Production | 7 MIN READ

How We Animated D.C. United’s New Logo

ELM Animated D.C. United’s New Logo

Change is a part of growth, but sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow if you are a diehard sports fan and your local football club is changing one of the most iconic logos in Major League Soccer.

D.C. United took on the daunting task of updating their logo, a symbol that was stitched in every jersey, hat, banner and flag since 1997. Tied to this icon are all of the emotions of the last 17 years – championships won, heartbreaking losses and a representation of their fans who live, breathe, scream, chant and bleed black and red. To describe this fan base as passionate would be an understatement.

As a fan myself, I was excited at the idea of working with something that was going to create such a buzz in the sports world. My contribution to this historic reveal was to show the nuances of change with an animation evolution from the old logo to the new. To create the magic, I was given the original Adobe Illustrator files to copy the individual mask shapes of each layer. Opening this file for the first time was like looking into the mind of the designer himself. From the new flare of the wings to the hand-designed custom font, I thought the design was fresh, minimalist and modern. A graceful shape, worthy of representing a team that plays the sport known as “the beautiful game.”

The idea of creating a fluid transformation of these logos seems simple when you break it down layer by layer. Isolate and animate the bird, the outline, and the text. My first thought was to use a simple reshape effect found in After Effects. I could set the beginning source mask to the old logo and would set the final destination to take the shape of the new logo. Unfortunately, after a quick render to see how the morph was executed, what should look close to the new logo took the shape of something that should hang in the Museum Of Modern Art. Picasso would be proud, but didn’t accomplish the smooth morph needed to pull off the effect. I know the one way we could guarantee success. Start with the mask shape of the old logo and move each mask point one by one to create the shape of the new logo. Faced with over 30 masking points for the bird alone, this would prove to be tedious and slow but effective. Eventually, two simple mask path keyframes would hold the historic transformation.

Important to DC United was to show extreme close ups of the transformation. Since the shapes were created using shape layers I could increase the scale of the layers without losing any resolution. The important highlights included the wings, text, head and the flag and star elements. Building with the keyframes was the difficult part, but the close up sections were simple enlargements. It was fun to watch these details come together.

Animated elements isolated from the full video

By the end it came together in one very cool evolution and is now a part of D.C United history. It was a privilege creating some magic to help show the world the work and thought that went into the new design, an evolution that will soon be imprinted on every hat, button and banner and soon the memories of D.C. United fans for years to come.

Check out the finished piece that has been seen and shared by thousands of DC United faithful.

Jody Weldon

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