Thursday, April 28, 2016

THIS IS THE REMIX: 2016 Bowman

I thought I'd take the occasion of 2016 Bowman hitting the shelves to post a remix I did a few months ago. My overall impression of Topps' design is mostly positive. I like the angular elements and appreciate that everything is (mostly) readable The biggest issue I have is just the overall busy-ness, with all the shines and fades and bevels. The lack of a solid border was the first thing I changed while keeping a few of the overlaps along the top. Next, I changed the name so both the first and last are aligned on the left and just made the tab a solid transparent tab. The Bowman and RC logos are in the same spot. I decided to make the shape holding the player position into an actual home plate instead of just the "sorta" home plate they used. The little tab thing between that and the logo has the team name repeating over and over like a ticker, like the original design. (The Schwarber here says "ROOKIE" over and over.) Then I added the drop shadow to the player cutout and faded the background image a bit to help the player stand out.

You can see here how the solid border looks with the parallels in comparison to the Topps' design. It's definitely easier to spot on your initial view. The fade on the borderless right side of the card in the original really bugs me. The solid border fixes that. I did a few more below though I don't know if these are included in 2016.

The changes aren't too drastic but they definitely fit my own personal style more than all the over-texturing that Topps is so smitten with currently. In my mind, they're about 5-7 years behind design trends with all of the beveling and whatnot. The remix would definitely age a lot better down the line than the original design.

Monday, April 25, 2016

2016 Spirit Deluxe

The flagship, "low-end" and retro base designs have been in the books for a while now, so it's time to finish up the Spirit quartet with Deluxe, the "high-end" set.

I tried to keep the elements to a minimum and keep the cards from getting too busy. The player names are along the bottom left, stamped in silver foil. Additionally, there's a silver line below and the Deluxe "D" in the upper right corner, all three elements stamped with a bit of an embossed effect. The look is mimicked by the team cap logo in the bottom right corner, though the embossing there is strictly a design effect and not physically embossed. You can see why in the autograph parallels below.

With the white feather coming up from below to help ensure the autographs are visible, the fake embossed look for the logo is a necessity so the players don't have any issues when actually signing.

The backs probably look pretty similar to previous years of Deluxe cards with a good sized photo up top with the rest of space devoted for stats/write-up/other info. Here we have full-size team logos as well as a single stat line encompassing the players's whole career. Also, I actually took the time to do the "write-up" instead of using lorem ipsum text like I usually do, so enjoy more of my meandering writing if you'd like.

The next design post will probably be the Clubhouse All-Stars insert I've done every year but I may do a "review" post with an exciting new format! (Mostly because I've been reeeeeally bad at keeping up with reviewing the 2016 releases from Topps and Panini thus far.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 Pennant

I've posted the flagship and the "low-end" sets, so now it's time for the retro set. The Pennant designs of the past haven't necessarily tried to emulate a particular era. Basically what I try to do is keep them simple while incorporating design elements and trends that are decidedly un-modern. I think it's a good strategy for me so I don't run into a situation like Topps has with Allen & Ginter and Gypsy Queen designs that are hard to differentiate year after year.

The 2016 version harkens back to the late-'60s, with simple colors and a no-frills typeface (Franklin Gothic Condensed). As I tend to do, the color palette is dictated by the team logos instead of some arbitrary system like you would have found back then. The whites are dulled to represent the old uncoated stock and I added grain to the photos and the color boxes to imitate the look of cards from the era as well.

On the back, I went with a horizontal format for the first time with Pennant. All elements are black & white. The little corner tabs which housed the team and Pennant logos on the front are used for card number and a small player portrait on the back. These are definitely my favorite card backs I've designed for the Pennant brand.

Last year I had a "sepia" parallel but this year's design didn't really lend itself to it. If Spirit ever decided to go the "Chrome/Prizm" route, though, this would definitely be a candidate for it. The autograph parallels are still in existence, as well as the addition of a "jumbo" relic. There probably wouldn't be a parallel of each for every card in the set but the design changes so minimally that calling them parallels works for me.

Of all the designs I've posted here, this is probably the one I'd be most tempted to actually print samples of, especially for in-person autograph purposes. If anybody feels so inclined to do the legwork, I'd be up for the designing.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Clubhouse

I seem to be going every-other-year with the orientation of the Clubhouse set. Last year, they were vertical. So I guess it's time for horizontal again.

