I'll try to keep this short but I grew up with a father who was a chemist and a mother who was very creative. I never figured out what they had in common and it's not surprising they are not together any more. Because of this I was torn on what direction I should go in my own life. My mother put in in numerous art classes and private drawing lessons when I was young. I did this instead of playing team sports like most kids. My parents both being Brits didn't know much about American sports or life for that matter.
Leap forward to college; I entered UC Davis as a nutrition major. I spent 2 years in the sciences completely unhappy but felt it was the only way I could see a future in something that would make money until I took a design course as an elective. The teacher was a lady named Barbara Shawcroft, she saw my potential and was a great influence on me to change my major. I thought to myself, if I pursue a degree in design I need to focus on commercial design. I didn't want to be a Telegraph Avenue street artist. This decision changed my life. Computers were not part of the program then. Everything was done by hand and on drafting tables. I became the College newspaper's graphic artist and I also designed a series of posters of based on a friend's poetry in a Davis coffee shop. During this time I also designed a t-shirt of a cartoon cow with sunglasses which I sold at Woodstock pizza. The t-shirt was a huge hit. I sold more than 800 shirts. Woodstock's pizza asked me to do cartoons for all their print ads because of the success of the shirt. The t-shirt vendor for the University tracked me down and asked me to come work for them after I graduated which I did for a year. I had moved back home with my Mom in Berkeley. I felt I was being used designing shirts for retail and being paid just above minimum wage. I quite and decided to sell high-end screen printing in San Francisco to design studios. I learned quickly I'm not a salesman and my true love was the creative process and making art. My Dad told me Chevron of all places was looking for an in-house designer. I was the first new hire in 10-years and I ended up working with 3 designers who had been there for at least 15 years. They nicknamed me "the pup". Even with my huge ego at the time, they taught me so much. This was 1989; enter the Mac computer. Chevron got rid of all the drafting tables and bought a few computers. I quickly learned Macromedia's Freehand and Pagemaker. Working at Chevron for 11 years taught me invaluable skills. I even had my own cartoon in the company newsletter.
I began to feel stifled creatively so I began freelancing on the side. I got my first gig at Broderbund Software in Novato. I would drive up there after work and have meetings. I illustrated all the teacher's guides that went with the educational software. It was a great project for me and gave me the confidence to put myself out there.
At the same time I was asked to design some ads and invites for THX which was located at Skywalker Ranch in Marin. That was very exciting for me. I would have worked for free. I was up there several times including an invite to a private screening of Unforgiven, but I digress.
It was now the year 2000 and the whole dot.com explosion was happening. I decided to leave Chevron for a cray start-up called DigiScents. I became Art Director of a company that never made a dime but I had the most fun working for this start-up. They shut there doors after almost 2 years after they lost their funding. The whole premise was to smell up the internet with "ismell" boxes connected to your computer.
I was left without a job and had to act quickly to find something. I found a job in Craigslist. A small Berkeley-based design company called Flying Colors that designed the Super Bowl. I jumped on that! It was August 2001. I was hired in 2 weeks before 9/11. They has already had a "look" for the Super Bowl being played in New Orleans BUT the 9/11 tragedy happened and the NFL decided they wanted a "patriotic" design instead. I came up with a "crinkled" American flag look which the NFL used. If you remember everyone after 9/11was displaying the US flag everywhere. I went on to design several more Super Bowls and a number of Bowl games until 2006 when Flying Colors lost the Super Bowl account the company had had for 20 years. At the tim, Flying Colors was the only company designing for professional sports teams. At one time we has the MLB All-Star Game, the NBA All-Star Game, the NFL Pro Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the list goes on. In short, I was let go because there wasn't enough "creative" work to keep me on. I was quickly picked up by Chevron as a contracted designer. I went back to Chevron for 3 years until David K, the owner of Flying Colors called me and asked me to come back to because he had been offered the Super Bowl for another year. I took him up on his offer. I worked on Super Bowl 44 and the NFL Pro Bowl in 2009-10. I am still here and have been the sole designer for the past 3 years bringing in talent when needed. David K. sold Flying Colors to Moss Inc. 3 years ago and since then I have designed 3 NHL Winter Classics and 2 NHL Stadium Series games, the Pittsburgh Steelers "look" and the University of Pittsburgh branding.
This type of environmental design work is such a niche industry. Traveling to the venue to make design decisions on scope, taking measurements, deciding what materials to use and how they are going to attach not to mention figuring out wind loads and will things stick if temperatures get too low or too high or if we can use a type of adhesive that won't leave a mark. That's whole other blog post.
I continue to do freelance graphic design as Ransley Design. Because designing is my hobby, passion and profession, I am always working on something, somewhere. I feel blessed I have been doing this now for over 26 years and I can't imagine doing anything else. To be continued...
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.