LOS ANGELES — Graphic artist Dan Simon scored when the biggest football game of the year needed a new logo to reflect the mood of the nation after Sept. 11.
His redesign of the Super Bowl XXXVI logo featuring an eye-popping, red, white and blue outline of the continental United States has appeared on billboards and advertisements across the country during the past month.
“After Sept. 11, the game was no longer about the city it was in. It was about the fact that it was in America,” said the 40-year-old Simon. “It says we’re the United States, and this is our big game.”
The original logo of pro football’s championship game featured a gold and mauve box highlighted with strands of ivy reminiscent of the balcony grillwork found throughout New Orleans, the host city of the Feb. 3 game.
But as patriotism washed over the nation in the weeks after the attacks, National Football League officials wanted an image that would spotlight the game as an All-American event.
“It was up to us to create something American and patriotic,” said Brad Jansen, executive art director for the league. “Redesigning something this close to the game — it was a fire drill.”
Most Super Bowl logos are developed over several months and finalized about a year before each game, Jansen said.
But with advertising and memorabilia set to hit the streets less than three months after the attacks, the league’s design team needed some outside help to get the job done.
An artist who often free-lances out of his home in the Tarzana area of Los Angeles, Simon had been working as art director for the Dodgers baseball team when the NFL came calling.
The Bronx native and New York Jets fan has designed everything from bobble-head dolls depicting players to stadium murals honoring past greats such as Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays.
“I’m a die-hard Yankees fan,” he said. “But it’s hard not to get caught up in (Dodgers vice president) Tommy Lasorda’s enthusiasm.”
Simon had one week to create five logo concepts for the NFL, which meant working through lunch breaks at Dodger Stadium and staying up until 3 a.m. to flesh out his ideas.
“You want them all to be equally good,” he said. “Chances are they’ll pick the one you wouldn’t want them to pick.”
Along with the tight deadline, it was also a challenge for Simon to create an image that would appear new yet familiar at the same time.
“The concept was very clear — do something patriotic. But when you think about it, that could mean so many things,” he said. “How do you in a real simple way say something that’s patriotic and not necessarily a cliche?”
Instead of resorting to simple flags or stars, Simon found inspiration in a program from a World War II-era sporting event featuring the silhouette of the United States. He dressed the shape in a pattern resembling Old Glory and tilted it for a dynamic impact.
“The layout had an intriguing movement happening, and it incorporated the shape of the United States, which appealed to a lot of people,” Jansen said.
Other designers created novel images, including one that resembled a police or firefighter insignia. But NFL officials picked Simon’s logo because it had everything they were looking for.
The concept “says united we stand,” Jansen said. “It positions the Super Bowl as an All-American event.”
For Simon, designing the logo for the single most-watched sports event of the year was his way to join the patriotism that has swirled since the attacks.
“To be able to create something that Americans can look at and grab on to and feel some kind of pride — I felt like I’ve done a little something,” he said.