Nov 11, 2015

It's Morphin' Time! - NFL Color Rush Uniforms

Thursday night’s game between the Bills and Jets will be the first of the NFL’s “Color Rush” themed games, which will continue to the end of the season and come back for next year. The concept is that the 2 opposing teams will be dressed from helmet (decals and sometimes facemask, not shells) to cleats in one of the team’s colors, either past or present. The Bills will be featuring their red, while the Jets are dressed in Kelly green which they wore until 1997.

When news broke that the NFL was considering color vs color games, I was really excited. I love the look of 2 teams in clashing colored jerseys on the gridiron. One of my favorite games ever in terms of aesthetics, was the 2010 matchup of the Chiefs and Cowboys. Throwback uniforms, color vs color, on real grass, and a cloudy day - that’s football baby! Proof that the Color Rush games could be one of the highlights of the NFL week.

The point of Color Rush is to give the audience another reason to tune in and give TNF games their own unique touch. Don’t forget about the additional jersey and apparel sales. Those goals are great, and the idea is to feature a team’s color, but the choice to flood 2 teams with 90% 1 color uniforms is so far over the top. The Color Rush gimmick goes all-in on color and turns what could be a delightful experience into an eyeball torture session featuring 2 teams of Power Rangers.

For some, mostly those with good aesthetic taste I would assume, the execution falls short. If you think the NFL needs to do wild and different shit with the uniforms to be more exciting, then the shit doesn’t get much more wild than this - and I have no doubt, those people will enjoy the games. As with most things Roger Goodell has done with the league, this is surely another attempt to shift the median age of the NFL audience to a younger number.

Personally, I believe the NFL has wanted all 32 teams to have a 3rd on-field jersey for many years. We’re not currently in the trend of throwback uniforms anymore, though you see them every year still - that’s just to satisfy the 3rd jersey option. I think the NFL wants their teams to play off the NCAA alternate trend and introduce a new design to their rotation, or at least their TNF rotation which all teams will be required to play once during the season. We’re looking at a future with 4 different jerseys during a 16 (for now) game season.

Enter a green Colts jersey for the Jets, and a red Bills jersey, to open it up.

The only thing that makes a “monochrome” football uniform (when the jersey and pants are matching colors) tolerable is the color, and that usually has to be a dark or neutral one. Yet, it looks like we will see each team fully dressed in their most annoying color. Bright, warm colors are attention whores; you have to use them carefully and it’s easy to use too much, but the Bills will be in solid red.

It’s sad for me to see the NFL choosing extreme gimmick over rational, professional, beautiful uniforms. The games do not have to go all-in on 2 colors to be an entertaining experience that drives merchandise sales. Every other time a game has been a color v color matchup, it’s been tasteful and looked amazing.

These uniforms need less color and more neutrals, more white. Even the Power Rangers had white boots! The NFL celebrates breast cancer awareness with pink accessories like gloves, cleats, towels, sweat bands, etc. They should celebrate the team's colors the same way, and the least they could do is not have a team in a “monochrome” jersey/pants/socks pairing. However, the worst offense is altering the uniforms in a way that puts a team in another team’s jersey design - I mean, the Jets are wearing a green Colts jersey! WTF!?

I don’t want to come off as an old dude longing for the days of yesteryear because the NFL has done something new. The point is, this is not something that will only take some getting used to for it to be understood and accepted as "good" because it’s not good design to begin with. The Bills will march  out with 11 grown men dressed in a bright red Santa suit, the Jets in Gumby gear, the Jaguars in Goldmember jumpsuits, and Panthers in baby blue onesies.

Nov 4, 2015

You The Boss & You The Employee

Everyone who works for themselves realizes they are their own boss, and being your own boss comes with a lot of freedom; setting your own hours, control over projects, and maybe even working wherever you wish. Today, I’m writing this from my favorite coffee shop. Lots of perks.

