I am an all round graphic designer, art director and illustrator. I design logos, web sites, power point decks. You name it, I've designed it but my full-time gig for many years has been designing for Flying Colors which is now Moss Sports. This Company began the industry of "branding an event". There is a 30 year legacy of international events Moss Sports has designed. In the past decade I have designed a good many of them. I am proud of the work this team has accomplished. Here is a quick perspective a just a few of the highlights:
FLYING COLORS PAST PROJECT VIDEO
Check out the video I created of the year-long process of designing for Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida a few years back. Here is the youtube link; FLYING COLORS: THE DESIGN ROAD TO THE SUPER BOWL. Enjoy!
Color; I love it but it can be a huge headache. On large-scale events such as the NFL Super Bowl getting the color is critical. In such a large event we are working with multiple print vendors and substrates. We may be printing the Super Bowl logo on vinyl, adhesives, and multiple fabrics for both interiors and exteriors. I would set up one standard color tests with numerous Pantone color squares with many of the colors of the event on them. I would sent out the same test to each print vendor asking them to print on the various substrates we are using for that particular event. Once I got the color test back, some of them can be a 5 feet wide by 20 feet long. I will pick the PMS colors that print closest to the color I'm trying to hit. I will plug in that color into my graphic files. That color may vary per print vendor and substrate but will visually print the same. It can be quite complicated at times. The printing industry has come along way but using digital printing, silkscreen, dye sublimation, etc., it can become a nightmare.
Quite a few years ago I designed the Chicago Bears field wall at Soldier Field. The print vendor, for some reason could not hit the Bears' official blue. It printed almost a purple. Of course the team rejected the entire stadium field wall. The printer had to eat the entire job and print it over again.
Another example was when we designed the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in 2010. It was a complete re-brand. Tostitos had designed a new package for their tortilla chips and they wanted us to translate that to the stadium graphics for the National Championship Game in Phoenix. The packaging was mainly a navy blue but for the printer to print that dark blue on fabric I had to create graphic files with a baby blue in them. My files looked so "off", it was very nerve-racking.
When designing web graphics and web sites, color mistakes are forgiving. The designer can quickly upload revised files. Printing large-scale graphics need to be checked and checked again before going to production. The costs involved in printing, shipping, and most of all, installation can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
I try to use PMS colors in my files. Printing a PMS color as a spot color versus a PMS color converted to CYMK can print dramatically different. Of course using RGB color in files will not print as seen on your computer screen since all the printing machines still using a CMYK process toy create the spectrum of colors. I have to be careful of the blacks in my files as well. A black created as C=0 M=0 Y=0 K=100 versus a black created with C=100 M=100 Y=100 K=100 prints much more like a true black.
Printing on vinyl mesh versus a 13 oz vinyl can create different colors as well. Because vinyl mesh as holes in it so air can pass through makes colors lighter. Less surface area to print on creates this. I usually go one shade darker as a rule to compensate for this.
I'm always creating graphics and effects in Photoshop and laying them over my Illustrator files. Using the same color in both programs sometimes does not get the same color value when printed because one is a vector and one is a raster (bitmap).
If I know I will be printing revised graphics for the same project in a year or two I will ask the printer to take note of the printer settings so when they go to print we get the same color results. It's amazing but even the temperature of the print shop at the time of printing can effect the color. I also make field wall panels no longer than 50 feet long because the color levels on the inkjet machine can also effect color and saturation.
As a professional designer, should you enter design contests? It's always good to get your work out there in front of any audience but do you get more work from a winning a entry? From my experience the answer is, no. Last year I entered a design contest by the people who run the Oakland Running Festival. They said it was a contest but there was no real prize except to have my design printed on 6,000 give-away t-shirts. To make a long story short, I won. I "won" 6 shirts from the previous year's race and 4 shirts with my own design on it. 3 of the shirts were woman's shirts that I had to give away. I felt very used by the Company. The only thing that came out of it is when I see a runner wearing my design I say, "ya know I did that?" I thought maybe I can work this to my advantage buy designing a new design and sending it to the Oakland Running Festival people and tell them they can use it for a few dollars. I sent the design to them and they told me they don't want to pay for design. I was flooored. I said to them, but you pay a screen-printer thousands of dollars to print the shirts. They ignored me after that.
