Something Bold; Something New

When I was a teenager learning to play guitar, one of the ways I kept myself interested was by constantly incorporating something new to learn. There was always a balance of mastering my strengths (growing vertically) and adding challenges (growing horizontally). There was something about the guitar that always felt comfortable to me. I was never intimidated by things I couldn't play, because I knew I was working my towards them, and one day I would eventually arrive there.

I have tried the same approach with drawing, but gave up on new things if I didn't grasp it quickly. My problem has been one that many other artist struggle with. The road to mastery is never short or easy, but in our minds we imagine it to be so. Probably because our heroes make it look so easy.

I think I know why I've had more patience with music than pencil and paper. I'm better at music and the learning curve for me there is shorter, and there is always another challenge waiting to be met. But I can't seem to draw a good human figure for shit. There has been improvement over the last 23 years, but sometimes It's like not being able to get over a barrier no matter how hard you try. There's no moving forward, and I lose interest in trying.

Instead of looking at that barrier, becoming frustrated and giving up because I am unsatisfied with my work, I have recently embraced my mediocre-at-best drawing skills, and challenged myself to get over that wall. The way I'm doing this is by doing a lot of drawing and not worrying about how bad it is. I'm doing the best I can, learning from each one, but if it turns out worse than I expected, I don't worry about it. I just move onto the next one. I'm drawing on paper and with a Wacom tablet too. There's not much difference between the two, but I've always enjoyed the feel of pencil and paper. To actually touch what you're working with feels more rewarding, but stylistically, I love the digital look.

The fuel for this fire has been the most exciting thing. I'm doing posters. Posters based on global issues, world events, and politics. Generally, just things that are more important than corporate logos and sports team uniforms. I guess I'm following the footsteps of some of my favorite street artists in that way like Banksy and Sheppard Fairey. I also have a list of my favorite movies and songs that I want to do a poster design for. All the song posters are going to be done on paper and colored with soft pastels.

Even if I don't get any better at drawing after all this, at least I will have created something. Which is always better than creating nothing.

The Long And Short Of It: Colts' Truncated Stripes

In the world of Pro pigskin aesthetics, one of the topics that always creates a debate is the modern application of the Colts’ (and LSU, Iowa State, NY Jets, etc) jersey stripes. The controversy is how they should look on modern football jerseys, with one side claiming they are too short and should extend down to the armpit, the other side saying the current solution is the best. The claim that they “should wrap all the way around the arm like they were designed to do” is a non-starter because they didn’t even do that.

The issue is this is a design solution from the 1950s intended for a completely different problem. It’s an example of how form should follow function, and how good graphic design enhances the product. Jersey design has progressed over time, and they’ve gotten smaller, with shorter sleeves. This graphic has tried to come along with it, but at this point is just a shoe-horned element that dosent truly fit on a modern jersey template the way it was meant to do.

What jersey manufacturers have done is truncated the stripe at about the point of the collar on the front and the bottom of the nameplate on back. This solution has created a passable design using good judgment of alignment and space. That is until Nike really fucked it up in 2012, making the total width of the stripes much narrower than before, and pushing the stripes to the sleeve seam, where the smaller sleeves put the stripes on an angle, as much as 45 degrees on some players with no shoulder/sleeve tailoring to correct it.

Nike has taken a shot at lengthening the stripe design with LSU and trying to return it to it’s original integrity. They had to use a narrower number font when doing this, which in the end is fine, I think the number font is quite good. But because the jerseys are so small/tight now, it really starts to crowd the other elements. It’s a push for me from the previous solutions because it’s still a shoe-horned design that never had these modern uniforms in mind. Between the Reebok Colt’s solution and the Nike LSU one, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I would go with Reebok’s as I feel it’s a better use of space.

Another issue is if you’re going to maintain your 50 year old design, you need this stripe. It’s always going to be botched, but a botched stripe is better than no stripe. It’s a huge part of the Colts identity. Those suggesting the uniforms be compromised to suit the jersey decoration have it completely backwards. Again, form follow function, you design graphics for the product, not the other way around. But, form also follows emotion, and there is so much recognition with the stripe for the Colts, they just wouldn’t be the Colts without it.  The other option is to blow it all up and start over with something completely different, something that actually works well with current uniforms, like Oklahoma State’s design. But blowing up a 50 year old identity that comes with multiple championships and lots of success for a current brand doing extremely well, isn’t a move that is necessary.

