April 8, 2021


Feature Story

How do you name a new league?

We started by defining the essence of the league and let the name emerge in the process.

First, our league is an equality project. Over 100 years ago, women won the right to vote. Yet still, we must fight every day for basic equality. We’re told it will take another 108 years to close the gender gap. At that rate, not one of us will see it in our lifetime… and to that we say, “watch this!” It’s time to blow the whistle on inequality.

our league will be radically independent. Our clubs will govern the league, operating as an open system where opportunity is for everyone.

Setting our sights even higher, we aim to cultivate the greatest generation of female athletes and leaders the world has ever seen… on and off the pitch. It’s time to change the game.

Our culture will empower individuality. Empowerment sheds light on the fact that life can be much broader than what society prescribes. We can influence it, mold it, and expand the notion of what is possible. It’s time to empower the independent spirit inside us to reach new heights.

Our independent spirit inspires us to stand in our own truth, make our own path, and set our own standards—to play our greatest matches and live our greatest lives.

We envision ourselves as a community of independent thought leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors, activists, role models, and… whatever we want to be.

Being independent is the difference.

It’s not just about the wins and the trophies; it’s about rising above the noise to create a new harmony.

And so a name emerged… 

Women’s Independent Soccer League: WISL

An acronym and a verb: We wisl to our own tune (individuality), wisl while we work (flow), wisl in harmony with others (solidarity), and wisl in celebration of progress (legacy). We spread our independent wings and rise above.

Our essence is in our name.

Don’t get us wrong, the process was much messier than that. We tangled ourselves up in a heap of words… equality, justice, purpose, leadership, movement… do we go with soccer or football or not reference the sport at all. Ultimately, sitting with the essence of our vision and stripping away the noise brought us home.

How do you capture the essence in a visual symbol?

Symbols are clever things… they are code, a shorthand, loaded with greater meaning that is not necessarily evident in the thing itself.

A group of people collectively decide to attribute meaning to it, and it becomes charged. It becomes powerful.

But here’s the tricky thing about symbols: they can mean different things to different groups. A symbol that evokes deep emotions for one group may be meaningless and invisible to another group.

The key for us was to be intentional with the symbolism we paid tribute to while introducing new meaning through the way it all came together.

This isn’t one of those things that comes together with one bold stroke, by the way. It was an iterative process. We went through a cycle of researching, exploring, discussing, revising, testing, and refining.

We sketched symbols, discussed meaning, asked questions, and then revised our approach.

We asked ourselves how each element could be uniquely recognizable and memorable on its own while creating harmony together.

We challenged its versatility, not only across applications, but going beyond soccer and sports to represent a way of life.

We asked how participatory it could be, inviting people to make it their own and add their voice to it.

Each sketch held in it a hint of which direction to go. We listened… until it rang true for us.

The anatomy of our mark

Birds symbolize freedom across cultures. The ability to take flight, move freely, sing joyfully, and migrate across borders resonates with our vision.

Specifically, the bluebird is a symbol of the women’s suffrage movement and continues to represent self-efficacy, joy, prosperity, fulfillment, growth and intellect.

Our birds wings are outstretched as a gesture of confidence and empowerment. She takes flight, breaking free and soaring above while reshaping the frame in the process.

Her wings are made from the equality sign, the force for soaring to new heights. Her body is the true north symbol of a compass, representing a calibrated direction to follow our own path.

WISL, both our call sign for equality and the verb describing our empowering culture. The logotype is elongated and slightly arched up as if moving with the upward lift of our bird.

The equality sign stretched across WISL resembles the slit of a whistle, the tool for signaling, singing, and being heard. The equality sign also resembles war paint stretched across the face of WISL in reference to the warriors before us, among us, and within us.

The “I” in WISL is emphasized with an upward arrow incorporated into the equality sign to symbolize rising above through an independent approach.

We took a contemporary approach to the shape of our framing element. It resembles a warrior shield with an upward curve as our badge on independence. Our bird breaks through and reshapes it. The badge also references banners from the global equality movement and a destination pin, putting a flag in the ground.

Most significantly, our badge is designed as a living, breathing participatory space where each woman can make it her own, in her own handwriting.

Our colors embody similar significance. The deeper blues reference the rich colors of the bluebird as well as self-efficacy, inspiration, and health. Sky blue more literally represents flying free in the sky and open opportunity beyond the glass ceiling.

Our green accent symbolizes prosperity and freshness, alive and well, nourishing healthy living.

Finally, our gradients hold two types of meaning. The linear 3-point 2-color gradient reflects a metallic shield of our warriors. While the radiant 2-point 2-color gradient resembles a sunrise for the dawn of a new day and new beginnings.

All the elements come together into a mark that embodies our essence.

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