A lot of design contests use designers so they can get free design. It costs a lot less to run a little contest then pay a real designer to do something amazing. My friends are always sending me links to design contests and I'm always apprehensive to spend the creative energy to enter them. The prize never equates to the time and energy it takes to do the design.
Granted there are some design contests that are worth entering and you have to ask yourself a few questions before entering. Do you wan to improve your resume, impress potential employers, and get your name in front of the biggest firms and most important people in the design community? Then you need to consider entering some graphic design contests and competitions.Graphic design contests abound, ranging from poster design to logos, animation, multi-media, and more. Instead of randomly entering all of them, focus your energy and attention on the fields where you know you excel.
Some contests can have outrageous entrance fees, and if that’s the case you need to reevaluate question #1 with the cost in mind. It may be worth it to pay the fee and enter, but it could also be a waste of your time and money.
What do you think?
I have been designing graphics for stadiums for more years than I can believe and the technology has come a very long way in those many years. I'm going to stick to the subject of raster graphics or pixel-based graphics. They are also referred to as bitmaps. Bitmaps are resolution dependent. Bitmaps are okay to scale down without loss of quality but scaling up a 72 dpi jpg to 60 feet high is a real problem. You loose all the quality of the image. You must begin with a high resolution image. We tend to prefer vector images in the environmental graphics industry for many reasons one being they are scaleable without loosing image quality.
Photographic-based images bog down your computer because they are such huge, memory-intensive files. One of the things I will do before working with the photos is create a high-resolution version and stick it in a folder called, "high res". I will save it into that folder and then create another folder called, "lo-res". I save the image with the same name in each folder but reduce the image size substantially in the "lo-res" folder. I use the lo-res version while designing the graphics and when I send it to the printer for production I only send the hi-res version. Because the file has the same name, the hi-res files link for the printer. This way I am not slowed-down working on my files. Sometimes I will have to use the same file over and over in a design which can make the files enormous in size.
For example, I designed the NHL Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium using a base of vector graphics with Photoshop (raster) brush-effects and light-effects over the vector art. I do not embed the linked images therefore I have to remember to send the linked raster images to the production team.
I have also learned over the years that if you scan an image at a very-high resolution and then reduce the resolution down, the file keeps most of it's information and clarity as opposed to scanning in at a lower resolution. I tend to work with images at 100 dpi at full-scale. I have to do some calculations when working with files to figure out what resolution will work. I like photos shot from a camera on the "raw" setting but it's rare I actually get images like that. My 100 dpi rule applies to raster images that will be seen within feet of the image. If it is a building graphic or seen from a distance than the raster/bitmap image can be as low as 25 dpi. Some billboard graphics are as low as 9 dpi and work just fine.
When creating stadium graphics it's difficult to use a full raster layout, for example, creating a field wall wrap which is a long horizontal treatment, I have to create overlapping panels for an easier installation. I will use an image of a football player, for example as a panel break with an overlap. Color is a huge issue as well. I can not control the color of a raster images in the printing process like I can with a PMS (Pantone Matching System) colored vector graphic.
As I said before, I use Abobe Illustrator with a CAD plug-in called CAD Tools to created scaled drawings used for production. The raster effects I place and link to my vector graphics add complexity and time to the files but they can add so much more depth. I can achieve looks I can't create in Abobe Illustrator. I can not build 475 foot long, 1/4" scale stadium field wall in Photoshop. The software is not set up for this niche sector of graphic design. When I do use raster effects such as glows and drop shadows I must create them for the full scale image. The effects may look good on your computer screen at 1/8" scale but when blown up on a 20-story building they may not have scaled correctly or look completely fuzzy. This is why I will take a "sliver" of an image and print it full-scaled on our office plotter to see if the effect is working as intended and the resolution is good. These stadium and building graphics cost thousands of dollars to produce and install. Testing is essential to success. A small imperfection on large-scaled stadium graphics can be a glaring error. Something that is a blip on your computer screen can be 5 feet tall on the side of a stadium when produced at full-scale.
Ian Ransley DESIGN
Ian Ransley is a Bay Area Graphic Designer and Illustrator who has designed some of the most popular large-scale sporting and corporate events in the world.