Once again, the design is filled with bold colors and simplicity, with the card cut in half by diagonal color boxes. The player cutout is surrounded by a white outline to keep them offset from the background. Diagonal bars come in from opposite sides for the player name and position with a team logo in a circle in the bottom right corner. It helps tie Clubhouse to the main Spirit base set without being such a overt copy. These simple elements keep the design from feeling overdone or cluttered while also keeping with the "fun" feel this low-end product strives for.

The back has plenty room for career stats while still following the elements and look of the front. Even the stat box is able to keep the angled format. If not for having to cut out every player, I'd consider doing a card for each of the 30 MLB teams just because the designing was so fun for me. To me, it strikes a good balance of modern and fun, without being too ornate like some designs are these days.

We still have the Pennant and Deluxe designs to finish/post and then I'll probably start on some new inserts for all four Spirit sets.

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Spirit Award Winners

Now that the base design has been unveiled, I'm keeping with tradition and presenting the Spirit Award Winners as the first insert design of the season. You know the drill by now — 18 Gold Glovers (9 AL/9 NL) with gold foil and 18 Silver Sluggers (9 AL/9 NL) with shiny, shiny silver. After starting out super gaudy like disco balls and gold bars, the foil has been a little more subdued in the past couple years. That's also meant a little bit more actual designing on my part.

The gold and silver is mostly found in the four corners with a little bit of deckled texture added in. These make for a nice way to frame the player cutouts. The backgrounds are once again blue and red, respective to each league. The texture is just stormy/grungy enough to keep things interesting without going overboard. It's a good match for all the clean, modernistic lines everywhere else.

The backs are basically the same design as the front, only flipped vertically with text replacing the cutouts. The small mug shot along the top gives you another chance to see these superstar honorees up close. Overall it's a pretty efficient design with just enough ornamentation to add interest without overwhelming you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Spirit Base

With pitchers and catchers reporting today, what better time to unveil the look for the 2016 Spirit flagship set. Just like last year, I've designed a card for every team. You can see a roundup of them all below but to get a better look, you can check them out on my Instagram page. Without further ado, let's breakdown this year's design.

For the fifth straight year, the flagship set is borderless. (Just wanted to point that out since Topps seems to be getting a lot of credit for going borderless in 2016...) These diagonal bars in team colors coming from the edges converge to add a little bit of dynamism that you don't get from just plain old rectangles. I guess diagonals are all the rage in 2016. The team logos are back to full-color after I went with gold foil last year. The last element is a small accolades strip extending just above the bars. For any award-winning or all-star player, there's a designation to help them stand out a bit from the rest of the league. You can really tell below even at these small sizes.

Though he's kinda cut off, I had to go with the Cal pic for Machado's card. And that A-Rod photo is so trolltastic I love it.

The Donaldson photo seemed like a good emblem of his 2015 season.

Solid trio of cards here. I like how you can see Kinsler's bat in the bottom left corner, peeking out.

Check out the flow on Keuchel's beard there. Also, I was just barely able to get the ball in frame on the Santiago card without the whole thing getting imbalanced. Just barely.

All three batting cards featuring different parts of the swing. God I love Nelly's fly ball pose.

Good balance of photos here. A candid on-field, a candid dugout and a statue-esque action shot.

The look of concern on Joey Walks face is something you'll probably be seeing a lot of this season.

Piscotty gets the RC logo in the bottom right corner. It's a little tight but fits. I decided to go with red and teal for the Diamondbacks even though they don't actually feature it much in their new identity. Anything to add some unique colors to the set.

Glad the Padres added yellow to their team colors. The sand was always so drab. Maybe next year they'll add brown in there as well.

The back are a progression from the 2015 design, updated with the 2016 design elements. Everything fits pretty coherently. For veterans with years and years of service, the stat box will get a little crowded but that's always been the case with any base design. I think my favorite part is how the logo fits perfectly below the card number and to the left of the vitals, filling the negative space from the diagonal photo.

Well this is the fifth Spirit base set I've designed. If I find the time I may do a retrospective post comparing them all across the years. Maybe even a poll for everyone to vote for their favorites. Stay tuned for that....