What might surprise you, if you’re not self-employed, is these freedoms can also breed inefficiency. Because you have all the power, you can find ways to slack off and avoid work. Not in the healthy sense of “I haven’t seen humans in 4 days, so this afternoon I’ll have a long lunch with a friend” but more like “I don’t feel like working on this today. Good thing I’m the boss!” #FuckThisDesignShitBruh

The most important thing to remember when you work for yourself, is just that phrase: YOU WORK FOR YOU. The self employed are not only their own boss, but their own employee. You need to set expectations and standards for you the employee, just as you would anyone else who would work for you. 

What would you expect from an employee? Someone you can count on to accomplish daily and weekly goals? Answer emails and calls in a timely fashion? Not take 3 days off each week? Mandatory Metallica at 5pm?

Of course, the obvious point is when you are 1 person you take on the roles of an entire company. I’m not saying you have to be excellent at every “position”, but when you start thinking of yourself as both boss and employee and holding yourself to the things you set for yourself, work gets done quicker and better. Well, I can only attest to myself, but it works for me.

And, turns out, I’m the best Creative Director to work for ever! At least that’s what my Junior Designer tells me. . .

Oct 26, 2015

Graphic Language: The Difference Between Inspiration & Influence

I’ve played guitar for 15 years and have been a graphic designer for 7. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with and reading about both guitarists and designers and I’ve been able to make lots of connections between these two art worlds. That often comes out in my writing, as I like to describe visual design in musical terms. I love making links between music and design because I understand music better, so it makes it easier for me to learn design when compared to music. There are a lot guitarists and designers have in common but, there’s one major difference I’ve noticed; the way they talk about influence and inspiration.

Guitarists have a clear picture of the difference between influence and inspiration, where many designers do not. For some designers, there may not be a difference at all. For guitarists, that separation is usually defined by “who” and “what”.

Influence To The Guitarist

A common question posed to guitar players is “who are your influences?”. The typical response is a list of other guitarists or bands who have laid the foundation of their own musical language. Meaning, they name other musicians/guitarists whom they learned to play the instrument from, and sometimes even directly taken “licks” and “phrases” from to use in their own playing.

When you’re learning to play guitar, you copy someone elses work directly, note for note, as accurately as possible. (and accuracy in playing can be a big deal - if you use a different finger to fret a note than the original composer, someone on the internet will tell you about it).

At some point, after you learn a certain amount of chords, scales, and tricks you might want to compose your own music. When you decide to do that, the tools you have at your disposal are all things you have taken from those other people and songs you learned from. You might take an Eddie Van Halen thing and twist it into your own thing; a guitarists would then say he is “influenced” by Van Halen; when a designer does the same, he usually says he was “inspired”.

Inspiration To The Guitarist

Ask a graphic designer what they’re inspired by and they’ll likely list names of other designers or artists, or even online galleries as the axe-slinger does his influences. Musicians usually talk about more conceptual, abstract, or even very personal things in terms of their inspiration. Many players are inspired by the instrument itself, some by culture, some by war, current events, the struggles they face in life, or even the environment they live in. The desire to create their own original work doesn't stem from other players as much; they’re only there to guide them on the path of musical knowledge, not to be the soul reason they play.

I’ve been asked the question as a designer, “where do you get your inspiration from?”. It’s always confused me because I probably approach it from a guitarist’s perspective. Where the person asking may want to know what i look at on a regular basis, or how I come up with ideas, the question gets me thinking about anything other than design that motivates me to create my own designs.

I believe the truest form of inspiration is not to be confused with influence - it’s not looking at something created by someone else and putting your own spin on it - it is 1.) creating something that expresses an idea relative to the project, formed from your own vision and skills. 2.) looking at something that is really good and feeling the need to create something original that is also good. 3.) solving an issue or addressing a need.

To use a real band as an example, Metallica’s musical influences are King Diamond, Black Sabbath, Joe Satriani; but what inspires their songs are war, religion, addiction, and even 80s hair metal bands which they despised. Hate can be an inspiration too, give in to the dark side!

