A stadium must first start as a blueprint. Quickly it gets transformed, though, into a built venue, filling with nostalgia as years of fandom inhabit the seats. But after years of nostalgia, seasons of games and thousands of fans, graphic designers recapture the allure of the simplistic by returning that stadium to its purest form: a blueprint.
Two major players in the stadium blueprint-as-art world, Robert Redding of Stadium Blueprint Company and Thomas Young of Ballpark Blueprints, both embrace the challenge of turning a finished stadium into art. And both have their individual styles.
Robert Redding of Stadium Blueprint Company
Redding, based in California, started his effort about four years ago, and works through official licenses in Major League Baseball and the NCAA so he can use actual logos and wordmarks on his finished products. This also allows him to work with the teams and schools to add stats and information around his artwork important to the organization. Young goes it alone, finding his own path of information and steering clear of the official world to create his own style.
But both rely on similar methods: photography-based research and computer-aided graphic design resulting in museum-quality finished artwork that harkens to the nostalgia of the blueprint days.
Design of Wrigley Field by Ballpark Blueprints
Redding, a clothing, graphic and packaging designer who has worked for Quiksilver, Tommy Bahama and Nordstrom, got his blueprint start on a whim when he turned an old 1950s house blueprint into a silly blueprint of a Labrador retriever. National media picked up his effort and being the sports fan he is, the popularity morphed into creating blueprints for baseball and football venues.
His process starts with a grouping of five overview images, including aerials and ground shots of entrances and inside the stadium. He creates a composite of them and then working in Adobe Illustrator—“the most laborious process of the whole thing”—he creates an actual drawing of his chosen stadium.
University of Alabama stadium blueprints poster by Stadium Blueprint Company
Young, who started with his now-deceased business partner Marvin Larson a few years ago, also began in baseball before quickly expanding into NFL and NCAA football, classic baseball stadiums and even some arenas and golf courses.
Before even starting a new project Young visits it himself, photographing the building from multiple angles and then researching what he can, especially the “physical characteristics of the individual building and what makes it unique or stand out.”
With a background in painting and drawing, Redding freehands the design. “I have seen different people take an image and convert it in programs to create outlines,” he says. “I feel like those lack the clarity and the detail that I want to put in my work that emulates the old blueprints. Even though I am using a computer I want I to have the feel that it was completely drawn.”
More designs by Ballpark Blueprints
Of course, working on a computer helps with accuracy and speed.
From there he adds in copy, from stadium history and facts to extra bits of team history. He will often create two varieties of each venue, one in traditional blueprint blue and then another in team colors. “I have had several fans reach out to me because everything was blue and Ohio State and Michigan State fans were saying I can’t buy a blue print (rival Michigan is blue),” Redding says. “From there I took up the idea of taking the drawing and making a cleaner, more contemporary version all done in the school colors.”
Young has a “secret sauce” process that relies on his original photography and measurements and dimensions he has taken himself. “I have drafting training and technical drawing training,” he says without getting too specific. His computer-assisted drafting efforts include multiple computer applications over both Windows-based and Mac-based machines to create a multi-step process from taking photographs to his architectural-style rendering that he works on pixel by pixel at 400 percent resolution.
“I will zoom it out and my eye will just catch a detail and zoom in on it and work until it looks like a blueprint elevation should look,” Young says. “I have studied how these things actually look and do everything I can to make the most accurate representation I can in a blueprint format.”
In Redding’s quest for accuracy he spends about a week on each venue, finding the angle of the stadium he feels represents it best. “I want to show that main entrance where most of the fans enter,” he says. “It is not just an image of a stadium, but I want people to remember all the great memories they had there.”
For Young, he puts a focus on the building as a whole and then generally calls out a key detail with a closer view. “If there is something that jumps out as this is a signature visual element of the stadium, I try to throw that in there,” he says. Lately he has tried to clean up his markings and labeling in order to create a “more sophisticated version of sports artwork.”
More designs by Stadium Blueprint Company
Working with a printer in Portland, Oregon, Redding uses museum-quality acid-free map board with recycled bonza wood for the frames. He wants the high-end product to have a gallery exhibit feel to it, something that can last for decades without fading. Young chooses indigo and black ink for a true period feel.
As Redding progresses, he continues to add more NCAA titles and hopes to one day get into NBA arenas, while Young must balance what he loves—right now he wants to spend more time on golf courses and classic ballparks—and what fans request.
No matter the venue, both Redding’s Stadium Blueprint Company and Young’s Ballpark Blueprints put an artistic and architectural focus on what sports fans crave: reimagined nostalgia.
Tim Newcomb covers sports design for HOW Design. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.