My thesis development has come a long way since the beginning of the quarter and I am so glad I took this course before my grad review. Initially the thought of developing and researching a thesis topic was very overwhelming. I had research topics within design but could not form an idea of a written thesis for such a visual program. The projects, exercises and discussions have been an enormous help it getting me moving in the right direction and have even inspired some new directions in my research direction. One of the things I enjoyed most was conducting the interview. To be able to connect with a designer working and creating the things that inspires you is really amazing. Listening to their process makes you look deeper at their work – you begin to see the references that inspired the design and the details that a broader audience may have missed. Hearing about the map that served as the background for the Army uniforms was great. Had I not read about Justin LaRosa before and interview him, I would have just seen it as a map. Now I know the historical significance of it and what it meant to the players and the students of West Point.  I have also enjoyed seeing the topics of my classmates evolve and being inspired by their process and approach to research.
I am excited to continue my research and further develop my topic. Since sports based design is an area a plan to pursue professionally, I want to keep a well documented record of all my findings so I can share the experience with potential employers and designers who are working in this area.

GRDS 761 Visual Presentation from Britt on Vimeo.


Coming together…I hope

I feel I have a better direction for what I want my thesis to communicate. The written Investigation really helped me focus more on what I really want to say. I know I still need to work on the structure of the thesis and will be meeting with someone next week to help me do this. Since they work in sports and have a background in English I feel they would be a big help. As for the thesis, this is what I have so far:

Nostalgia in graphic design is more than the application of sepia tones, faded images and vintage type – it can extract from the past to create authentic visual and emotional experience for present audiences. By developing a process framework that outlines effective use of nostalgic components, sports-based designers will have a better understanding of how to create experiences that will suit the present audience while honoring and preserving the past histories they represent.

What I want to do with this thesis is essentially create a framework based on my research, case studies of effective campaigns , and interviews with sports based designers that would help create successful designs that use nostalgic images in the present day designs. I shared some of the brands I have been researching throughout the quarter. I am working to understand the different layers of the projects – what worked, what did not work – to build a guide designers could use for their work. One of the elements I have found that seems to be common in successful campaigns is a foundation of solid research and the importances of preserving the history of the visual elements while making them relevant and appealing to a new generation of viewers. As I worked on the investigation, read through the course notes and viewed the examples sent out last week I started thinking about the visual component of the thesis. I am still planning out the concept but the idea is to take the finding of my research and apply it to an older, discontinued sports brand. Using research methods from the thesis I would like to revive an event, team/franchise for the present day audience. I would have to consider element such as the original history, social climate during the time the brand was operational as well as the elements that would need to be preserved verse updated.


So it is week 8 and I still have a long way to go. I feel good about the interviews last week and the information gained from them. I mentioned last week my interview opened my mind to some more defined ideas and directions for refining my thesis statement. It have made me what to investigate deeper topics within sports design – case studies I am a little worried about pulling together all my resources and interview information. I have pulled pieces and notes from all over the place. I really need to sit down and organize my findings thus far. I know what I want to say and the topic I want to address – I just need to figure out the best way to format it. 

Connecting with Creatives

Busy week in the office, but I was able to connect with one of the designers on my list. I am interviewing Justin LaRosa – I wrote about him in last week’s post. We both went to NC State for undergrad – our studios were next to each other. During our initial conversation he told me about a few sites to check out of other designers specializing in athletic-based design:
Doubleday and Cartwright
Mickey Duzyj
I Love Dust

We are trying to schedule a time to go over interview questions now. I think he will really help me make connections between how the past and nostalgia influence design today in in the future. I still plan to interview the other designers on my list as resources. I have scheduled another one next week with Will Dannelly who is in the Marketing department at NASCAR. He also works AP to cover sporting events in Charlotte so he has a good grasp on sports culture and its appeal. Most of them are the creative directors and designers for professional and college sports programs. Despite their common area they each seem to bring a unique aspect and style to the design. Most have done some type of project that uses historical and vintage images I am doing write ups on 5 of them but below is my initial list. Some of them I have been able to connect with in the past on Behance and Twitter. They offered great feedback when I first began trying athletic based design. Just speaking with Justin and the other designers has really been an inspiring experience. Looking at their work is one thing, but have the chance to hear them talk about how their brought the idea together was great. Their insight and advice is something I definitely plan to use beyond the thesis research.