My Influences

As a sports logo designer, my major influences are Kris Bazen, Fraser Davidson, Marc Verlander, Joe Bosack, Massimo Vignelli, Jan Zabransky, Michael Beruit, Saul Bass, and Olly Moss. These people (and note they’re not all logo designers) have shaped my skills and design styles by either learning directly from them or by studying their work on my own.

Other things like muscle cars, vintage football design, and Constructionism are all things that I pull from to add to my own toolbox too. Not so much in forming ideas, but in styling them. 

My Inspirations

What inspires me to create graphic design is something about the project at hand, the energy of other creative people, exploring a new city, the exhaust of a race car, a great idea, movie, song, or even the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the beach. It’s things that make me feel alive or spark an idea so good I can’t ignore it, and I know that sounds really odd, but I can’t explain it any better. My source of inspiration to work comes from all over, even the absence of work. It’s hard for me to not work; I constantly feel the need to design or draw something.

Still, there are some specific peoples work that does inspire me to create. These people inspire me not to copy their work, but to try to make my own that is as good, even if our work looks nothing alike. Their skills are far beyond mine, but I regard their ideas and level of craft as the very best. That includes artists like Banksy, Sheppard Fairey, Derrick Castle, Marie Bergeon and graphic designers David Carson, Jon Quintin, Gert Van Duinen, Jon Contino, Nick Slater, and Brandon Rike.

There can be some overlap too; all of those who have been influences are, of course, inspirations as well.


Coach Klein: “Bobby, where was the intensity I saw yesterday?”

Bobby Boushea: “That was no intensity, you said it was alright to fight back and I just started thinkin’ about all the people that had been mean to me over the years”

Coach Klein: “That’s it! I want you to think about all those mean people. They’re gonna be your . . . tackling fuel!”

Bobby Boushea: “Tacklin’ fuel”

Coach Klein: “We’re gonna use them to play football!”

Bobby Boushea
: “Tacklin’ fuel”.

In the simplest terms, inspiration might be defined as what makes you want to write a song, while influence is the primary thing that helps you construct it. 

What inspires us as designers should not be confused with our influences. It’s perfectly fine to let the influences show in your work (there's a difference between that and directly copying)  but when you look for inspiration, look for whatever it is that makes you want to sit down with paper and pencil and sketch ideas of your own. Because the best artists I know of any medium do not ask for inspiration from other artists, or wait for it to strike them. There is always something inside them or around them that fuels their work. You have to find your “tacklin’ fuel”.

Oct 13, 2015

Graphic Language: 1920s Paris & Artists Community

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can't. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the caf├ęs, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.” - Gil, Midnight In Paris

You will be hard pressed to find a moment in time where so many artists of so much talent were gathered together in the same place than Paris, France during the 1920s. During this time, painters, musicians, writers, and film directors galore lived and mingled here. People that are recognizable by only their last names like: Picasso, Hemmingwey, Dali, Fitzgerald, Stein, Porter and on and on.

(If this sounds interesting at all and you haven’t seen Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, put it on your to do list. it’s one of my all time favorite movies)

As an artists-of-sorts myself, it’s a moment in time that is so appealing; an incredible city filled with artists who feed off of each other and produce some of their best work during this time. It was a community of the arts and one of the things that makes it so appealing to me is that we, or perhaps more specifically I, really lack this today.

Maybe it is different in the modern art hotspots like New York, Austin, London, or San Francisco, I’ve never lived there so I wouldn’t know, but I am definitely not surrounded by people who inspire me or who could just help me if I bounced an idea off of them today in the way I imagine it could be - like 1920s Paris.

That’s not to say I am completely disconnected from other artists. I think the closest thing I have on a consistent basis to that is twitter and I use it more than Dribbble (which has potential still, but is just a place for high-fives mostly) and Behance (which is a vital portfolio platform but not much else). Those of you who I tweet with regularly are part of my design community and I love the group messages where we’re talking about the latest designs or helping someone else with one of theirs. The thing is, I think it would be even better to do that in person.

