Transcend: Commemorating Sports History Through Design

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Compelling stories need a bit of visual intrigue—artwork that can help convey emotion and give life to memories.

Max Slavkin, CEO of Creative Action Network, knows this artistic drive can also help stories reach new audiences. So when it came time for popular sports website Bleacher Report to find a new way to tell sports stories—especially to a younger demographic—Slavkin’s Creative Action Network was ready to play its part.

Working together, the two organizations created the campaign Transcend: Moments In Sports That Changed The Game, which launched in March on the Bleacher Report. Selecting 20 different moments in sports history, Creative Action Network artists designed a piece to commemorate each event, a launching point for a discussion about the meaning of the moment.

Black-Power-Salute,-Mexico-City,-Oct.-16,-1968-by-Victoria-Fernandez “(The artists) were stoked right from the start,” Slavkin tells HOW. “The ideas came from our artists. If you look on our website, most of the campaigns have been explicit, progressive causes. This was definitely different. Everyone was excited to use sports as a new lens and framing to talk about the same issues and with new people.”

The genesis of the idea started when this global community of artists and designers joined a conversation with Bleacher Report to discuss fresh ways of approaching storytelling. “What could we do to rally a community of artists around sports?” was the question Slavkin says was on the table. After a Google hangout, the idea of moments emerged.

Once the final moments were identified, artists were “off to the races.”

Boston-Marathon,-April-15,-2013-by-Philip-Vetter

Slavkin says that as sports stars and their actions inspire national conversations — whether LeBron James wearing a “I can’t breath” shirt to Jason Collins’ sexual orientation announcement—the artists honed in on the importance of these moments as cultural touch points.

“We wanted to commemorate that for those who have been there and reintroduce them for people who may have never heard of them before,” Slavkin says.

With the moments defined, artists signed up to ply their hand at creating a visual representation. Some artists tackled more than one project and others had to work on the fly. The LeBron moment, for example, popped up at the last minute, forcing a quick change.

Slavkin says he didn’t put a set typeface, color palette or other restraints on the artists. “The idea was to celebrate the diversity of the moments and of the creative expression that they wouldn’t all be the same looking type of designs,” he says. “Putting them all in a collection together would make them cohesive.”

Title-IX-and-the-women's-sports-revolution-by-Jillian-VaughanWithout parameters, Slavkin admits he was a bit nervous to see how the group would mesh into one, especially with heavier moments mixed into less intense events. Whether Dale Earnhardt’s death, the Munich massacre or even the O.J. Simpson chase, Slavkin says the nervousness quickly dissipated when he saw “those pieces come together in ways we could never have imagined, in a way that made for incredible artwork.”

And the diversity of the artwork won’t stop now. The Creative Action Network wants more art for the 20 moments. Through the group’s “contribute” page, anyone can offer up their own designs.

“I think it is going to be interesting to see diversity within any individual moment,” he says. “It is going to be really cool as the campaign grows.”

Immediately upon its launch, the Transcend project was met with favorable reviews, but nothing gave Transcend its own culture-defining moment as when LeBron posted his moment image on Facebook.

“When LeBron shared that image on Facebook it was a nod we are doing what we are trying to do,” Slavkin says. “LeBron has a lot of Facebook followers not normally talking about racial justice. Because of artwork they are.”

I-Can't-Breathe,-2014-by-Nikkolas-Smith

More designs from the series:

Althea-Gibson-and-Arthur-Ashe,-tennis-pioneers-by-Alexis-Lampley

Jackie-Robinson,-Brooklyn,-April-15,-1947-by-Rory-Martin

Dale-Earnhardt,-The-Man-in-Black-or-'The-Intimidator'-by-Shane-Henderson Jesse-Owens,-Berlin,-August-1936-by-Nikkolas-Smith Jim-Valvano,-Madison-Square-Garden,-March-4,-1993-by-Roberlan-Borges Magic-Johnson,-Los-Angeles,-November-7,-1991-by-Alyssa-Winans Miracle-on-Ice,-Lake-Placid,-Feb.-22,-1980-by-Mark-Forton Muhammad-Ali-and-the-Draft-by-Chris-Piascik

Munich-Massacre,-Munich,-1972-by-Brixton-Doyle Nelson-Mandela,-Rugby-World-Cup,-1995-by-Charis-Tzsevis O.J.-and-the-White-Bronco,-Los-Angeles,-June-17,-1994-by-Louise-Norman Out-of-the-Shadows--Jason-Collins,-NBA,-Brittney-Griner,-WNBA,-Michael-Sam,-NFL-by-Alyssa-Winans Pat-Tillman,-Army-Ranger-by-Jon-Cain Texas-Western,-NCAA-basketball,-1966-by-Henry-Kaye The-Battle-of-the-Sexes-II,-Houston,-Sept.-20,-1973-by-Kali-Ciesemier

Tim Newcomb covers sports for HOW Design. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.


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