SCtoC Q&A: Graphic Designer Brian Gundell Oct 20, 2019 19:41:23 GMT -8
Post by David on Oct 20, 2019 19:41:23 GMT -8
Sports Coast to Coast is honored to have an interview with graphic designer Brian Gundell.
Brian is a graphic designer specializing in sports design, especially branding and identity development. He has worked on several athletic brands in the country, including the from the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, the NFL's Miami Dolphins, several MLB teams including the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, and much more.
I have been aware of Brian's work when he was credited as the designer for the Spokane Empire branding reveal, months after it was revealed that the Spokane Shock would not be able to retain its identity following its move from the Arena Football League to the Indoor Football League.
Our coverage of the San Diego Strike Force's new logos & uniforms caught the attention of Brian, who had been involved with the creation of the Strike Force's new brand. After some discussions with Brian over the Strike Force's logos, which led to mentions of the Cedar Rapids River Kings and the Spokane Empire logos, he was kind enough to agree to an interview.
Below is our written Q&A, where we got the scoop on Brian, his journey into logo design, and much more.
NOTE: Our questions to Brian were submitted prior to the reveal of the Oakland Panthers joining the IFL as an expansion team. Some questions addressing Brian's work with Oakland were not known at the time.
SCtoC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you hail from?
Brian Gundell: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I moved to Portland, OR with my family when I was 15. I went to school at the University of Oregon, and have since lived in Montana, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Washington State before coming back to Portland in 2015.
SCtoC: Did you play any sports in your youth?
B.G: I did — I mainly played baseball as a kid, but I dabbled in ice hockey.
SCtoC: What first interested you in graphic logo design?
B.G: My interest in graphic design was born out of a love of sports uniforms and the logos I saw on them. I would spend hours sketching my favorite teams’ logos over and over, until eventually I started making up my own teams and designing (very crude) logos and uniforms for them.
SCtoC: Did you have a teacher or mentor which helped guide you in the direction of your career?
B.G: There are a lot of people I can look to in the graphic design industry who have been instrumental to me in my career, almost too many to name directly. I will directly thank Chris Creamer, who started Sportslogos.net in 1997; when I joined the forums on his site, that’s where I first connected to other professionals in the industry and started to get real feedback and help in my own work, and that was crucial to my development as a designer. I’d also like to send a shoutout to Mike Thurman and Brad Bishop of Torch Creative; both of them have been super helpful to me since I started my own company a few years ago, and I’m happy to call those guys my friends.
SCtoC: How did you build your business to be successful in the realm of sports logos & branding?
B.G: After I started working in sports, I always maintained a freelance side business, just to keep busy and to make some extra money, so that component was always there. But it was really my time working in-house for teams that helped me develop contacts and relationships that kicked off my business. Because I’d always been freelancing, when I went solo full-time, I was able to reach out to those people and simply ask if they had anything they could send my way. Fortunately, they did, and my business took off pretty quickly!
SCtoC: What sort of other logos/brands have you worked on and how did those come about?
B.G: I’ve worked on everything from corporate identities to sports event brands to anniversary logos to full team rebrands. Almost all of them have come from some sort of word of mouth or referral, and a handful have come just out of the blue from people seeing my work on my website.
SCtoC: When you're looking at a particular project, how much research is done prior to coming up with designs and color schemes?
B.G: It honestly depends; sometimes clients will come to me with a pretty clear idea of what they have in mind ahead of time and that makes the process pretty quick (Ryan Eucker had most of the concept and research for the River Kings already in mind ahead of time). Other brands take quite a bit of research and concept development; for example, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds rebrand I did back in 2017 was about 2 months worth of research and another 4-5 months of concept development before we hit the final, approved design.
Primary logo for the Pittsburgh River Hounds SC of the USL Championship league
SCtoC: How many projects do you typically work on per year?
B.G: Can I use the shrug emoji here? Honestly, it varies a ton. I tend to do fewer branding projects in a given year than regular design projects, just because they’re so much more intensive and focused. When I’m on a retainer with a client, it can be quite a bit of work, depending on how long the contract runs for. But I really don’t keep too much of a track on that, I really just try to balance out my availability so that when people want to work with me, I can!
SCtoC: What do you find to be the most effective method of getting your name out there so teams and companies are able to contact you when they are ready for a logo overhaul?
B.G: For me, the most effective way to get my name out there is through the clients I’ve already worked with. Oftentimes what will happen is that I’ll work with a team, and then other teams will see that work and contact them to find out who did that rebrand for them (me) and then put us in touch. Or they’ll find out it was me somehow and contact me directly. Another way is just for me to maintain my website and Dribbble account; then I’ll tweet about the work I’ve done and usually that gets some good attention.
SCtoC: What's the most unusual/unique graphic design you've ever had to create?
B.G: Probably the most unique design I’ve ever done was for the 2017 Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando — I got to design wizard baseball players! That was definitely a ton of fun to do.
Brian at the 2017 Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando (image credit: MiLB.com)
SCtoC: You've worked on a lot of designs for sports teams, such as the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco Giants, etc. How does it feel to see your work displayed on a national level?
B.G: For me, that’s the coolest part of the job. I still geek out seeing the work I do on TV, on merchandise, and to see it out in the wild, it’s the best feeling.
