Case Study: X Games "Design a Skate Deck" Contest

I grew up reading Thrasher and Transworld Magazines. It was in the pages of those publications that I first discovered the epic Skate Art imagery of VC Johnson, Pushead, and Jim Phillips. The visceral nature of these artists' work made its way into my artist DNA and has been inspiring me ever since.

Every time I do a piece of skate art, (I’ve done close to nine for Creature Skateboards) I make it my goal to produce the same kind of visually arresting imagery that seized upon my imagination, as a middle school skate rat and made me want to skate.

 My final submission for the "Design a Skate Deck for the 2018 X Games Contest."

My final submission for the "Design a Skate Deck for the 2018 X Games Contest."

 

The X Games Design Contest

In February of 2018, my friend Stewart informed me of a contest Creative Allies was holding. The challenge was create a winning design for the X Games 2018 held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Game on!

I approached the challenge of designing a board for this X-Games with a great deal of forethought and strategy, as I would any other client project. My goal was fourfold:

Design Strategy

  1. The image must somehow be grounded with a strong tie to Minneapolis.
  2. This must be inextricably linked to the X Games brand: “Boundary pushing action sports, music and lifestyle!”
  3. The image must be visually arresting. It must read well from a
  4. distance. Up close, it must draw you in to study everything that is going on inside the image.It must have broad reaching appeal without being watered down.

Doing the Groundwork

I had less than a month to submit a design. So for a week of that, I studied Minneapolis culture, significant landmarks, and consulted with my longtime skate pal Tim who lives in Minneapolis. I also began sketching rough ideas, and made lists of possible image options. While many landmarks seemed relevant, I continued to return to the image of the Minneapolis skyline behind St. Anthony Falls.

That was the image I wanted grounding the concept. Now I could move on to the insane, creative part.

The Insane Creative Part

As I thought about tying this to the X Games, I considered several different ways of doing that. The strongest option that emerged was that of the X Games literally descending upon the great city of Minneapolis. But in order to do that I would have to imagine the X Games personified as a fantastic, mythological character.

What should that character look like?

Giant Pushead style skeleton in a hoodie?

No, too creepy.

Giant monster destroying Minneapolis?

No, we want to communicate the added VALUE of the X Games coming to Minneapolis.

What would the X Games look like personified?

I once again returned to the X Games brand, “Boundary pushing action sports, music and lifestyle!” Whatever the personification was to be, it would have to be massive. It would have to be EPIC.

That’s when a phrase entered my mind.

The phrase was “The Descent of the Gods.”

It was the title of chapter 15 in the novel, “That Hideous Strength” by CS Lewis.

That was it.

 This is where the different ideas finally converged. The skyline, the Celestial, and the X Games descending skaters.

This is where the different ideas finally converged. The skyline, the Celestial, and the X Games descending skaters.

 

Aesthetic Inspiration

My next move was consulting the work of comic book legend, Jack Kirby, aka “The King of Comics.” Kirby specialized in designing Pantheons of visually stunning beings of celestial origins. I studied his line work as well as his collages, and his color pallets. All of which are incredible.

 Stating the obvious here, but I referred heavily to the work of Jack Kirby for the look of the design.

Stating the obvious here, but I referred heavily to the work of Jack Kirby for the look of the design.

 

So in the course of the next two days I would create the image I am presenting to you.

Final Touches

Sometimes the best supporting ideas come to you in the final stages of a project. Probably because you are in the heart and soul of the project at that point. The piece of art has established itself and has told you what it once to be. Once I had the celestial X Game mascot in there, I determined there should be something very specific tying this to skateboarding.

That’s when the idea for the little skateboarders  on the nose of the board came to me.

The concept was complete. Yes, the X Games is descending on Minneapolis…

…and so are the planet’s greatest skateboarders.

 The black and white line art finished. I inked this digitally.

The black and white line art finished. I inked this digitally.

 

...But Did You Win?

After delivering the final design with at least 24 hours to spare, I had to settle myself. Winning this would be incredible. Now came the hardest part.

Waiting.

I didn't win.

The artist who won, MRW Creations totally crushed it and did an amazing job. The kind of design you feel good losing to.

At the end of the day, it was a privilege to enter the contest and an opportunity I'm grateful for. So it was good to experience the beautiful letdown of giving it my all and not winning as opposed to not trying and never knowing.

That's what we do as creatives.