Flying a Bigger Flag Over Tampa Bay

When I was in high school and considering some kind of art-related career path, my uncle Bob took me to meet the late Lamar Sparkman – a graphic artist for the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune for nearly three decades. I remember sitting with him and sharing our artwork with one another. He had drawn portraits of some of the greatest sports stars of all time, but his most famous work of art may have been the polarizing “Bucco Bruce” logo for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – the winking pirate that many love to hate… or hate to love. I walked away from my meeting with Lamar with a new appreciation for graphic design… and an autographed Bucco Bruce logo.

Before and After - Buccaneers

About a year later, in 1996, Malcom Glazer bought the Bucs, and the first order of business was to rebrand the team. While I still hold a special place in my heart for Bucco Bruce, that creamsicle-orange swashbuckler had represented a less-than-mediocre state of the Buccaneers for too long. He represented a team that didn’t earn its first win until the 13th week of their second season. He represented a team that had gotten used to being the running joke of the NFL. It was time for a change.

I remember watching the news that night, anxiously awaiting the reveal of the team’s new look – a menacing red pirate flag. The city immediately fell in love with it. And I did too. The new logo represented a new beginning in Tampa Bay, which carried the team into a new stadium, through a streak of winning seasons, and ultimately a Super Bowl victory in 2002.

Unfortunately, recent years have not been so kind to Tampa Bay fans. Ticket sales have dwindled, our last two coaches have been a bust, and Tampa’s notoriously fairweather fan-base has crawled back into their shells.

This past Monday, the Buccaneers gave little advance notice that they’d be revealing a new logo this Thursday, and I found myself in the same spot – parked in front of the TV, anxiously awaiting the new look for my team. (There are few things that get a football-loving art director more excited than an NFL logo redesign – especially when it’s your home team.)

Around 9 p.m., Warren Sapp and Gerald McCoy revealed a new logo and helmet for the Buccaneers – an enhanced version of the original battle flag, with a more intimidating skull and, most noticeably, a much larger size on the actual team helmets.


I won’t say I love it, but I definitely like it more than I dislike it.

First, the things I like about it: The size on the helmet. This seems to be the thing that most are reacting negatively to, but I think it’s great. The Bucs logo has always had quite a bit more detail than other, simpler NFL logo designs (e.g. Green Bay, Chicago) and that detail gets lost when reduced to such a small size on a helmet. I like how the flag feels more part of the overall helmet design… much like the wings on the Philadelphia Eagles helmet. I also like the redesigned skull. We love our pirates in Tampa Bay, so the meaner the better.

Now the things I don’t like: While I love the meaner skull, it feels more flat and balanced than the original logo, which had some nice motion to it. The original skull design felt like it was part of the flag, and moving with it. The new skull almost feels like a separate logo that has been stamped on to the red flag, rather than feeling like a fluid unit. I also feel like they made the skull too large on the flag. There’s some weird tension going on in the lower right and above the skull that I don’t care for.

While I think new chrome facemask on the helmet looks awesome… it’s pretty sunny in Tampa. Sunlight reflects on chrome. And that’s not good when it reflects into a receiver’s eyes in the end zone. Just sayin’.

Hopefully this combination of an enhanced logo and a new veteran coach will reenergize Tampa Bay with a team that this city can proudly stand behind again. However, I’m still going to look forward to the annual throwback games when the Bucs rush on to the field in a streak of that wonderfully horrible creamsicle orange.

Go Bucs!


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