Sunday, January 3, 2016


First off, Happy New Year to everybody. 2016 is here so I hope everyone is looking forward to the Giants' World Series win this fall as much as I am. The other 29 fanbases around the league had your chance last season. For you non-Royals fans, 2017 is just a year away. I already have the 2016 Spirit base design completed. I'm just waiting a little bit to start posting them in case one of the players I picked gets traded. (I've already had to scrub my Shelby Miller/Braves selection.) I'll be posting them on Instagram like last year leading up to a full post here, so look forward to that. In the meantime, I plan on posting a "remix" or two, starting off here with 1992 Topps.

The most noteworthy thing about Topps' 1992 release is the use of a coated card stock for the first time in a Topps' flagship release. On top of the smoother surface, the entire card was just brighter than ever before. The design itself was a continuation of the 1991 set with the color and info along the bottom of the card and some extra frames inset from the borders. There's not a lot of exciting stuff going on here, basically just colored boxes with text. For better or worse, I stuck with this strategy for the remix while just making some slight adjustments.

On the original design, the boxes had some hatching added to the bottom and left edges to help add a sense of depth. It's a minor detail that does what it's supposed to. The boxes themselves are mostly team-colored though there are a few random exceptions like the yellow used for the Giants here. The inset frames are also kinda team-colored along with an additional white line on the outside. Topps was able to use these frames to add a little bit of excitement as they had some periodic overlapping where the photographs called for it. Something as simple as having the player's hat or glove or bat cross over that line really adds depth and interest.

Instead of any kind of branding, the team name is simply spelled out in a cursive typeface on the smaller box with the player name in an all-caps sans-serif font in the bigger box. Again, these colors are seem to correspond with the team colors most of the time but not always.

Looking at the remix, the basic feel is very similar with just each area tweaked ever so slightly. The shading of the boxes is gone and instead each ones fades from one team color to a slightly darker version. There's a solid stroke around each with the respective team color. Those strokes then connect with the new inset frames that extend from the boxes. You can see on the original how there was a thick black outline around each frame. Those added a lot of unnecessary heft that imposes on the photograph. I decided to stick with just two simple lines that interact with each other instead of overpowering the borders. The added distance between them and outside white border also keeps things from being as congested. The players still overlap the frames when appropriate.

The text treatments are the same but with different typefaces, though all are in white to keep them legible. (I'm still not sure why the 1992 Bohanon up there has his name in yellow since the Rangers haven't had yellow happening in their branding ever.) I did make the addition of the player position in the negative space between the right edge of the name box and the right frame just above the team box. It can be black or white, depending on the particular image below it on each card.

Like all the other remixes I've done, the feel is intact while the elements have just been tweaked/updated to reflect either more modern design elements or correct (perceived) design errors.

What set(s) should I do next? Surely there are a few designs from the last 30+ years that are just a few little adjustments away from being good. Let me know what you think could use a 'remix.'

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Deluxe First Rate Rookies

The 2015 rookie class may go down as one of the strongest in MLB history. This post is probably a bit of a precursor to the 2016 Spirit All-Rookie Team or whatever. Since a player's worth/value in the hobby is probably no higher than their prospect and rookie years, seems like a good time to throw some rookie autos into a high-end product. Even at 15-deep, this is a pretty solid checklist:

1. Kris Bryant
2. Carlos Correa
3. Matt Duffy
4. Miguel Sano
5. Kyle Schwarber
6. Noah Syndergaard
7. Francisco Lindor
8. Jung Ho Kang
9. Joc Pederson
10. Robert Osuna
11. Stephen Piscotty
12. Addison Russell
13. Chris Heston
14. Andrew Heaney
15. Odubel Herrera

The design is pretty similar to the Dynamic Duos and the Deluxe base, using elements of team colors with a bit of a beam pattern, minimal text/ornaments and similar typefaces. There's a soft white fade for legible signatures along with some of the standard gold foil for the name and logo.

The back has minimal design elements. Along the top color bar, player portrait fades in from the right with the "First Rate Rookies" logotype and card number on the left. Below is the name/position/team combo from the front as well as a full-color team logo. The rest of the space is filled with the standard authenticity language and the rest of the fine print.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

2015 Spirit Home Grown

With all the player movement this season, I thought a good insert concept would be to focus on some guys who have risen all the way to the majors with the same team that drafted and developed them. Some people refer to them as "home grown" so that's the name I picked. 50 cards here featuring such players that have at least 5 MLB seasons in the ledger.