For those who have been to a design conference like Weapons of Mass Creation or Creative South (I have yet to make this one) probably know the feeling of being surrounded by people you have a lot in common with, who you can learn so much from in such short time, who you connect and build a real friendship with, and not least of which provide you with a creative energy that propels your work for weeks. I wish I had that source of creative power available each day and I really think you only get it by talking face to face with someone, and preferably over a cold drink. . . or hot, I don’t discriminate against beverages.

College was also like this for me, especially being at Full Sail University where I wasn’t just in classes with graphic designers, but musicians, animators, songwriters, directors, and a lot of people had multiple creative talents. I still have a classmate’s song he did on my itunes I listen to time to time and remember some lighting tricks a director showed me that I can pick out in movies today. I think this stuff stuck with me because it was experienced rather than read. I cherish many of those friendships made back then so much that keeping up with those people, who moved all across the world, is the only reason I still use facebook.

I hope to make a change in my geographic location next year. One of the reasons I want to be in a larger city is to form a community of artists friends. I’m not trying to recreate 20’s Paris, but I think there is a lot about that time that we should capture today for ourselves.

Until then, tweet at me! We have to participate in the community we want to be part of, and the best part about that is our participation makes the design world better for everyone involved in it. If we can’t meet in person, It’s not a bad alternative, and one that other generations never had. #DesignersUnite

Oct 2, 2015

Graphic Language: Being On Top Of The Game

“I’m standin’ on the Monopoly board,
that means I’m on top of my game,
and it don’t stop ‘til my hip don’t hop anymore”
- Eminiem, ‘No Love

I love seeing work from people who are fully locked into whatever it is they do. Designers, race car drivers, athletes, chefs, musicians - to watch anyone work at their craft who is completely focused and devoted to it is very inspiring. Because usually, they are doing great things.

Those people are easy to spot, too. It’s the designer who posts a shot on Dribbble nearly every day and every post is excellent. Yes, they are working hard and long hours each day no doubt, but when you are constantly in that state of “flow”, it all comes together a little easier. You don’t feel distraction, you lose track of time, and all there is . . . is the work. And the work thrives.

During these times you don’t struggle to tap into focus and “flow”, the real difficulty is tapping out. Sometimes, the only way to do it is to go to sleep, but even then you close your eyes and start designing things in your head. I think we all experience being “in the  zone” from time to time, and most people might view it as something that is short lived, or something you try to get back to every day. For some people that might even be true, but the people I am describing at least seem to be living in it. 

When you find someone who is there, they probably seem bat-shit insane. While watching “Spinning Plates” (on Netflix now) I was really intrigued by master chef Grant Achatz. He talked about getting ideas for food and presentation from looking at a cherry hanging on a tree - he sounds off his fucking rocker, but what he is describing is also really beautiful and that process and state he is in is where we all want to be, and maybe need to be to do our best work. He was so inspiring, I got up and made salsa from scratch; that’s how powerful someone’s passion can be, and I think is the source of the most honest kind of inspiration - not the kind where you look at someone else’s work and set out to imitate it, but where someone else’s work motivates you to do your own.

Grant later says: “If I can’t taste and I cant smell, then I don’t even want to be”.

In my opinion, the greatest race car driver ever was Ayrton Senna, and he often talked about being in flow too. Part of his work-out routine involved meditation to sharpen his focus skills and once described driving at Monaco as "being in a tunnel that never ended, I just kept going and going". I also believe Senna's ability to focus in the car and drive without ever being distracted or intimidated by another driver was his greatest skill.

I know when I am in the flow state and focused strongly on my work; it becomes a sort of sickness. I don’t want to do anything but work. Then, the period of focus will end and I do not wish to work anymore. Something takes my attention away, or I am not as inspired to work as much as I did before. These periods can last a long time too, and then design just becomes boring work.

For those of you who are crushing it every day, I admire you a lot. Whatever your skill or craft is, if you're showing up and doing great work constantly, you're doing things right and your focus, and commitment to it, is something I continue to work on.

Keep up the good work!