Silhouette courts are ruining everything

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
1:20
PM ET
College basketball courts have gotten a little crazy lately. This is not a new trend, as programs have been looking for ways to boost their brand recognition and mindshare (or something) with increasingly outsized midcourt logos for at least a decade, if not longer.

Matthew Knight Arena
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsThe silhouette court of Oregon's Matthew Knight Arena started a trend that has already outlived its welcome.
But things have taken an especially gaudy turn since 2010, when Oregon unveiled the "Tall Firs" design at its glittery new Matthew Knight Arena. Since then, not unlike the wacky uniform trend that also began in Eugene, Ore., a steady succession of college programs have lined up to redesign their floors with buzzy face value in mind.

It's officially time to stop.

That was the reaction yours truly experienced when he first saw UTEP's new court design, which the Miners unveiled via Twitter this week:



UTEP's big reveal was preceded on Tuesday by James Madison, which prioritized the exact same design element huge, symmetrical logo silhouettes to an even more ridiculous degree.

JMU's court, like many that have come before it, is just sort of harmlessly silly; it doesn't warrant analysis more incisive than an eye roll. So what makes UTEP so different? Why does it feel more egregious?

The reason is straightforward: Outside of those gigantic, unnecessary pick-axe stencils, the rest of the court looks really great. The simple 3-point areas and lack of paint is a classic touch. The mid-court logo is just the right size. The orange border on the baselines and sidelines provides a tidy contrast, and the coup de grace — the Futura typeface — would make Wes Anderson proud. UTEP commissioned an absolutely beautiful, classic update to its court … and then decided to slap two massive silhouettes on top of it, just because.

This is why the silhouettes have to go — not because they'e causing more bad court designs in general (though that is true), but because they're actively ruining otherwise perfectly good layouts. Minimalism has never been more a part of the mainstream American visual language; since 2007, Apple has grown into the largest company in the world by embracing clean, minimalist, revolutionary design. The best web developers have long since agreed that the good design clears the unnecessary and focuses our eyeballs on the most important aspects of the presentation. Ikea is … well, Ikea. I'm not saying athletics directors need to be jamming Philip Glass when they're looking at court mockups, and I recognize minimalism has its limits.

All I'm asking is this is for a moratorium on silhouettes. Enough, guys. Find a new gimmick. At this point, college basketball courts are basically MySpace pages — thanks for stopping by! whoa! follow our tour dates! — and silhouettes are blinking glitter text. Make it stop.

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