If it were up to me to design the perfect Colts uniform, it would be this. see the whole thing here: Colts Brand Adjustment


The Possible Future of Sports Uniforms

I’ve paid very close attention to sports uniform design for the last 5 years. Specifically, college and pro football. This year has been one of the most disappointing seasons for football uniform and logo design (actually, just the NFL in the logo department). It seems it’s been mostly about recycling ideas and copying what others have done before rather than creating something new. Although there are one or two new things for 2013, It largely seems like schools and designers are running out of ideas. But I think what lies ahead can be very promising, if someone takes advantage of it.

Socks – Socks are a growing niche for apparel manufactures as some are reporting a 35% increase in sock sales within the last year. This growing trend with the often overlooked and unexplored area of sock design in sports uniforms makes for a great opportunity for a school and designer to take advantage of. Especially for UnderArmor, Nike, and adidas, where everything they do is to direct you back to shoes. Because the sock/shoe combo is such a great hook in stores now, they do offer socks that will combo with your new pair of kicks. But the attention could be driven more towards that if they took advantage of a sock design for one of their major college clients.

Everyone is racing for the helmet now, and sublimated patterns and unique designs within numbers and jersey sleeves have been around for a few years. The unexplored ankle area could be one that these companies will compete for soon. Under Armor is experimenting with sublimated sock designs now for purchase in stores. Don’t be surprised if Maryland football rolls out with a school specific pattern on their socks ala’ the popular pattern-within-numbers trend. Oh, but let it be known I though of it first 3 years ago :)

Cooling Technology – I’m not sure if this will make it’s way into the jersey and pants fabric for football because it’s a cold weather sport. Baseball and basketball could be different stories though. But what I envision for under shirts, sweatbands, arm sleeves, skull caps, helmet liners, and headbands is being made from self cooling fabrics.

Conventional wisdom says that to cool the body, you need to move air and have ventilation; something modern jerseys and helmets are designed to do. But with these new materials, companies are saying cooling comes from conduction, where the material cools the skin. Basically, when the fabric gets wet, it gets cold.

Adidas is already in the game with Climachill, which will hit the marketplace in spring 2014. It acts like a mesh, using titanium cooling fibers and aluminum silver dots that cool the body. A company I’m more interested in is Dr Cools ( who also has material hitting the marketplace in spring 2014. Their biggest piece right now is a hoodie which is endorsed by Reggie Bush, using EnduraCool technology. It does the same thing as adidas’ version in principle; when the material gets wet from sweat, it gets cold. Another company doing the same but I know very little about is NEXAR.

Helmet Design -  We have seen matte helmet finishes and matte vinyl graphics before. I have yet to see matte properly combined with a gloss finish. I have to believe though, that it’s only a matter of time before the muscle car influence hits college football where a matte decal is set on a gloss finish (it’s always the other way around). I think it would be an excellent combo for the ever popular black-on-black look, as seen below.

There’s also a whole world of vinyl graphics that the football game hasn’t seen yet. Oregon has used fluorescents on their helmets, and a few others have used chrome-color on theirs. But we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many other fluorescent, pearlescent, reflective, metal flake, chrome-color, engine turn, gloss, matte, satin, and translucent options available that I’m not even sure if Nike, UA, and adidas even know about. It dosent have to be a gaudy, in-your-face application, just imagine a helmet with a matte-chrome (kind of like brushed aluminum) finish with a 1 color logo in any of the previously mentioned materials. There is plenty of original ideas waiting to be discovered.

It would be great to see any of these ideas actually used in uniform design, but like all the other trends and advances, it has potential to be abused. There's nothing wrong with gradients and matte finishes and such, but the way they are used most of the time is horrible. Most critics and sideline designers want to put all the blame on the designers, Nike, adidas, etc. But the clients are the ones getting what they want in the end. They're the ones making the final calls, and if they're already doing a shit job of handling what's available to them now, then they'll probably do a shit job of handling everything else to come after it. I like to stay positive though. Can someone just please do a matte black decal on gloss black helmet for me!?!?