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Studio Simon Helps Brings Memphis Back To The Redbirds

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When Peter Freund bought the Memphis Redbirds in 2016, he had a vision. Because it was a Cardinals farm club, it already came equipped with one of the most iconic logos in sports. Anybody could look at the team's uniforms or merchandise and easily figure out the Cardinals were the parent club.

But there was nothing there to let people know this was, before all else, Memphis' team. That, in Freund's mind, desperately needed to change. And in January, after six months of work from conception to final product with Studio Simon, his vision was realized.

Freund, along with Studio Simon head Dan Simon and Redbirds president Craig Unger, held a press conference at AutoZone Park to pull back the covers on their handiwork. The result was a fresh set of designs that elegantly tied the club to both its present and its past.

"What I thought about was: What is most iconic about Memphis? And I immediately thought of Beale Street. I thought of music history--it's the birthplace of rock and roll, the blues," Freund said. "I thought about the neon lights and the nightlife and, frankly, just what I call the soul of the city."

With the ideas in his mind, Freund called Simon, with whom he had worked on several rebrands, including those for the Charleston RiverDogs and the Wilmington Sharks, a summer collegiate team in North Carolina.

Simon's work in sports design is both prolific and iconic. He's been in the design business for 30 years and sports design for 20, and has created art for Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, the NFL and the Kentucky Derby, among others.

Simon is the head of the company, but there are usually a handful of other people helping him behind the scenes. He also takes care to be in constant contact with his clients, making sure they're satisfied at each step of the process before the final product is ready to be unveiled.

And because he and Freund had worked together plenty of times before, this project flowed smoothly.

"One of the great things about Peter is he's somebody who before he goes and picks up the phone to call me--and I would imagine it's like this in all areas of his business--he's given a lot of thought to what he's trying to achieve. I don't have to draw anything out of him," Simon said.

"As a matter of fact, sometimes before I even ask a question he's answered every question I otherwise would have had. Peter makes my job very easy, because he's very thoughtful with regard to everything he undertakes."

In their discussions, Freund and Simon thought of a number of routes to take for Memphis' new look. They could go with barbecue, a staple of the Southern menu. Another option would have centered the designs around music and Memphis place in history as the birthplace of rock n' roll.

Ultimately, they settled on the nightlife. Particularly, the kind that brightens the area around the team's home park. The main artwork features their mascot, Rockey Redbird, peering over the top of the team's name written in red, white and yellow cursive that would look at home in the window of a jazz club.

"What it ultimately came down to was the neon signage that is on Beale Street. It's not only something that's immediately associated with itself, but it also says 'music' because a lot of those clubs on Beale Street are music clubs," Simon said. "(Freund) ultimately decided, let's make this look like it's a Redbird club or an establishment on Beale Street. What would that look like? That's what Studio Simon was charged with: creating an identity that looked like that."

Other elements of the rebrand were focused on the club's past. The musical note "M" design on the team's jerseys was modeled after the uniforms of the Memphis Blues' a Mets, Astros and Expos farm club that played in the Texas League from 1968-1973 and the International League until 1976 before financial troubles caused the club to move to Charleston, W.Va.

One of the team's alternate jerseys, a powder blue number to be worn, links the Cardinals' past with Rockey Redbird assuming the pose of St. Louis' "Dirty Bird" of the 1940s. While most minor league logos have their mascots hitting, or at least holding a bat, Rockey is smirking while he peers in for the sign from his catcher.

"We thought about it, and one thing Dan and I spoke about was that almost everything's been done at this point," Freund said. "If I look at the (Down East) Wood Ducks logo, which I happen to love, that Brandiose did, the Duck is swinging the bat. If I look at the RiverDog, he has the bat in his mouth.

"That was what I think drew us all to that Dirty Bird, was he's sort of this sly character, he's lefthanded, he looks like he knows something the batter doesn't know. And I can tell you from the social media reaction and the reaction of our local Memphis community, that is the most popular already. People love that pitching bird with the powder blue."

Of the eight rebrands done this offseason, whether they were a logo change or a full reboot, Brandiose has helmed seven. The Redbirds are the only team that came to Studio Simon this winter for its new look. That's OK with Simon, who does his work in Louisville and would rather focus on quality over quantity.

"We do less work, as far as quantity goes," he said, "so that we can deliver better quality."

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It took six months, but Freund and Simon couldn't be more pleased with what they accomplished: a rebrand that gives the Redbirds back to Memphis.

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