Artist Daniel Arsham embraces ‘magical’ vision, team history for Cavaliers’ refreshed look

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In a way, the newly unveiled redesigned look for the Cleveland Cavaliers goes back a few years to a sculpture from artist Daniel Arsham in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

If you have been in the arena in the last few seasons and walked around the lower-level concourse, you probably have seen “Moving Basketball.” It draws you to it, its multi-textured look of a basketball that appears to be tucked into a rippled piece of white fabric. It’s one of more than 100 pieces of art mounted or hung within the arena, thanks to an initiative from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and his wife Jennifer.

“That was kind of the drive to begin this conversation about me taking this role,” Arsham said about the work he has done with the Gilberts. “There were fans who liked that work, and there was good reaction from the community, and I began discussing with the team – really just making suggestions about things related to the jerseys or the court.”

Those conversations, he said, turned into “maybe there’s a large role for you here.”

Arsham became the team’s creative director in 2020. His virtual canvas in the arena is the complete look of the team: He is in charge of “anything that the players wear, anything on the court, all the graphics for social media.”

So the subtle refreshed look that the team unveiled today involves a few changes. The sword slicing through the ‘C’ is removed, and the ‘C’ is not going to be the main focal point, he said. The redrawn logo is inspired by the 1990s “sort of Mark Price-era graphic,” he said, referring to the point guard who played his first nine of 12 seasons in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have introduced a refreshed brand identity with an updated logo collection. The design of the logo collection was led by Cavaliers Creative Director and internationally renowned artist Daniel Arsham. (Photo: Courtesy Cleveland Cavaliers)

“Even though it looks familiar, it’s an entirely new graphic,” Arsham said. “We drew it from scratch. It takes cues from multiple eras. I knew from right when I started I wanted to update the logo package for the team. Part of that was when I arrived I sort of felt a lot of the graphics and color rays had been stacked on top of one another for the better part of 15 years. I think there was a hesitancy to let things go; they just kept adding stuff. There were like 30 different logos and multiple different uses.

“Our color for the team is wine and gold, but our gold (was) represented by this mustard color, and then there’s a navy thrown in there at some point. I started to simplify things last season and reduce the package down to six or seven uses. Then I started thinking, ‘How can I refine this further?’ For me it’s really about creating a cohesive brand language, something that people can latch on to.”

To that point, the color palette has been changed. The gold is a true gold – not reflective, and it ends being more like beige gold, he said. On the jerseys the color has silicone over it, yielding a reflective quality.

“It’s this kind of magical thing,” Arsham said. The graphic is entirely new, but when fans see it “the logo is going to feel like something they may have seen before.” Actually, the quintet of graphics forms the new “family” of logos. One noticeable difference: The swashbuckling effect is gone; the graphics rely mostly on typography.

Working on projects in his role with the team is not simply an artistic endeavor for Arsham. A third-generation Clevelander, the New York-based artist grew up in Cleveland and Miami and maintains a strong affinity to the Cavs.

“Mark Price was certainly someone who was a part of the era when I was going to games at the old arena well before the renovation. There’s other quirky players like World B. Free, who I think are kind of part of a special moment, ”said Arsham, who counts Kevin Love, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland among his friends dele. Arsham gets to five or six games in Cleveland each year, and sees the Cavs every time they play in New York. Last year, he attended eight games; the Cavs won seven.

When he isn’t watching he is designing. Arsham and his design team crafted over 50 variations for the Cavs’ look, including some “wildly new designs.” While the final word might rest with the artist, the Cavaliers and Nike stayed involved through every step of the process. A design can look cool up close on paper, for instance, but the same typography or logos on a jersey might not work as well on camera.

“Everyone needed to know what was going to be workable on court,” Arsham said.

“I looked at a lot of historical jerseys,” Arsham said. “I own a lot of them myself from different eras, and not only looking at the design of the jerseys themselves but how the graphics sit on them. I think when people see our jerseys coming out next season, ours are going to be super unique within the league. They’re almost like a ’70s jersey in that they are very simple graphics. There are not a lot of embellishments all over the place, there’s no trim on the edge of the sleeve. It’s a very reductive palette. And I think (it’s) going to be powerful in that way. The players are going to love them, I am sure of that.”

The Cavaliers’ redesign comes on the heels of the Guardians also reworking their logo for jerseys and typography for the scoreboard. That change was fueled by the team debuting its new name this season.

For Arsham, the project remains special because of the city as well as the team he cheers for.

“It’s been a magical experience for me to understand the team, both from kind of a front-office side and in thinking how everything that we do off court also influences who we are as a team. The Cavs are almost like the way a high school team is in other places, where it really kind of represents everyone’s view of the city, you know? It kind of represents us toward the world. I think sports is such a big part of culture in Cleveland. It’s been kind of a magical thing to me on both sides of it.”

Related coverage

Cleveland Guardians adopt refreshed design look to go with new name

Cavaliers appoint globally respected artist Daniel Arsham as creative director, hoping to create larger cultural footprint

I am on cleveland.com‘s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. Twitter: @bona30.

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