be a lantern. It will not feature the municipal device, or the Water Tower. It won’t have axes or flames, and it certainly won’t feature the unpopular Fire Crown.

The Fire hired Matthew Wolff, who’s made a name for himself as the best soccer designer in North America, to lead the project, along with Chicago firms rEvolution and Studio/lab. Sheldon says Wolff is a “workhorse,” showing the club updated artwork every week.

“I’m not sure he’s sleeping much,” Sheldon jokes. “This guy just lives and breathes this project. We’re lucky to have him almost exclusively focused on our project right now.”

Wolff is tasked with incorporating those four key elements into one design. The idea is to find something that again feels like the Chicago Fire, that “pulls through” the history of the club, as Sheldon likes to say. The new mark will probably remind fans of the original logo, but the club has ruled out a return to the original Florian Cross.

“There’s clearly an avid fan base that would love nothing more than to return to the original Florian Cross, but I would say that group has been a little smaller than I expected,” Sheldon says. “What’s been a little bit surprising, but welcome, is the number of people who have said ‘Hey, I understand why you might want to make an update, but we want something to attach it to. We want it to speak to the 20 plus years of history.’ If that means a modernized Florian Cross, or a change to the C, or an update to the previous mark, people have been really open to that.”

Red jerseys will probably be back, just not in 2022

There was one more thing fans asked for in Phase One: a return to red jerseys. Sheldon says after discussions with adidas, it won’t happen next season. The Fire will wear another new navy kit at home in 2022.

“The hope would be that a return to red would come in 2023,” Sheldon says.

If it seems like the Fire are far along in this project, it’s because the club has to be. There’s a midseason deadline to get the new logo to adidas and other merchandise partners, and the Fire have to hit that mark, or the Crown will have to stay another year. That’s not happening.

The players will still be wearing the Crown on kits through the end of the 2021 season, but Sheldon says the Fire have been talking to Major League Soccer to see if the club might be able to show elements of the new crest in advance to the deadline with adidas.

“Our hope is that we can find a way to reveal some version of, or the full crest in advance of that final deadline, which is a little bit to be determined as well, but we expect will be mid-season,” Sheldon says.

Creating something timeless

Once it’s done, it’s done. The Fire aren’t going to want to do this again. Whatever the outcome, this is the logo that will represent the Fire for years to come. The idea, Sheldon says, is to come up with something no one will want to change, ever.

“Matt Wolff is fond of saying, and I think it’s a good frame of mind, that this mark should outlive us all,” Sheldon says.