Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest sports event of the year. It’s practically a national holiday; time to compare TV screen sizes with your friends and perfect your loaded nachos recipe. In honor of 50 years of Super Bowl glory, here’s our list of the top 10 Super Bowl logos of all time.
10. Super Bowl V (1971): Baltimore Colts defeat Dallas Cowboys
One of the best vintage Super Bowl logos deserves a slot in the top 10. The unique typeface evokes the neon billboards and penny arcades of the early 70s, and keeps it simple but not boring. The mark–while emblematic of its time–has a classic cool flavor. Just check out that “E” and “W.”
9. Super Bowl XLIV (2010): New Orleans Saints defeat Indianapolis Colts
Super Bowl logos often use a patriotic red, white and blue palette. Going with orange instead was a bold choice. The field goal centerpiece is the real draw of this logo, though. It’s an excellent use of the negative space and relative symmetry of the Roman numeral, and one of the few Super Bowl logos to use a football.
8. Super Bowl L (2016): TBD
Super Bowl XLV in 2011 marked a huge (dare I say game-changing?) shift in logo design. Switching from individually designed marks to recurring imagery featuring the Vince Lombardi trophy was a controversial move, to say the least.
Critics complain that they’re boring and sterile. So I feel a little guilty admitting I like them. I like the prominent trophy and the level of detail in the design. (Admittedly, you need detail to make out minor differences between stadium exteriors.) The cityscape in the “50” this year is a nice touch.
7. Super Bowl XXVII (1993): Dallas Cowboys defeat Buffalo Bills
The Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California has hosted the Super Bowl several times. This elegant logo does the best job of honoring both the location and the event. The bright colors and graphic style draw on aesthetic influence from decades prior, calling to mind the Grateful Dead’s infamous rose skull, or even traditional sailor tattoos.
The “Super Bowl” typography is a little thin, given all the other elements competing for my attention, and I would have appreciated a little more dimension, but those are minor quibbles.
6. Super Bowl XIII (1979): Pittsburgh Steelers defeat Dallas Cowboys
The concept for the Super Bowl 1979 logo calls to mind the golden age of vintage video games. The dots look like a cross between Space Invaders (released 1978) and Pac Man (1980). The even split between colors creates two “teams” visually for an excellent abstract depiction of the game.
The numeral could stand to be a touch smaller, but the negative space helps keep it from overwhelming the “Super Bowl” text above it.
5. Super Bowl XL (2006): Pittsburgh Steelers defeat Seattle Seahawks
A Super Bowl in Detroit deserves a logo with some horsepower to it. Patriotic colors and slab serif burst with all-American strength. The oversized “XL” might be on the cheesy end of visual puns, but why use Roman numerals if you can’t have fun with them?
With the chrome details, it’s easy to imagine this logo decorating the hood of a large pickup, a perfect tribute to the hosting city.
4. Super Bowl XXXI (1997): Green Bay Packers defeat New England Patriots
Super Bowl logos have historically been a great way to pay homage to the hosting city. This is one of the best. One glance at this logo and you can’t help but know where the game took place. New Orlean’s Mardi Gras colors are fun and festive, and I love how the Super Bowl title takes the place of a jester face. After all, this is a game, right?
3. Super Bowl XXVIII (1994): Dallas Cowboys defeat Buffalo Bills
Another excellent nod to the city that hosted the big game. A plump Georgia peach symbolizes both the state and the stadium. The sans serif typography feels more sporty and the sizes of the text and numerals are a little more balanced here than in the Louisiana logo, edging this one ahead.
2. Super Bowl XXXIV (2000): St. Louis Rams defeat Tennessee Titans
The Super Bowl kicked off the new millennium with one of its best logos ever. Rather than tie in to a specific place, this logo’s NFL shield design and red, white, and blue palette reminds us that the USA stands united in football love.
The minimal palette and cool typography keep it clean and iconic, and the shading adds an appealing sense of dimension.
1. Super Bowl XXVI (1992): Washington Redskins defeat Buffalo Bills
The 1992 Super Bowl logo takes home the trophy. From color scheme to imagery, this logo screams America and football. Let’s break it down: As I mentioned earlier, featuring a football is a surprisingly rare choice in Super Bowl logos. This one takes it a step further by incorporating a bird’s-eye view of a stadium.
The red arrows below the football could represent motion or the Lombardi trophy, adding more layers of meaning. Finally, the designer did an excellent job of balancing text and numerals and choosing strong typography for a powerful sport.