“Cleveland is still my family home,” says Daniel Arsham, a third-generation Clevelander turned New York-based artist. “My father is there and, um, 3rd generation Highlander. I’ve been working with the Cavs for the last 4 years in addition to all my architecture projects in my art studio. But Cleveland still feels like home – not where I live, but, home where I go back and it just feels like [it]. Shaker Heights! That’s where I’m from,” he notes.
Daniel Arsham has left an indelible mark on the Cleveland Cavaliers brand since assuming the role of Creative Director in 2020. A profound connection to his hometown and a passion for the Cavs inspires Arsham as he steers the revitalization of the team’s appearance, infusing it with elements of art, fashion, and pop culture.
In 2022, Arsham led the Cavaliers through a significant brand identity overhaul, culminating in the relaunch of the team’s logo set. Drawing inspiration from his memories of watching the team play in the 80s and 90s, Arsham crafted a modernized yet nostalgic design that pays homage to the Cavaliers’ branding history.
“One of the biggest tasks that I was given when I joined the Cavs was developing a new logo. The original logo was probably 15 years old at that point – the ‘C’ with the sword in it.” Without straying too far from the current logo, Arsham found a happy medium between maximal and minimal. The idea of reduction runs through Arsham’s catalog, from utilizing the white walls of galleries to displaying protruding forms – lacking color – conversely, reducing the Cavaliers logo while upgrading its familiar strokes.
“I was born in 1980 – the mid-nineties and late nineties, like the Mark Price era was my era, I remember. So I went back and pulled out all of these different design references, and [I intended] to create something that for the fans, they felt like they had already seen it before. Even though it was new, it combined elements and things that were from the past. So it was a combination of colorways from the ‘80s, or even the late ‘70s when the team started, which was less of yellow-gold and more like a mustard.”
The updated logo set features a sleek and refined aesthetic, with a colorway of wine, gold, and black that nods to iconic eras of Cavs basketball. “A lot of that was about refining [and] reducing. I feel like this happened to every team in the league – they kept layering stuff over. Adding, adding, adding, and they never subtracted. By the mid-2000s, it was the posters of the players, [that] looked like Marvel characters,” Arsham sarcastically describes.
“it was just too much. And early basketball references for the logos were like car racing. A big theme in the 1950s and ‘60s for the Pistons, and the Pacers – and even the Lakers moved from Minnesota. All of the posters and the graphic treatments of the time were like a race car [or] hot rod type of vibe.”
Arsham continues about his design, always in reference to relics from the past, “I wanted to bring a lot of that back to the Cavaliers, like a basketball reference. The colorway was a nod to the past. The shield is a nod to the original shield that the team wore in the seventies. And then the font is the original Cavaliers font from the seventies.”
Designing through collaboration is always a challenge. Arsham has collaborated with Jeff Hamilton, the renowned leather jacket maker, on a monochromatic white game jacket with monochromatic white patchwork to commemorate the NBA in Paris for the Brooklyn Nets against the Cavaliers in the city of lights. “Here in the NBA, there were certain rules when I came into the league. There hadn’t been a creative director like that had come in from the outside. There’s tons of licensing and all of these different things. But one of the things that I focused on was preexisting Identity,” says Arsham while wearing the Jeff Hamilton collaboration.
Pointing to the jacket, “[I’m] trying to pair down things – I called it reduction, like cleaning. When I joined, the teams gave out these logo packages to all their vendors. The [brands] like New Era that’s producing the hats and all their different vendors. We had, like, 40 different variations of our logo. I said, ‘Guys, it’s too much!’ There’s no continuity for the fan. Now we have 4. 4 potential uses. There’s the ‘C’ and the colorways are also reduced dramatically.”
“Look at our jerseys that we’re wearing tonight Yeah. They’re literally two colors. About There’s no stripe. It’s like white and the wine logo, and that’s it. Really basic and clean.” This is how Arsham designs his Objects IV Life clothing brand. An aesthetic that favors wardrobe basics, monochromatic patterns with intricate detailing, and technical design.
“Objects IV Life is the jackets that we’ve done here,” again pointing to his Jeff Hamilton x Cavalier leather bomber jacket. “[A] reduced palette – a bit cleaner design. Objects IV Life for me is more everyday clothing.”
Arsham’s preference for simplicity in his palette is due to him being color-blind in a specific spectrum of hues. Color blindness affects his perception, leading to surprises like mistaking blue pants for white. Despite this, he finds inspiration in minimalism, particularly in art galleries, and has created works focused on manipulating white walls to reflect this aesthetic.
“[As] I studied art in school, I always gravitated towards a more simple palette. I’m also color-blind. So I have an extreme limitation in a red, and green area. And it goes through the whole spectrum. Sometimes I’ll be, like, walking out the house and I think I have a full white outfit on and I get outside and my pants are blue. I’m like, shit! Not until I’m in bright sunlight that I could notice that.”
“But I think the idea of reduction generally, it’s like thinking about the gallery. It starts [with] all these white walls. I always wanted to work with the most simple version of that. And so some of my earliest works were – literally – manipulating the white walls.”
Arsham’s influence extends beyond the Cavaliers’ uniforms and displays the same inspiration in its merchandise. The team’s City Edition jersey collaboration with the Cleveland Metroparks celebrates the natural beauty of Northeast Ohio, showcasing the region’s rich landscapes and serving as a tribute to the Metroparks’ role as a guardian of these resources. Through this unique partnership, Arsham merges sports and art, creating a jersey that resonates with both Cavs fans and nature enthusiasts alike.
On April 28th, the unveiling of Center Court, a new Cavs Team Shop designed by Arsham in collaboration with Snarkitecture opened the doors of a 6,700 square-foot space, located within Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, The retail space embodies Arsham’s minimalist aesthetic, offering fans a shopping experience unlike any other in the area.
“In addition to my art studio, I have a design practice called Snarkitecture. We’ve done a lot of different retail projects. When I joined the team, I also wanted to redo the team shop and create something that was like a unique experience. In all of the arenas, typically, you go into the team shop and it’s like going into a Foot Locker,” Arsham illustrates.
Drawing inspiration from behind-the-scenes areas of the FieldHouse, Center Court boasts a contemporary design that transforms merchandise into works of art. With an emphasis on lighting and presentation, the store creates an immersive environment where fans can engage with Cavs memorabilia in a novel way.
Arsham’s impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers extends far beyond the basketball court. Through his innovative designs and collaborations, he has elevated the Cavs brand to new heights, positioning the team as a cultural powerhouse at the intersection of sports, art, and fashion. As the Cavs continue to evolve under Arsham’s creative direction, fans can expect even more exciting initiatives that celebrate the team’s heritage while embracing the future of basketball and beyond.