You've never heard of the Birmingham Bulls, because they don't exist. Except in the head of designer, Luke Skinner, who was so gutted to learn about the demise of the team he followed as a kid, that he created an entire brand identity for a make-believe professional basketball team for the city. In the absence of any actual sports to watch, and in the spirit of some sorely needed escapism, Go Bulls!
"Back in my home town, there was a local legend — Clive Allen. Everyone who grew up in the Black Country when I was growing up there, knows of Clive. He was a friendly giant that would travel round schools running basketball workshops for kids. I first came across him at Stourbridge's Crystal Leisure Centre, where a load of us would train with him on Wednesdays. Eventually, we progressed to his weekend camp at the NIA, as I will probably always call it.
"Now, this was just a side hustle for Clive. He was actually a professional basketball player for the British Basketball League’s Birmingham Bullets. I discovered basketball when Space Jam came out in 1996, and as kids do, I became obsessed. Living in the middle of England meant I couldn’t just get the bus to Chicago to see Jordan, Rodman and Scottie Pippen. I had Clive — and after I was given a pair of tickets to watch the Birmingham Bullets at the NIA — I had the Bullets too.
"I always watched the Bullets with my mom. I'm not sure if it was the basketball or me she came for, but she did get into it, eventually even landing seats somewhere around row 400 at Madison Square Garden to see the New York Knicks. LeBron James was playing in his rookie season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Coming back to the Midlands as an adult, I looked up the Bullets and found out that the two-time winners of the BBL's Playoffs [including at Wembley in 1996, pictured] had a rough old time of it. The team went into liquidation in 2006. Attempts were made to bring a professional franchise back to Brum in the form of the Panthers in 2007 and the Knights in 2013. But each lasted only one season, and currently, there is no professional team in the second biggest city in the UK.
"That’s sad to me, both because of my own childhood nostalgia and because no more Midlands kids can get the basketball bug and go see games with their moms like I did. So I set myself an extracurricular brief: If we could bring back the Birmingham Bullets today. what would they look like? This is my love letter – or, to put it in a slightly less catchy way, my love-hypothetical-branding-and graphic-design-project – to Clive Allen and the Bullets. Or the Bulls, as they'll be known.
"I decided early on, like the Panthers did, that it wasn’t appropriate to keep the Bullets' name due to the connotation with gun crime. But I still wanted to pay respects to the former champs, so I went with 'the Bulls'. It’s tough and immediate and references the Bullets. Also, the imagery makes sense for Birmingham. The Bullring centre has been a focal point of the city for years and that bronze bull stands guard in the entrance. Putting a bull at the centre of the design work also gave me masses of flexibility to explore lots of routes. Some more modern and minimalist, some more cartoony like the classic logos of the 90s, like the Raptors and Grizzlies. In the end, I went for a clean design, but with enough 90s angry animal to be fun and marketable – it is sports after all!
"Next up was colour and I chose two shades of a bluish-grey to pay homage to Brum’s industrial routes, the famous canals that wind through the city and the famous Selfridges building. In addition to a stylish black, I added a golden yellow accent colour, referencing the original Bullets' uniforms. For more on wordmarks, logos and uniforms you can see sketches and read even more about the process of branding the team here.
"With the identity in place, I set about applying it to marketing materials and merch, like posters, social media graphics and of course a big foam finger. For those materials I developed a main slogan “Charge Forward” inspired by the motto on Birmingham’s coat of arms: “Forward”. I also used a secondary slogan for the launch of the new team “Guess Who’s Back?” to drum up some buzz for the hypothetical first game.
"I really enjoyed making up the merch and, yes, I would like to have that foam finger for real. Even more than that, though, I love combining my interests with design and, though I suspect the Knicks won't be battering down my door any time soon, perhaps there's a community or youth team out there that would like to chat about working on something together? Maybe there's even a bunch of lads from the Midlands who'll find a Clive Allen all of their own and grow up to be the Bulls."
Get in touch with Luke or give him a follow right here.
Ingenuitive Brummies continue to digitise their offerings as lockdown grips tighter than a Broad Street bouncer. Check out these four launches that not only make smart business sense but are helping independents, artists and the NHS across the region and beyond. Lovely stuff...
Digbeth Dining Club launch their Click + Collect concept today, from a warehouse in Hockley. Log in, pick between the four street food options (there's 70 on a weekly rolling roster) and book a 30-minute, socially distanced slot, to collect. Orders go live 9am, and go offline 2pm tomorrow. Your time slot for collection will be between 2pm and 7pm on Saturday. Buddha Belly, Flying Cows and Beef on the Block kick things off.
Birmingham-based Buckt have, for years, been sending out their monthly gift box of activities centred around getting Brummies out of the house. Pivoting on the pandemic like Johan Cruyff in a tutu, today they've launched Buckt Home. Subscribers will receive five mystery activities to do indoors. Get 50% off the first box by using code ICBBUCKTHOME. Profits from the first two weeks will be donated to the Covid-19 Urgent Appeal fund.
West Midlands-based FLOC stands for Find Love Order Connect and is a new market place hooking up consumers with quality produce from local indies. Already on offer are Digbeth's Stickie Fingers, The Mockingbird's Yo Dough, Moseley's Curds & Whey and Brummie stalwart Pips Hot Sauce. We've ordered the Shropshire salumi box.
The badasses behind Brum's always brilliant Be Festival won't let a tiny global pandemic knock them. Launching today and lasting 10 days the performance art, workshops and film slobberknocker of a do is switching over to Zoom. Quite how they're going to pull it off, we don't know, but we're sure as hell going to be watching.
Birmingham Museums have launched a range of recipe boxes delivered to your home. Think the Edwardian Tearooms' smoked salmon and eggs brunch and Sarehole Mill's bakehouse pizza. From £15 —
In more grizzly news May 25 (7pm) will see the live broadcast of a post mortem using the world’s first semi-synthetic human cadaver, from a studio-mortuary in Birmingham City Centre. If that's your "thing". £9.95 —
Those naughty bears The Bournville Waffle Company are now delivering £25 dessert boxes. If Biscoff Millionaires, Kinder Bueno donuts or honeycomb and raspberry flapjacks are piquing your peckishness, head here. Order by 9am today for delivery on Saturday.
Birmingham-based Burning Barn Rum aren't one-trick sugarcane ponies. No sir. Responding to lockdown they've launched Drinks To You Door, so called because, well, you get the idea. Can confirm the Shakespeare Stratford gin is unbelievable.
"If you are afraid of failure you don't deserve to be successful"
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