Two graphics examinations

I was planning on doing several state-ofs on webcomics I’m reading today. You can blame my inability to find anyplace quiet enough on campus for me, perhaps partially attributable to my growing inability to handle any disturbance to the quiet – or noise, as the case may be – for the fact that I mostly goofed off today instead. (It doesn’t help that it seems most people seem to have forgotten what used to be inextricably linked to libraries – a “quiet” rule – even at the school library where it used to hold relatively well; less than a year ago I was called out for breaking it.) I’m keenly aware of the risk of it happening again though, so I’m going to try to at least get a start on one tonight, so I have a reason to already be in the mood tomorrow.

Because I don’t want that to be my only reason to post today, two graphics packages I want to look at now. I don’t know what it is with the holder of the NFL primetime package and the need to change up the graphics for the Super Bowl. CBS didn’t make a single change to its package for Super Bowl XLI, and the closest thing to a change Fox made compared to the playoffs was to swap out the “NFL on FOX” logo for an “XLII FOX” logo whenever the banner didn’t show. I could understand it for ABC at Super Bowl XL (even they didn’t used to do this) because they were rolling out their new adaptation of the banner for all sports. (It was the only time they could do so for the NFL, and in less than a year it was made obsolete when ABC Sports was folded into the ESPN brand, but whatever.) NBC… what is the point of spiffying up your graphics?

It’s definitely not a long-term change, because it was back to normal at the Pro Bowl. I’m not necessarily criticizing the banner itself, because it’s basically the old one with slicker graphics and animations, but it’s kind of pointless.

ESPN, meanwhile, rolled out a new banner for its tennis broadcasts. You may recall that ESPN’s first attempt at adapting the banner for tennis, back at Wimbledon, didn’t go well. I suggested that ESPN take a cue from the presentation of tennis scores in other countries and simply list the number of sets won and the number of games won in the current set, rather than the awkward-looking take they went with. ESPN didn’t do that, but there’s little to complain about in the new strip. The score of the current game takes up the bulk of the strip, with the set-by-set score relegated to a side space. It’s almost the reverse of what most tennis boxes have looked like in this country, where the game score has been subordinated to the match score. In fact, the match score gives way to present updates of games on other courts, as well as break, set, and match points, deuce numbers, and for the duration of any tiebreak. Stats are presented by causing the game score to give way to the stat numbers, and the match score to give way to an indication of the stat displayed, but when indications like upcoming schedules and the time in both Melbourne and someplace in the States appear above the banner, I wonder why the same couldn’t be done for stats.

However, I have a couple of quibbles. First, the order of the players for display of the game score switches places for each game, depending on who’s serving, in order to maintain the “Server-Returner” order (a knock on the Wimbledon strip). This might be useful to differentiate each game as a separate game, but that might be kinda pointless. But more to the point, it doesn’t look much like any other strip ESPN has. In a sense, it evokes the new Monday Night Football banner, which also has more of an emphasis on squareness than ESPN’s other, parallelogram-based strips, but it doesn’t look a heck of a lot like that either, and it doesn’t have the MNF banner’s distinctive feature of containing all extraneous graphics within itself. It’s about as good as ESPN could have hoped for, though there’s still room for improvement, and certainly an improvement over the Wimbledon banner that was so awful I can’t really find a video of it anywhere.

I was going to comment on one other (national) strip at one point, but damned if I can remember what it was now. Instead, please enjoy how not to design a score graphic, from the Portland Trail Blazers.

I personally think the centralized approach, which ESPN tried for MNF the first two years, has potential, but this isn’t it. The main sin is this: each team’s score naturally invites comparison to the other team’s score. The easier you make it to tell which team has the lead, the better. That’s the thinking behind the weird “bar” TNT has introduced on its new NBA box. You do not put each team’s score on opposite ends of your box or strip!!! Especially when they are separated from the time by the team logos, which makes them look lonely as the only changing element compared with its immediate neighbors. (And it only gets worse when individual stats are displayed.) I know what the Blazers were going for – emphasizing the “opposition” – but something compact like ESPN’s “orb” would have worked for that purpose just as well. Or Versus’ graphics. Or The Score’s efforts. This strip would be greatly improved just by switching the place of the score and team abbreviation with that of the logo, but the time and especially the shot clock still take up way more space than they need. I’m not a fan of spelling out “QUARTER” either. The Blazers should have just let the professionals at Comcast SportsNet design their graphics.

(In general, when teams have their graphics designed by people not good enough to get jobs working for national outfits or nationwide regional sports networks, they tend to get painfully experimental, when they don’t blatantly and clumsily rip off other networks’ graphics as is the norm in the NFL preseason. The Yankees’ YES Network has one of the better team-designed graphics, and it’s very conventional – and the Yankees and YES are big enough to afford national-quality designers. (Also worthy of praise: the Orioles and Nationals’ network, MASN; the Red Sox and Bruins on NESN; and if the Padres designed Channel 4’s graphics they did a good job, but still couldn’t help but experiment a little.) When the Cleveland Indians got their own network in SportsTime Ohio, their first season was spent with a fairly conventional strip – then they decided to get experimental, and stuck a box in the lower-right that disappeared when the ball was in play (setting baseball graphics back to 1995) and displayed the logo of the team at bat when no one was on base.)

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