Rodeo Crown Critique

The rodeo has been an annual tradition that marks the welcome of spring in Houston. The weather is different each year but you can always bet on a healthy dose of eye candy. From the people’s clothes to hundred-feet ad graphics, the Reliant Stadium provided plenty for the design observer.

The way-finding in the stadium is very effective as-is but I couldn’t help wanting to tweak the hue on the signage to match the darkest blue in the new logo. The poster frames all around looked like an after thought and I wished they could match also to provide a uniform blanket of color as a platter to featured messaging. The stadium recently ditched the outdated red and blue logo and adopted a spiffy contemporary mark that represents energy, movement, flashing cameras, stage lights, groups of many and nested seating. This playful, softer logo makes a massive energy company more approachable. Reliant seems cool, welcoming and offers breezy energy now as opposed to a corporate, bold vibe. Personally, I’d only tighten the leading for the tagline but other critics argue that the new logo is ineffective. For decent commentary on the topic, check out one of my new favorite blogs, Brand New.

reliant logos

Crown Royal served up floor-to-ceiling vinyls with signage that made passers-by feel like gnomes. Giant sized bottles popping out of coins were mounted on stadium posts while somebody chose the most generic saloon font for a banner above the entrance. There was a disconnect between the rodeo posters, the Crown signage/installations and the saloon banner. It looked like too many “designers” were involved with disconnected visions. Overall, they succeeded in creating an environment but I can’t help but wonder if that environment was a ghost town due to the disconnected energy. It made me wonder how inviting it could have been and what impact a redesign would have on sales if the area were created with a little more attention to unity and care.
rodeo crown
The inside of the stadium is decked out with impressive synchronicity. Designers paid close attention to create ribbons of motion graphics around the seating sections that light up in tune with one of the largest hunks of screens in this city. It creates tons of space for advertisers like Coca Cola to get awesome with it by creating animations that fit in long ropes around the stadium. Here is a photo of the Train show that lit the place on fire, a super cool effect that invites new ways of thinking about set, stage and light design.
reliant stage fire
reliant stage

My favorite part of the Houston Rodeo is the carnival- but let’s face it, they just don’t care about type. Obviously, somebody thought bigger was better and carelessly changed type size without holding shift. Nevertheless, I managed to find a couple of decent shapes in that hot mess.
dodge lights

My favorite photo of the night is Juicy’s. I really dug the contrast of that yellow on the jumo-sized graphics. Of course, it was a blinking sign and when it turned red, it was not as attractive…took me a miniute to capture that yellow but I’m very happy with the photo as a result.


Design flop of the night? Alien Abduction. I suppose someone was inspired to think aliens have scrawny little hands that would scratch out their name in creepy looking letters but… I mean, I have no words. What a wasted opportunity to do it right in neon.
alien abduction

Kudos to the list of organizers who put this event together. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to get so many participants on the same page, much less, a team of designers to blanket such a huge event. From cook-off flyers and band posters to good-looking and effective website navigation, the Houston Rodeo creatives are obviously dedicated to putting on a Texas-sized show that ropes in baggillions of Houstonians every year; for that, we are grateful. If only AIGA could scramble to lasso that carnival…giddy yup.

By Jessica Rios-Almanza
Published March 29, 2012
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