My 4 favorite things about the 2018 Kentucky Derby logo

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The 144th “Run For The Roses” (AKA) the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday! (May 5th) For those who don’t know, the Derby (and the weeks leading up to it) are equivalent to a national holiday season where I live, here in “Kentuckiana” — the blended area that consists of a little bit of southern Indiana and a little bit of Louisville, Kentucky, right on the banks of the Ohio river. Because of this and the fact that my husband and I are located just 20 minutes from the coveted and famous Churchill Downs racetrack, you won’t find us anywhere else on the first Saturday of May. It’s not just a horse race — it’s a party, a celebration — and truly, the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Of course, I naturally have an interest in horse racing because I own quarter horses and barrel race (although they are entirely different breeds, sports and industries) and I understand and respect the caliber of these special athletes and all of the time, money and care that is invested by many different people to get them to this level of the most elite racing in the world. But, I’m also a big fan nowadays because I have a younger brother who works for a very successful training operation that usually has at least one horse in the Derby the last few years. Although I don’t personally know the horse or its connections of course, regardless of its odds, it absolutely and automatically becomes my betting pick and who I’m going to cheer for — in the hopes that it having a great race will mean more success for my brother, his boss and their large team across the country.

And, in addition to my equine interests and enthusiasm, I’m obviously a designer. Blending graphic design, branding and horses can be fun when it’s done well and a perfect example of that is the Kentucky Derby 144 logo — the official graphic symbol and icon of the world-renown event for 2018. Today, I thought that it would be fun to take a peek at the design and dissect a few things that I really like about it.       

The new logo was actually revealed to the public almost a year ago, last June. I’ve been seeing it pop up on merchandise and places around town the last few weeks, but didn’t really study it up close until now. According to “SME, a New York-based marketing agency, has developed the official Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks logos since 2007.”

Without further ado, below is my breakdown of 4 elements that I like about the design.

“And, they’re off!”  

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1. The logo design uses an iconic and historical reference, with a modern twist.

The undeniable “Twin Spires” of Churchill Downs appear as the primary aspect of the logo — what I see first and am really drawn to. You haven’t been to the famous track and not see these two beauties ascending from the top of the “palace” as I call it. Integrating these as the main graphic element makes the logo unique specifically and only to the track and people should immediately recognize them when they first see it.

2. The color palette is professional and gender-neutral.

Because literally thousands upon thousands of people attend the Derby and this logo is seen by the eyes of thousands more (on TV, merchandise, in print, on the web, etc.) it’s crucial that it’s not too masculine or too feminine. The look and feel should be sleek and professional — and appeal to people in general. Anyone in the crowd. The use of a tan/grey and dark red combination achieves just that — gender neutrality.

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3. It incorporates the use of a number as part of the shape and design.

This year marks the 144th year for the Derby, so I really love how the design incorporates the number as part of the design, in support of the Twin Spires elements. It’s clever, creative and not obvious in an obnoxious way.

4. It’s SIMPLE!

Most importantly, as every great logo should be and I’ve said before, it’s simple! It’s clean, minimal, iconic and straightforward. It can be easily and quickly recognized as the official Kentucky Derby logo and no one would question it. Because of its simplicity and basic shapes/design, it can also be translated across different platforms and via various mediums. It can be viewed on a large screen, printed in the newspaper and in the track programs, screen-printed on t-shirts and embroidered on other merch. When a logo is simple like this (but still professional) it can be successfully interpreted in multiple ways.  

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