It seems that I’ve made enough snarky comments about the Phillies’ recent World Series championship in posts completely unrelated to baseball that we’ve started showing up when people search terms like “Phillies typeface” or “Phillies logo font” on the Internet. Inevitably, anyone clicking through to this site after one of these searches is disappointed because they’re probably looking to download Phillies fonts, which are custom designed and not available to the public.
To confirm this, I called the Phillies and spoke with Print/Creative Services Director Tina Urban. (I asked to speak with Shane Victorino, but he was busy.) Ms. Urban told me that the Phillies typeface (as seen on my son Joel’s T-shirt above) was designed by Major League Baseball and is called Scriptwurst, which to me sounds like a magical combination of type and sausage.
This got me to thinking about the relationship between typography and my favorite baseball team. This summer, I stopped at a T-shirt shop on the Ocean City, New Jersey, boardwalk to get Joel a personalized Phillies T-shirt with the name and number of his choice on the back. He chose “Joel” because that’s his name and “10″ for reasons I have yet to determine. (I know what you’re thinking, but this was before the Phils traded for fourth outfielder Ben Francisco.)
When we placed the order, I envisioned a shirt with the typeface the Phillies use on the back of their jerseys, which is different from the Scriptwurst logo that appears on the front of the jersey. The typeface on the back of the jerseys is a sans serif that is thick and slightly rounded (which describes a fair portion of Phillies fans, as well). It’s easy to read and a little more fun than most of the typefaces you find on professional sports paraphernalia.
Even President Obama likes this typeface enough to have gotten himself a personalized Phillies jersey. (Now people searching the Internet for serious political news are going to find themselves here. Sorry, folks.)
What we got instead was what you see here. The color of the shirt is the appropriate red and the composition is loosely correct. But on the other hand, the baseline on the number 10 is uneven because of what my grad school professors would call a “poor level of craft,” and technically, the name should be on a slight arc instead of straight across.
Most importantly, though, the typeface on Joel’s shirt has nothing to do with what the Phillies use on their official gear.
Now, I imagine that if we were at a Phillies game in a stadium that routinely hosts roughly 45,000 fans, I might be the only one concerned about the typography on the back of a T-shirt (with the notable exception of Tina Urban). But to me, the typeface used on the back of the shirt has nearly as much to do with the identity of the team as the logo itself. Ms. Urban agrees, and says she has to wear blinders when she goes to the shore because she can’t stand to look at the indignities inflicted by boardwalk T-shirt vendors on the Phillies’ carefully crafted identity.
In retrospect, I should have ordered something online from the Phillies website to get the official custom typeface rather than having some guy on the boardwalk iron type onto a shirt. To me, this shows that visual identity is about more than just a logo; it’s a system of design choices related to color, type, and composition, and all of them need to be consistent.
Note: Out of curiosity, I Googled “Phillies typeface” and came across an excellent post called “Baseball Season” on the website GraphicHug. Little did author Chris Ro know when this article was posted on October 15, 2008, that the Phillies were on their way to winning the World Series—a victory for the Phightin’ Phils and sophisticated type!