Sylvain’s MLS Next Pro rebrand includes a custom typeface that dodges and dashes like an athlete
The strategy and design consultancy took the “boldest, furthest step away from the existing MLS brand” with a focus on dynamism and streetwear culture.
- Elfie Thomas
- 5 May 2022
Sylvain’s new identity for MLS Next Pro, with its animated custom typeface that moves like soccer players on the pitch, is about as far away as you can get from the current MLS brand. Major League Soccer is well known in the US but not to many in the rest of the world. So if you’re not clued up, here are some pass notes. MLS is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. Then there’s MLS Next, a high school league for early player development. The brand’s newest arm is MLS Next Pro, a league for promising young athletes (performing above high school level but below the top league). Having three distinct parts to the MLS brand with very similar names called for some slick branding to distinguish the new league which is set to elevate the future of North American Football.
MLS turned to Sylvain to mastermind the identity for the latest arm with a new logo, custom typeface and adjustments to the MLS Crest. “We knew it needed to feel special — wholly different to MLS — and uniquely desirable to be a part of”, says Sylvain. “It also needed to take a definitive step up from MLS Next, as these athletes are that much closer to competing on a professional level.”
To capture the speed and energy of the sport itself, Sylvain centred the new identity around dynamism. Aiming to create visuals that were as athletic as the players, it produced a “sturdy” wordmark for the logo “that surprised you with sudden angularity”, explains the consultancy. The wordmark was then evolved into a custom typeface in collaboration with indie type foundry Displaay which consists of glyphs that feel like they move just as a player does on the pitch. These angular, jutting forms lent themselves well to animation: “We wanted to create letterforms that felt as if they were in motion, but never out of control. Players aren’t throwing their bodies around randomly, but making intentional moves, passes and kicks.”
Streetwear credibility was a core aim identified by Sylvain for the brand's new look: “The players needed to feel proud to wear the new logo on their chests, and to rep their affiliation with the league.” A good deal of research went into studying leading examples of athletic brands like Nike, Adidas, and streetwear brands like Bape, Palace and Supreme. “They’re bold, fluid and irreverent,” says Sylvain. “We wanted to take these characteristics and build them into MLS Next Pro, with its own twist.”
Sylvain’s dynamic vision for MLS New Pro has had a ripple effect throughout the MLS brand. With the new wordmark and typeface achieving a visual style that elegantly compliments the brand’s ambitious goals to elevate the future of Major League Soccer, Sylvain’s MLS client Thibault Chevillard came up with the idea to adjust the MLS Crest to seamlessly integrate it with the new look. “This play on the MLS crest and push from Thibault truly showcases how special this league is for MLS, and North American Soccer as a whole,” says Sylvain.
Sylvain Chief design officer Michael Ian Kaye attributes a large part of the project’s success to the recent growth and evolution of the design consultancy over the past year: “This diverse team brought inspiration to the work from so many different backgrounds and experiences. I think it shows,” Michael concludes.
GallerySylvain: MLS Next Pro (Copyright © MLS Next Pro, 2022)
Sylvain: MLS Next Pro (Copyright © MLS Next Pro, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.