Justin LaRosa –
Matt Stevens –
Will L. Wyss
Matt Lange –
Raul Ferran  –
Benjamin Mayberry –
Chris Modarelli –
Buddy Overstreet –
Tony Tucker –
Kristopher Bazen –
Josh Whiteside –
Aaron Dewey –
Will Dannelly

Source Hunt

As a mentioned last week I am stuck when it comes to finding sources. I know what I want and the terms to using to find them. Since I have been snowed in the past few days I have not been able to go back to the library. My first trip turned up a few books on sports marketing which I hope will give better insight to the audience but I am having trouble finding scholarly articles that support my thesis that nostalgia can be used to inspire design in the future of sports design. This idea of looking to the past reminds me of a Ghanaian proverb: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten”. I may have use what I considered unconventional sources and ideas to help fuel my search. I feel the past has so much to teach and is not moving design backward. I also recognize the desire for designers to introduce the next big idea.  

I am planning to present several case studies to support the idea that nostalgia in a successful tool in design and marketing as well as address cases where nostalgia has been misused, contributing to the negative stigma it holds amongst some designers. I have been collecting points and ideas and working to use them to rework my concept map from part 1 of the research project. Hopefully as I rework it more will come to me to guide my search for sources.

Getting to the source

So…after working on the mind map and annotated bibliography I found I have a lot more to consider. My biggest struggle right now is finding reliable, up-to-date sources. My thesis topic focuses on how the past and nostalgia can be used to influence the future of sports design. I came to the realization that I will need to reach out to those in the sports design and creative fields to get a better look into this aspect of design and where it is going. I started making a list of designers and agencies that specialize in this area that I could reach out to for direction and information. Earlier this week I received my copy of NC State College of Design magazine. The theme for this quarter is “innovation”. As I skimmed through the pages I came across an article about an alum named Justin Larosa who is currently working at Nike designing uniforms. He discussed his process when designing the uniforms for the annual Army vs. Navy game. Larosa used the Army’s WWII victory at the Battle of the Bulge as inspiration for the graphics in the uniform.

Army’s striking black and gold uniforms pay tribute to a year when the Black Knights were unstoppable on all fields of battle: 1944, the year the Army troops won a key strategic victory in WWII’s Battle of the Bulge. The football team at home was on its way to a perfect season and the first of three consecutive national championships. In tribute to Army’s historic victory on the battlefield, a historical re-interpreted West Point battle atlas map of the region where the offensive took place can be seen throughout multiple elements of the uniform, from the jersey to base layer to gloves, all the way down to the inside the cleats.

Up until now, I had only thought about sports based references of nostalgia and the past design styles but Larosa’s work pushed me to consider how  past historical events can serves as inspiration. It could be a visual reference like the maps in the uniforms as well as a reminder of a great achievement and example of endurance – two important aspects of athletic performance. He said Nike strives to be authentic when designing uniforms and that school or team’s history serves as one of the best sources for inspiration.  One of the things I found inspiring in his story was the reaction from the WWII veterans at the game who saw the uniforms and what it meant to them.  I start to think about how the events in recent history will shape and influence future design. We live in a time where things become old so fast and not just technology. Our memories and experiences as well. It seems they are shape more by phases in our lives instead of by time itself. 

Solidifying my topic

I feel I have made a good amount of progress in determining the direction of my thesis topic. The exercises and précis really helped my analyze and understand my articles and what to look for in a reliable source. I am focusing on the use of nostalgia in sports based design . Based on the articles I have read so far there seems to be some hesitation in the design world to the idea of anything that uses reference of “retro” or “vintage”. While I do like these elements I understand they have been used a great deal for their visual style. In some cases nostalgia is used without considering changes in time and how a design may be received. One example I came across was Appalachian State going back to their old mascot. While the idea behind the decision had good intentions it may have been wise to update the design so it would appeal to more people. There are elements of the old mascot that reflect the school’s past but the overall view was the design looked too unrefined to be the face of the athletics department. If it was just for a limited time or anniversary the feedback may not have been as harsh.

Screenshot 2014-01-30 20.14.18

I want to focus on the feelings associated with nostalgia paired with the energy of the sports experience and how design is used to create the experience. Some questions I am looking at are: What makes nostalgia work? When is it appropriate? as well as this idea of creatine “instant nostalgia” with the use of vintage and retro design treatments. I have found several articles that offer opinions and considerations when using nostalgia in design. I have also found a case study on the use of nostalgic design in sports facilities which is a major part of the sports audience experience. The more I research and read the more I begin to make connections – this is the exciting part. I  have a few contacts in sports design, marketing and media I will be reaching out to soon to provide more perspectives as well as a fans point of view.  Even though their job is to present the brand of a particular team they are also fans. They know what they want as fan as well what other fans are looking for. I found a few books at the library I will be checking out this weekend along with reading the rest of the articles I found. After I complete the concept map draft I hope to make even more connections.