Balls

Almost at the end of two weeks of a fabulous Olympic Games. There is wall-to-wall coverage so I’ll not add too much to the Olympic noise. The inner cynicism with which I approached the event has been squished under thousands of happy feet. I have loved the event, the change in atmosphere in the country has been amazing and the sporting success of Great Britain’s competitors is just thrilling. So proud. And Boris was left dangling on wire to increase my TV glee.

Thinking of sport every day reminded me of some sports guides I designed covers for at Pan Macmillan – a few Olympic Games ago. As a general publisher rather than a sports specialist Pan’s approach was to go for the individual sport’s governing body endorsement as their USP. And a unified graphic brand identity was called for. I wanted to avoid sports personality imagery as it always throws up ego/permission/vetting issues. And they would date sooner. After a period of deliberation on concept the editor enquired about my creative intentions. “Balls”, was my response. Though sometimes abrupt, this time my answer was simply factual. We had LTA Tennis, SRA/WSRA Squash and PGA Golf. Now I have been involved in a lot of series over my time and I had become aware of some of the potential pitfalls if you don’t plan ahead. I needed to know which other sports might be coming down the pipeline . . . “Possibly Rugby, not Football and maybe Cricket,” the editor assured me. “So all ball sports”, I probed. “Yes, definitely no others”, came the reassurance I needed.

Now confident I turned my attention to specific. I declined the photographic option for the balls as the close-ups would need to be perfect. And this was pre-Photoshop times (gasps, I’m turning grey!) and such things as post-production retouching were very expensive. I wanted hyper-realistic artwork of the ball for each sport. Now you all know I have a taste for the best in illustration and I dislike weak airbrush work. Too often I saw work from people for whom the slick effect took hold before the basic skills were mastered. The results would tend to look as though a balloon had been stretched over the subject. And when only the best will do (most times then. Ed.) it called for the masterly eye of Chris Moore as my illustrator of choice. An Olympic Champion with an airbrush. What makes it so good is his acute observation, the skill of the initial drawing and the expertise to use a regular brush afterwards.  This gives the texture that breathes life into the finished work. Chris is one of the finest Sci-Fi artists of all time. This time it was pure technique. Perfect results every time. And a pleasure to deal with.

So the type was added. I should confess I would do it differently today, (If in doubt, use Goudy). And I had the after-thought of rotating the squash ball through 90 degrees for a little visual wit. We polished off the job and moved on to yet more of Pan’s prodigious list. All was fine. Well, fine for a while. Our series of official sports guides went well. Then the editor commissioned a new title which, of course, needed a cover. These were all going to be ball sports right? “So what is the new title?” I enquired willingly. “Swimming” was the reply.

Some days are less about design and more about escapology.

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