Nike, NFL designers explain decisions behind new Titans uniforms, helmet (2022)

Jason Wolf|The Tennessean

Nike, NFL designers explain decisions behind new Titans uniforms, helmet (1)

Nike, NFL designers explain decisions behind new Titans uniforms, helmet (2)

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The design teams at Nike and the NFL office debated giving the Titans a silver-mirrored helmet with all-red flames sprouting from the fireball logo, one of numerous uniform incarnations they kicked around.

But that wasn't included in the version unveiled to the public Wednesday night during a street party on Lower Broadway, in advance of the team’s 20th season as the Titans.

“We felt like there was something about the white helmet that didn’t quite make the new uniform design as tough and as clean and as stark as we thought it needed to be,” NFL creative director Shandon Melvin said. “And so we thought, well, let’s experiment with that and see what we could come up with.”

More: Titans uniforms unveiled during street party on Broadway

The helmet design was the final piece of the puzzle. Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk approved the change from white to a metallic navy shell, silver facemask and silver outline around the traditional fireball logo. It includes a stripe, which isinspired by the Titans’ swordand incorporates silver, beginning in the rear of the helmet and tapering toward the front. The word "Tennessee" appears on the back bumper.

How the Titans uniform change started

The process of changing the Titans’ uniforms began when team ownership reached out to the NFL in early 2014, not long after founder Bud Adams passed away the previous October, and expressed a desire to explore options.

This is how the process is always initiated. The NFL design team, led by Melvin, begins by writing a brief, which is later shared with the design team at Nike. The NFL maintains creative control of the helmet and logos. Nike focuses on all other aspects of the uniform. The groups remain involved through regular conference calls.

More: Titans new uniforms reveal: What fans and social media are saying about the unveiling

“The process at the front end is the owner and/or the club determining at what level of depth do they want a re-design,” Nike senior product director Kelly Morris said. “For the Titans, it was heavily focused on the uniform. The priorities were looking at an update to their existing look across their home, away and their alternative. They did want to look at the helmet, and also subtle details of their branding. And that typically is what kicks off the process — us getting a clear understanding of where the club wants to go, how much they want to sort of evolve their brand, evolve their uniforms, how far do they want to push? Is it an evolution or a revolution? That’s a little bit of the conversation we had with them up front.”

Nike, NFL designers explain decisions behind new Titans uniforms, helmet (3)

Nike, NFL designers explain decisions behind new Titans uniforms, helmet (4)

Titans uniform reveal: Fans gather for Broadway street party

Fans flooded Lower Broadway in Nashville on April 4, 2018, for the unveiling of the Titans' new uniforms and a Florida Georgia Line concert.

Michael Schwab, The Tennessean

Adams’ daughters have been in charge ofthe team since his death.

Susie Adams Smith initially served as the team’s controlling owner, and was replaced by Amy Adams Strunk in March 2015.

“There was a pause about halfway through the process,” Morris said. “I think Amy was sort of, she was dealing with other things in the front office and she wanted to pause on things until everything was a little more formalized, and then quite honestly we picked right back up where we were. I’d say there were five or six iterations or presentations with her, direct, to finally get it to where we wanted it.”

What decisions had to be made first

The conversation, once the brief is written, begins with color palette.

Strunk quickly decided that the team’s two-tone blue color scheme would remain, with navy as the primary home color, white for road jerseys and Columbia blue, silver and red used as accents.

“Silver became an important accent color, as an idea that we served up to her as part of that overarching Titans story,” Morris said. “We brought in elements of Greek culture that pulled in silver tones to help accentuate pieces of their brand.”

It was important to the family to keep Columbia blue, Melvin said, a nod to the franchise’s early days at the Houston Oilers.

It remains the dominant color for Color Rush and alternate jerseys.

“We batted around red quite a bit,” Morris said, “because they’re one of the clubs that has a color palette that’s broader than most. And Amy talked about the importance of red to the fans. We used it as really subtle trims, but we didn’t want to forget that it is part of their palette. It’s in their logo. It’s part of their heritage.”

Strunk was similarly happy with the franchise’s branding.

Moving away from the fireball logo was a non-starter, though the league considered a version with only red flames.

The word "Titans" remains at the center neck on the chest. It's been slightly modified, using highlights and shadows, to look bolder.The word "Tennessee," which sits within the arc, is now a bolder font.

“There’s a lot of great value, a lot of heritage and a lot in what we have right now, from the color palette perspective, from the logos, which all thought were very strong,” Melvin said. “Could we push it a little further? Could we dial in more to something that was a bit stronger? That was sort of the key thing.”

What question the designers tried to answer

The designers began diving into concept.

“What is a Titan?” Melvin said. “We kind of went back to the root of it.”

Nike art director Tom Andrich oversaw the development of the new custom font, which is meant to invokea chiseled-in-stone Greek look. It also includes a notch jutting from the top right of each number, a nod to the outline of the state of Tennessee.

It was important to Strunk to represent not just Nashville, but the entire state.

The font may also be the thinnest in the league, which meant color contrast was particularly important.

Two-tone silver shoulders, which narrow to a point on the sleeves, are intended to represent the Titans’ sword. The familiar secondary sword logo was removed from the shoulders altogether.

“We felt like, why don’t we just simplify (the sleeve) and make a bigger statement with this idea of the sword?” Melvin said. “And now that shape has become the sword, and so there’s no longer a need for the secondary logo, the full sword logo on there.

“And with the facemask and the metallic in the logo detail, we felt like now we’ve got a better connection in the top half, from the shoulder up.”

Three red stars on the inside of the rear collar are a nod to the Tennessee state flag.

The uniforms also include angled silver striping on the pant legs, which are meant to invoke a sword's sheath.

“If we’re going with a more revolutionary design for the shoulder, you can’t play that off with a traditional athletic stripe down the pant,” Melvin said. “It didn’t work together. So the concept of the sword sheath, although at a different scale, it runs at an angle on the side panel of the pant on both sides. And we like the connection there.”

Nike used its new “vapor untouchable” uniform fabric, a four-way stretch, high-tenacity weave. It’s laser-perforated for added breathability, and includes a key design detail in the front center neck called the grill, which is more durable. The fabric is 28 percent lighter than the previous uniform technology, according to Nike.

The Titans must maintain this look for a minimum of five years, per NFL rule.

The franchise,founded as the Oilers in 1960,re-brandedin 1999, the last time the team revamped its uniforms.

All involved were pleased with the results.

“I think, to me, this is one of the best ones we’ve done,” Morris said. “It’s a new look, it’s modern, it’s got a great aesthetic. And you know it’s the Titans. I think that’s the beauty of it. We’ve done some things with the uniform that we’ve not done before, ever, which is cool. We took an opportunity to prep on some new things that didn’t exist, and to us, it struck the right balance for not only the club, but for Nike and the NFL.”

Reach Jason Wolf atjwolf@tennessean.comand follow him on Twitter at@JasonWolfand on Instagram and Snapchat atTitansBeat.

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