Playing off the "grown" part of the title, the design features a grassy background image fading into a subtle paper texture. The title is in an ornate typeface that looks similar to an immaculately tended hedge garden. There are also some green-ish vine-line flourishes adorning the edges of the card. A player cutout overlaps all the elements before softly fading to make room for the the text at the bottom. The cardboard here is uncoated in keeping with the earthy, organic feel of the concept. It also makes a great contrast for the foil-stamped player name and Spirit logo.

The motif carries over to the backs with the grass fade reversed to top-to-bottom. A small player portrait rest in the middle along the top, flanked by the "Home Grown" text and the team logo below. A brief write-up closes things out.

With the checklist here numbering 50, you'd get some of the less-marquee names like Perkins and Gardner here along with heavy hitters like McCutchen and Kershaw and Trout, so something for everyone.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Gint-a-cuffs (Part 3 of 3)

Heading into the final 8 packs, I'm sitting at a whopping 100 points. Let's put this thing down.

#36 - Anthony Ranaudo
#45 - Chris Owings
#90 - Darren Rovell
#147 - Yoenis Cespedes
#167 - Julie Foudy
#322 - Mark Melancon
SP-69 Chase Utley (Starting Points) +2
MINI BP-10 Tyto Alba (Birds of Prey) +2


I feel like the Birds of Prey set is a pretty blatant appeal by Topps to a certain card blogger.

#14 - LaTroy Hawkins
#33 - Michael Wacha
#106 - Yunel Escobar
#178 - Travis d’Arnaud
#213 - Elvis Andrus
#275 - Billy Hamilton
SP-15 Jon Lester (Starting Points) +2
MINI 112 - Buck 65


Even without the lens of non-scoring Gint-a-cuffs cards, this is a pretty unremarkable pack. 

#59 - Hector Rondon
#89 - Jonathan Papelbon
#157 - Jose Reyes
#288 - Robinson Cano
GS-10 Dolly the Sheep (Great Scott!) +2
FSRB-JVO Joey Votto Full-Sized Relic (FPx1.7) +10.2
MINI 112 - Buck 65 (A&G Back) +2


One the heels of the most boring pack of the box, we've come to the final hit of the box, a full-size gray relic. Luckily, Mr. Votto is on the Favorite Player list so he bumps up the point value a bit. Still, it was right around this point I started to accept that I'm not winning this year. Let's soldier through th rest of box.

#31 - Frank Caliendo
#54 - Javier Baez
#158 - Kurt Suzuki
#276 - Alex Rodriguez (YANKEES) -1
#281 - Cory Spangenberg
#314 - Ian Desmond
AA-18 Dory Spear (Ancient Armory) +2
MINI 264 - Matt Kemp (Black-Bordered) +3


The A-Rod card is a lot less palatable at this point of the break.

#6 - Lucas Duda
#168 - Clay Buchholz
#171 - Anthony Rendon
#193 - Aramis Ramirez
#256 - Sonny Gray
#301 - Justin Morneau
SP-49 Joe Mauer (Starting Points) +2
MINI 276 - Alex Rodriguez (A&G Back / YANKEES) +1


Okay, seriously. What is with all of these A-Rod cards??

#101 - Stephen Strasburg
#217 - Wade Miley
#229 - Ivan Drago -1
#237 - Hyun-Jin Ryu
#246 - Andrew Cashner
#321 - Ben Zobrits
SP-29 Victor Martinez (Starting Points) +2
MINI 123 - Micah Johnson (A&G Flag Back) +8


The A&G Flag Back mini was a nice little surprise. Granted, I couldn't tell you a single fact about Micah Johnson so it could've been a little nicer surprise.

#84 - Josh Harrison
#257 - Pablo Sandoval
#268 - Jimbo Fisher -1
#284 - Jay Bruce
#300 - Bryce Brentz
#306 - Stephen Drew (YANKEES) -1
SP-80 Fernando Rodney (Starting Points) +2
MINI 309 - Gabe Kapler (SP) +3


Alright, things are getting a little gross here. I'm ready for the end.

#13 - Koji Uehara
#115 - Dustin Pedroia
#175 - DJ LeMahieu
#204 - Chase Headley (YANKEES) -1
#231 - Henderson Alvarez
#320 - Dallas Keuchel
WAS-6 Brontosaurus (What Once Was Believed) +2
MINI HBF-6 Benjamin Hornigold (Hoist the Black Flag) +2



That happy little brontosaurus is the saving grace of the last few packs. I somehow managed to score 60 fewer points than last year's box. Can't win them all I suppose. It was still fun and I'm anxious to see how/if I rebound in 2016.