This month, when ESPN's SportsCenter went live from its new digital studio, so too bowed a new, sharp graphics package as rendered by L.A.-based Troika Design Group. Expanding on the red circle logo associated with the brand, the new design concept, called "Revolution," morphs the dot into a 3-D "power source" that fuels a jet engine-like turbine. Featuring futuristic interlocking cylinders, hot- and cold-powered light rings and schematic details inspired by play diagrams layered over editorial footage and highlight clips, the package visually unites branded segments such as the "Top 10" and includes fonts and platforms for displaying player and team information. Completed in 720p, the package contributes to ESPN's HD expansion, and enables live titles and name banners to be applied by ESPN's in-house graphics team via VizRT. "The turbine became an environment embodying power and a metaphor for speed," says creative director Mark Bohman, who worked with lead designer Gil Haslam and producer Kristen Olsen while creating the package. "Instead of a graphic open, we wanted a graphic language that would be peppered throughout the show in transitions, bumpers, promotional elements, team and player names-a visual motif that would have some meaning."
Brand New School
For stars of Fox's extreme sports channel Fuel-skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers-falling down is a necessary part of life, so it's highly appropriate that Pinto, the stuffed hero of the channel's brand identity package, bites the dust once in awhile. "In each spot, he eats it and crashes," says Pinto creator Ben Go, an art director at Brand New School's Santa Monica studio, "but he manages to get back up. Our strategy was to come up with something that fits the culture of the people who would watch the network and defy conventional marketing strategies." Starring in a few stingers last year, the blue Gumby-shaped stop-motion puppet (originally sewn together by Go's wife) squares off against Santo, his evil red nemesis, on sets made completely (and obviously) of painted cardboard, which contribute to the low-tech camp factor. The two go at it while snowboarding and parachuting in the frozen wilderness, surfing in robot shark-infested waters, and skateboarding in Chinatown in three new :60s that pay tribute to James Bond, Baywatch and classic kung-fu movies. Of course, Pinto also loses an arm to a Dumpster, succumbs to the jaws of the robot shark, wipes out in the snow and gets shat on by a bird. No wonder Go calls it the most fun project he's worked on this year.
Fresh from designing a vintage Vegas-style animation package for Bravo, Flickerlab founder and creative director Harold Moss, who started the New York-based animation and multimedia design company in 1999, took yet another trip back in time to design a fun, nostalgic project for the network. The upcoming series Things I Hate About You, is about the playful bickering of real-life couples, so Moss and production company Wall to Wall looked to the animated openings of classic sitcoms I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched for inspiration for the show's intro. The script centers on an apartment building full of squabbling duos as the moving camera catches them in aggravated moments. The cast of characters includes a woman who takes too long to decide what to wear; a man (Moss himself) who snores and keeps his girlfriend up; and a woman who bestows more affection on her dog than on her lover. Animated in Flash and Photoshop, the design prominently features the modern-day twist of puppet-like photographed heads on top of cartoon bodies, appropriate because the show itself has a playful tone, unlike other couple-based reality shows. "The backgrounds have a classic feel," says Moss, who's collaborated with Michael Moore on Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, as well as the music video "Boom," for System of a Down. "But since design will eat itself, everything old looks new again." In a personalized twist, the last shot of each opener will feature the heads of the couple featured in that night's episode.
New York-based design and animation company Freestyle Collective's recent projects couldn't be more visually diverse, a practice that creative director Victor Newman, design director Hoon Chong and executive producer Suzanne Potashnick agree is mandatory to prevent design clich‚. From slick CG images for VH1 to urban-inspired BDA Award-nominated promos for Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show and a rainbow hued PSA for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, each project attempts new themes and styles. But Freestyle artists were given the opportunity to stretch a variety of creative muscles in a single broadcast design project for MTV's 2004 Movie Awards promos while maintaining the show's monster-movie theme. The first spot in the series, which describes how viewers can vote for nominees, features a 3-D animated haunted house with vaporous ghosts and a hall of scratched doors. A contest promo stars more friendly and colorful alien-like monsters who usher a faceless would-be winner to the red carpet. Holding true to classic images from black and white horror flicks, the third clip shows ink and paper animated zombies in rich texture against a blood red background. "They give you a lot of free range, and they're trusting," Newman says of working with MTV. "They always have their fingers on the design pulse."
To keep up with that pulse, Freestyle's artists create and visit online galleries and e-mail colleagues. "This is one of the best times to be a designer," Newman says.