I have designed logos for hundreds of companies in just about every industry that exists. I have created work that has been valuable to my clients while using my talent for design. But to be honest, the most fun projects have combined my career and passion for riding.
Creating something and watching it grow to become something larger, something independent from you, is exciting and very rewarding. I am sure many parents of children would agree. In this regard I have been successful at least twice as a graphic designer in the world of mountain biking.
Whatcom Trails Co-op
It wasn’t a big deal at the time. A group of trail builders and friends formed a trail advocacy organization in Bellingham, Washington which was dedicated to building and legitimizing the amazing riding found there. We named it Whatcom Trails Co-op (Whatcom being both the name of the county and the native name for the land).
The Co-op did a lot of advocacy work by representing the sport in local government, meeting with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, raising funds for trail building materials with sponsored movie premiers, by building trail and hosting cleanup parties at trailheads and trash pits. We felt that we were doing something important, and I helped as best as I knew how- with graphic design.
The logo I created for the co-op represents a raven. A stylized combination of the letters “W” and “T” formed the shape of the bird in flight. It was simple, but it resonated and connected with the cause and the people involved.
I created something and then released it into the wild. A reality strikes when the vinyl window stickers appear on the backs of vehicles driven by unfamiliar faces. It was a revelation which hadn’t occurred to me yet. The symbol no longer belonged to just me or the organization. Others have embraced it, identified with it and have turned it into something much larger. The symbol has a new duty to represent the community at large and greater purpose.
The co-op eventually came to an end as members of the board merged with another organization, the WMBC, but the effort continues. The impact we made through the co-op was a positive one. That experience had an impact on me as well. I felt the power of design at the community level and that power was utilized for something that I love.
As life went on, I found myself on a very different trail. I moved to Southern Arizona, and then to Colorado taking my bike with me. Out of new places my network of friends expanded.
Mountain bikers have a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood that makes the sport special. I’m thankful to be a part of it. To continue to mix my talents for design with the passion of riding is just another blessing.
The Colorowdies started as a group of mainly enduro riders & racers in Colorado. They banned together and formed a team, but were missing an identity. I was approached by the team and was asked to provide my thoughts on some ideas they were kicking around. There were a lot of ideas, but I couldn’t standby and allow my friends to use another stylized chainring or other generic bicycle cliche. I knew we could do something different and memorable.
The process of creation doesn’t exactly occur within a bubble. Designers need external stimuli, inspiration and reminders of how to think and get the ideas flowing. I will never forget a video shared by one of my favorite designers, Aaron Draplin. (Video Link). He broke it down so clearly. Don’t overthink it, focus on the basics and keep it simple. Once the concept was envisioned it was sketched and shortly after the idea was refined and finalized on the computer. I had designed the Colorowdies logo.
The design borrowed elements from the Colorado state flag to create the letter “R” represented in the word “Rowdy.” It looked solid and fast and it communicated that well. But it was unexpected and little different. To the team it seemed to come completely out of left field. Fortunately, founder Tony Bently saw the vision and knew we were on the right track.
The logo set the tone for the brand and made its way on to stickers, shirts, racing jerseys and its podium appearances are occurring more frequently. The riders are proud to represent their team and look great doing it.
Whats important to me is how the logo has been embraced by the group. If you have been to any decent restaurant or coffee shop in a Colorado biking town, chances are you will be confronted by a Colorowdies sticker in the restroom.
This morning it hit me again. A point has been reached where surprise encounters with the logo have become unavoidable. My design was right there on the local news, worn on a t-shirt by an interviewee representing mountain bikers.
I can take credit for the logo design, however I can no longer claim ownership. It belongs to the Colorowdies and it belongs to the community of Colorado riders.
The journey never stops and the community continues to grow. And I continue to grow along with it. I love this niche for design in mountain biking and the outdoors in general.
A widely held belief is that one must dig and ride their own trail in order to have impact and influence in the sport. I see a parallel drawn for any other pursuit. We must utilize our talents and craft the world that we want to see.
I’m very fortunate to have found an intersection between the passion for my career and for riding.