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The launch of the EF Education First team’s new look created quite a buzz at the start of this 2019 season. Recall the first time you saw the pink and purple oil slick graphic that was created with our partners at Rapha during the Tour Down Under in January? It’s now an instantly-recognizable visual in and out of the peloton.
What does it take to create this kind of strong, authentic visual representation of a team? Our designers worked around the clock to put together the coherent look of all things team-related you see today, from our riders’ race kit to our new website to the team bus graphics.
Today we sit down with Andy Cooke, Creative Director at EF Global Creative, to discuss one facet of this design process. He talks us through the steps he and his team took in developing the graphics we see on this year’s team cars.
EF Pro Cycling: Andy, how did you approach this particular design project?
Andy Cooke: The whole vehicle design approach this year was a lot more than just applying the graphics to cars, because that’s kind of the easy thing, right? Instead, we wanted to do more of a concept that links right back to EF Education First, and EF in many many ways is all about utility and utilitarianism. That’s very much part of the DNA of our new brand: Grand Unified Design or GUD, as it’s known. Which comes from academia, everything’s there for a reason. Everything has a function.
In terms of utility for EF and the cycling team, it’s about producing design elements that work to provide a meaningful use—so working to avoid anything that is superfluous on the canvas. The way we treat typography is very matter of fact, very stripped back and quickly communicates without the need for additional and unnecessary copy or design. This is something that we tried to instill at every touchpoint across the team.
Everything’s there for a reason. Everything has a function.
A note on design at EF: If you’re interested in learning more about EF design and the EF design process, check out the EF / DESIGN website. It’s the home of all things creative, digital and brand at EF. See examples of some recent EF design projects, and get a better idea of what EF designers do and how they do it.
EF: Ok, tell us about the stripes.
AC: So we had these cropped graphics [the EF stripes you now see on the team cars and buses] and if we were to just start applying them to the vehicles they begin feeling like emergency vehicles, which are obviously very utilitarian. They do very much have a purpose.
The notion of support, aid—and utility again—were central themes when pulling from the reference of emergency vehicles. They are inherently functional, as is the fleet of vehicles that supports the team. However, as emergency vehicles tend to dial everything up to 11 when it comes to their livery, we wanted to find a balance that pulls from the reference, links back to EF but also looked good. So we maybe dialed it to 7 or 8.
And so we started to think about how that utilitarian emergency vehicle approach could be applied properly to the team cars. Using the emergency vehicle concept as a reference, we decided to have them wrapping around corners of the cars. The key was not to overdo it, because we didn’t want it to be too much like an ambulance or a police car. We just put a design angle on it and, I think, a kind of beautiful angle on it as well.
And then there’s a lot of scaling and testing to make sure that concept works, because obviously the car is a completely different shape than a truck or a bus. And, well, that took quite a while before we settled on our final design (below).
EF: Do you feel like it works?
AC: Yes! I do feel like it works. We’ve created this versatile design that does go around corners, which is really really useful because it’s something that can be applied to any vehicle any size any shape, and quickly if we need to.
EF: Tell us the steps. From creation to it actually ending up on the car.
AC: The longest stage is the iteration at the start when we’re designing flat images on the computer, trying out 100 ways of actually applying the graphics in different ways, tweaking the sponsor logos next to each other. We have to get the placement right with all the unique panels on a car… where doors open, where windows are, all that kind of stuff is a big task, but it saves time later down the road when we’re actually applying the graphics.
We create a lot of early iterations that get discarded before we land on our final design…
Then it’s just a case of making sure all the colors match up to the jerseys, helmets and everything else. The right color spectrum is really important because obviously if we’ve got riders standing next to the bus with their bikes, we want everything to feel consistent. KC Lee, one of EF’s Design Directors in Boston, worked specifically on this color matching.
EF: So you’ve got the design and then you ship it off to the wrappers, the people who’ll actually wrap the car in the new graphics. Then what?
AC: As a designer on the project it’s important to be there onsite just to make sure of little things. Like literally putting the jersey against the car and asking, does this feel connected? Does this feel like it’s in the same color range? KC Lee was the one onsite doing this physical task. For example, in the case of the team cars we saw the white layer on top wasn’t quite perfect. He had to take it all off, move it all down just a couple of inches… So there’s a lot of fine tuning to make sure it is perfect. Ultimately, it’s not just putting on this one giant wrap, snapping your fingers and it’s done. It’s a big undertaking at every step. Not just the design but also the application, the physical process of wrapping the cars.