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Saturday, January 2, 2010

In the Beginning

When it comes to Frequently Asked Questions about Studio Simon, perhaps the most frequent of the queries is “How did you get started in sports design?” So for the inaugural GAME FACES post, I figured there was no better place to start than, well... the start.

Today, there are multiple firms and individuals who have chosen to specialize in the craft of branding the sporting world’s professional, collegiate and amateur teams, leagues and businesses. But earlier in my career, the sports branding landscape was not nearly as populated as it is today, and that is when my good friend, Peter Thornburgh, and I made it our goal to focus our creative energies on this segment of the industry that was screaming for award-winning creativity.

Although I had been working as a graphic designer for about ten years and had a relatively-sizable portfolio of work by that time, we realized that potential sports clients would likely need to see a sports branding portfolio before giving us work. But since our work up to that point had been for entertainment industry clients, we didn't have anything along those lines already under our belt. As avid fantasy sports participants, however, we had already spent copious amounts of time dreaming up potential team names, and we used those as fodder for the very first sports identities we would develop. Keep in mind that this was the veritable Stone Age that was the Early-’90s, so creating a digital portfolio like one might do today was not yet a possibility. Instead, we set out to create our own “Field of Seams.”

This was also in the day before the Internet made even the most hard-to-find items merely a mouse-click away, so we had to scour Los Angeles-area sports team apparel suppliers and flea markets for blank jerseys, caps and helmets on which to apply our designs. We also haunted the local fabric stores, where we searched for just the right color materials and threads to match our visions. We would hand-embroider our logos onto the caps and, when Peter’s wife, Ginger, tired of sewing our hand-cut lettering onto our jerseys, we had to learn how to use the old Singer ourselves (how many guys do you know who would admit they can spin their own bobbin?).

Once we had enough faux sports team uniforms put together, we had the lot of them professionally photographed by another good friend, Paul Conrath, so when the first potential sports design opportunity presented itself, and the client asked to see our work, we were ready—and we got the project!

That was all many moons ago, but while searching through some old files a few months back, I happened upon the Polaroids (remember those?) from the photo shoot, and put them aside for eventual use in this post. The very first team identity I developed was for the Akron Barnstormers (shown above); the orange number on the front of the jersey was a nod to the red contrasting “TV numbers” on the Los Angeles Dodgers unis, one of my favorite sports uniform details of all-time.

Other teams that Peter and I did included the St. Louis Archers, Yakima Yaks, Bayonne Bombardiers and La Mirada Marauders. It’s interesting how things come full-circle—Studio Simon recently had the opportunity to develop a new identity system for a club named the Marauders (the new Florida State League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates that will be playing in Bradenton, FL in 2010).


  1. Nice job on the website Dan - finally a proper on-line showcase of your great work!
    - Perth Thnatchers

  2. I was wondering when I would hear from you. It was worth the wait. Great new site. I will drop by the blog from time to time as you always have something interesting to say. Cheers!!
    Dan Prettyman

  3. Website and blog look fantastic. It's a real..wait for it..home run!
    Thought: how about linking the blog to the website (and vice versa)?

  4. Nice and love the history. I do think your talents are writing as well as visual and the book should be coming. Best and keep it going. Marje B.

  5. It's a well-branded pitch hit to deep center field...way back...waaay back...it's gone!
    --Brad Jansen


    Also, I can name five of the six faces along the top; the second from the left is the lone exception.

    Looking forward to this little endeavor of yours....

  7. The new site and blog look great! Looking forward to reading future posts.

  8. Wow! Brings back great memories watching you guys sew your jerseys and caps!

  9. Really love the website and blog, Dan! I've long been a fan of your work and I'm now looking forward to gleaning insights about you and your creative process through this vehicle. Thanks!

  10. I enjoyed your initial posts and look forward to many more. I've done sports logos here and there, but mainly enjoy it as a hobby. If you do any tutorials or tips on hand embroidering caps, I'm all for it. Or you could just tell us how painful it is to do.
    -Tom Richards