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?
Design is a huge part of my life. It's a passion, a hobby and my profession. I have never stepped into the uncertain world of being a full-time freelance designer because not knowing when and where the next gig is going to come frankly scares the sh*t out of me. I have freelanced on-the-side for many years but it's never been a steady flow of projects. It never fails that projects all come at the same time and then I have a dry spell for a month or two. I do wonder if potential clients see I am a fully-employed designer and think I don't have time to spend on their projects. These new "bidding" websites are a disaster for the designer as well. There are people bidding on projects with fees as low as $5 an hour. That may be a livable wage in some countries but not here in the Bay Area.
I ask, what is the best way to put yourself out there if you are trying to pick-up freelance work? I promote myself as much as I can through Linkedin, Flikr, Behance, blogging and even buying several urls (www.bayareagraphicart.com & www.berkeleygraphicdesign.com). It's a never ending struggle to market myself. One thing that wasn't taught in design school was how to be your own business person and marketing yourself. That is a huge part of being a designer today. So, until I can figure out how to get 2 or 3 steady clients doing freelance design, I will continue to work for a large company picking up a steady paycheck. I do have to admit, I think freelance work would be a very lonely existence. I do love the team atmosphere working on large projects brings with it. I'm letting the world know - I'm looking for some freelance design gigs!!
I have been in the industry for more years than I want to admit. Over the last few years the special event/sports design business has become very competitive. We never had to go through the "request for proposal" process like we do now. I have spent weeks working on concepts, scope, presentation format, etc, etc. I work on a team so you add the time of a project manager, a sales person, a production artist, copy-righting not to mention sending a team of 3 people to the site or venue, it can get very costly.
More and more RFP's want a design component to it. Internally we are always challenged how much design to give away. Design and project management is our product so to give 2-3 design options and not to get the gig is not juts deflating but very costly to a small design firm. It is not uncommon to spent $10k - $20k to try to win a bid.
I am writing this because we are in the middle of 3 huge RFs at the moment. In fact, I am spending 100% of my time working on these projects. I have many stories of wins and huge losses.
I work for a Berkeley-based sports design firm (when I'm not freelancing) which has/had 5-10 employees. We were offered to bid on the signage/graphics on the new Wembley Stadium in London. They were knocking down the historic old Stadium and rebuilding it from the ground up. They wanted to bring the history from the old building into the new Stadium using the concourses to show images of great events from Live Aid and other concerts to soccer games to Royal events. I had a great time designing photo collages and researching the history of the London Stadium. Along with another designer we spent a good month concepting different options. We printed samples of our work as well. Three us flew to London and surveyed the new Wembley Stadium as it was being built. We had to take a 2-day safety course before we could roam the property and walk through the construction site. We returned after a week with survey data and drew up our scaled baselines and proceeded to formalize our designs. We are now 6 weeks into the RFP when we get a call that they have decided not to do the proposed design direction because the construction has gone over budget. We were not just devastated but financially in a hole. As a Company we had spent $20k and no way to recoup the cash. It almost ruined our little design studio.
This is just one example of many RFPs. In this day and age I still don't believe that design wins the bid. It's all about the mighty dollar and even though we put our little copyright line on each concept, it doesn't stop the potential customer taking our designs to the lowest bidder and revising a line here or a color there. It's tough to prove they "stole" a design. The RFP seems a great way to get free design and free services.
We are currently waiting to hear if we are a finalist on a bid for a National football game being played early next year. We had a team of 6 working out the initial presentation including hiring a 3-D modeling artist. If selected 4 of us are flying to another State to do a meet and greet. This is the nature of the business now. It's a huge risk and it feels very unfair. Many of these RFPs are for a one year contract so if you are awarded the project you have to make your money back on that one event and then spend the money again to go through the RFP process again to try and win it again.
Please share some of your own experiences. I know this is a hot topic in the design/event industry.
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...
As most of you know I have spent a number of years designing for a small Berkeley company that has been involved in some of America's biggest sporting events. We were bought by a Chicago-based Company 3-years ago called Moss Inc. We recently changed our name from Flying Colors to Moss Sports. We are still operating like a small Company with myself as the sole designer bringing in support design help when needed. I work with a Project Manager and an Art Director who is more of a PM these days. Somehow we manage.
It never gets old seeing my designs on television or in a magazine after all these years. It's truly a great job working with a team to produce graphics at such a large scale. We just finished up designing the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan on New Year's Day 2014. It was broadcast on NBC. It was the most successful Winter Classic to date for the NHL.
We also finished up two games in fantastic venues for the NHL. The Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium in New York and Soldier Field in Chicago were also very successful. I feel deeply honored to have designed these games for the NHL working for Moss Sports.
It was a challenge designing for these events because they were literally one on top of the other being weeks apart. We pulled it off somehow like we always do. On to the next project...
Ian Ransley DESIGN
Ian Ransley is a Bay Area Digital Artist, Graphic Designer and Illustrator who has designed some of the most popular large-scale sporting and corporate events in the world.