What Lies Beneath: Ultimate’s Hidden Signature

Hey all. The winner of the UNOFFICIAL, Flatball Creative local logo contest is named at the bottom of this post, so feel free to go check that and show our winner some love wherever possible. But first I wanted to start things off with a post I’ve been writing for the better part of a year. I am interested in hearing your thoughts, so check this out.

It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that ultimate uniforms are not baseball uniforms. I always loved baseball’s embroidery, the button-ups, the belts! But I understand they’re a bit outdated and restricting in today’s sphere, especially for really movement-heavy sports. Just like in baseball uniforms are like no other, there has to be something that differentiates ultimate unis from those seen in other sports. The necessity for light, flowy duds calls upon the capabilities of sublimation. But those are capabilities with which we must be responsible, holding true to common design ideals (distinctiveness, boldness, etc.), especially those relating to on-field design, seen on far-away, moving players. So I’d like to outline some of my observations on the uniforms of ultimate. 
How does it look on the field?
That is the number one most important question for uniform design.
Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to figure out what  makes an ultimate uniform an utimate uniform. How are our uniforms distinctive? I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I was thinking and looking and thinking, and was still strugling to point at one thing. And then, sometime in late November, I was slapped across the fucking face.

Emory, I love you, but you hurt me.
But, that said, that is when I figured it out. 
It’s sublimation. That’s our thing.
Lots of sports experiment with it as a way of making their uniforms lighter and less cumbersome. But sublimation is ours. That’s why I’m a little nervous.
Sublimation is a process that allows companies like Spin, DiscStore, whoever, to transfer any image onto fabric. Now, that’s kind of amazing. It opens up a new world for uniform design. But we still have to be responsible and show some restraint, because good lord guys, I’m so over the full body galaxy print.
But there are ways to use sublimation for good, and my favorite example is the Madison Radicals.
rsellers_audlsemi1_150808_0670 copy.jpg
#RaRa indeed.
This is the lesson. The Radicals showed us how we can use sublimation to make a uniform visually interesting, without being cluttered. They picked one big design element (the lightning bolt) and built the uniform up from there. By creating open spaces within the overall design, they are able to feature their logo, their advertiser, the AUDL logo, and the names and numbers, all without cluttering the uniform. Madison actually ditched these beautiful threads for a slightly different look this year, which broke my heart just a little. I loved that blue-green gradient.
My other favorite professional uniform can be found in the great north, in a little city called Montreal. The Royal! Royal, you look the part! Nothing says Royalty like a good sash. Once again, same thing. A big design element that makes the uniform interesting but not too busy.

We’re going to talk about Madison and Montreal a lot more on here, by the way. These are two teams that are headed in the right direction from an artistic standpoint. You think it’s a coincidence that the two best uniforms in the league are worn in front of the biggest fanbases in the league? Yeah, I think not.

But how to do this successfully.

Ideally, you want to make that big element the focal point and keep the rest of the uniform uncluttered. When you look at teams like Madison and Montreal (another favorite was San Fransisco), you see a big design element and then pretty much just a solid color. That contrast will do you some real good on the field.

I’ve been trying all this out on my own, with my lovable guinea pig team, of which I am a part, at University of North Florida. (We’re called Category 5.) I started playing last year and had the pleasure of designing new uniforms. They look like this.

The blue one.

The big design element is an osprey wing I added to the right shoulder (Osprey is our school mascot), which you can’t see super well in this photo, but you get the idea. Then I added a gradient that I’ve continued to use throughout our branding to tie all the art back to the uniform. Here are some social media examples.

We’re going to talk a lot more about this idea another time as well, but I just wanted to give a brief introduction to the concept of branding consistency on and off the field.

Overall, the concept I wanted to talk about today is that idea of coming up with one big design element on an ultimate uniform that allows you as the designer to build a strong uniform around it. Don’t be afraid to show a little restraint. Good design is about subtraction. When those players are running across the field 100 feet away, you’re not going to see a La Croix can. It’s just going to be a noisy blur of color. So please remember: Does it look good on the field? Keep it simple, keep it bold.

And please, just please…no more galaxy.

Alright. Discuss.


Okay! The time is nigh!

Once again, this is not the official PUL logo competition. Real entries should be submitted to premierultimateleague@gmail.com This contest was just an exercise in creative process and is not affiliated with the Premier Ultimate League. So this logo is not the winner of the PUL contest, but the winner of our own local contest held just for the purpose of getting people excited and involved and starting to familiarize one another with each other’s work. So without further ado:

Yesterday I had a design friend of mine judge the contest for me because I love you all too much to hurt anyone’s feelings, and though we liked each logo for its own merits, I support her decision in choosing Laine Cravotta as our first contest winner! Congrats Laine! You’ll be receiving some mail at some point here if you’re into that sort of thing.

Alrighty, friends. Another time.

Let me know what you guys think about the contest, the post, and anything else that you think we should discuss.

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