SCtoC: Your resume says you worked with the Hillsboro Hops. What extent did you work with the Hops and how's it feel to work on a team essentially in your back yard?
B.G: For the past 2 years, I’ve worked with the Hops as their de facto graphic designer, working on everything from organizational logos (think Fireworks Fridays) to their season ticket design, to graphics at their stadium and in their front office. Probably the coolest project I’ve done for them was to redo their Copa Diversión brand, the Soñadores de Hillsboro — that was an amazing project to be a part of and to see how well received it’s been by the fans here in the Portland area and around the country has been so so cool. It’s so much fun to get to work with the Hops; they have such a unique challenge in the sports landscape here in Portland, it’s really interesting to try to figure out solutions for them to build their fanbase here in town. It’s definitely rewarding to help the local franchise be successful — plus, seeing some of my stuff for sale in the local mall is just the best (see my last answer!)
The Soñadores de Hillsboro branding for the Northwest League's Hilsboro Hops
SCtoC: What is the balance and direction between you and the team when it comes to input regarding a branding?
B.G: I try really hard to be a partner with my clients, particularly on a branding or rebrand. It’s really important for me to understand their goals as a franchise and to build the work I do into that framework. So a lot of the time, I let the client do most of the directing. There will be times where I’ll certainly offer input and suggestions, and try to steer them into what I feel is the best choice for them, but at the end of the day, it’s their team and I certainly respect that.
SCtoC: What do you find to be easier: creating a brand from scratch or re-branding a franchise?
B.G: Oof, that’s definitely not an easy answer. Creating a brand from scratch is certainly fun because you have no restrictions, no restraints on what the brand could be. But on the other hand, with a new team, you have a lot of educating to do with the fans and you have a lot of work to do to build up that love for the new identity, which can be daunting. A rebrand on the other hand gives you a solid foundation and history to build off of (if you keep the name, that is), but then fans tend to be change averse and may be hesitant to embrace the new logo, even if it’s superior (at least from a technical standpoint) to the old one. Either way, it’s a very very fine line to walk with very little margin for error!
SCtoC: You've worked on three re-branding projects with [San Diego Strike Force General Manager] Ryan Eucker. Can you describe the advantages of the familiarity with working with him, particularly on the Spokane Empire, Cedar Rapids River Kings, and most recently [at the time of this question] the San Diego Strike Force?
B.G: Well first of all, Ryan is pretty much my definition of an ideal client. He tends to know what he wants, is decisive, and he puts a lot of trust in me, my knowledge, and my experience. Now that we’ve worked together several times, have become friends, and really know each other well, it just makes the experience that much smoother. Case in point, with the Strike Force, we really only developed one concept — we had a pretty quick turnaround on the logo package, with hardly any revisions, and those were minor at best. All of that is because of how well we communicate and how much trust there is on both sides, so yeah, it definitely is ideal to keep that relationship going!
SCtoC: Clearly you are very proud of your work. But of the three IFL teams you've worked on, which one did you enjoy working on the most?
B.G: This is another tough question — and it’s actually four IFL teams now [Oakland Panthers]! I really really loved the Spokane Empire rebrand, because that logo was so outside of my wheelhouse. It was also one of the first projects I ever did after starting my company, so I have a lot of love for that. It helped that everything turned out so well and that fans loved it so much (RIP Empire, I miss you!) But I think the Strike Force rebrand might have a slight edge for me; my first love as a kid was airplanes, and for the longest time I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Navy (Top Gun had a profound influence on my childhood). So the Strike Force brand was me getting to geek out and use all of my knowledge about jets and pilots and all the things I loved as a kid, so it’s really a love letter to Naval Aviation, and because of that I think it’s my favorite. Barely.
Brian Gundell's presence in the IFL: the Spokane Empire, Cedar Rapids River Kings, San Diego Strike Force, and Oakland Panthers
SCtoC: Is there a team in any league (you can mention them or not) that you think "Man, they need an overhaul, I would love to design them a new logo"?
B.G: Oh definitely, there are plenty of teams that I think that about but I would never name them! More than anything, I just enjoy this type of work so much, so I’d work with anyone in any league, and I know there are a lot of people in this business who feel the same way.
SCtoC: When it comes to designing sports logos, do you favor one sport over the other or are you satisfied with just working on logos regardless of sport?
B.G: Definitely the latter — if it’s branding or logo work and it’s in sports, then I’m a happy camper for sure.
SCtoC: Can you talk about the project(s) you're currently working on?
B.G:Nope! I wish I could, because there’s some really cool stuff I’ve been doing that’s coming out in the next few months, and some really cool things in the works, but all of it has to stay under wraps.
SCtoC: What type of project would you like to work on next?
B.G:I’d be happy to keep on doing what I’m doing — more team logos and brands!
On behalf of myself and the staff of Sports Coast to Coast, I want like to thank Brian for being kind to take some time to answer our questions questions. For a casual sports fan that has a fascination with sports logos (and a regular visitor to SportsLogos.net, it was fascinating to get some insight into the world of team branding. Again, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
If you would like to see more of Brian's work, check out his official website at BrianGundell.com as well as his portfolio on Dribbble. You can also follow Brian on Twitter at @bgundell.
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