By Phil Hecken
Every so often on Twitter, I come across a graphic artist who displays his concepts that are (even if you’re not a fan of the concept) really well-executed and thought-provoking. It’s how I first became acquainted with Brian Begley (NBA) and Tyson Kehler (NHL), as well as artist/painter Graig Kreindler and colorizer Chris Whitehouse. I met today’s featured artist, Nick Heller, much the same way. Nick not only has some pretty neat NFL concepts (some of which will be featured below), but he also has some college football concepts I’ll introduce you to in the future.
So, in the usual Q&A style, I wanted us to get to know Nick a bit better, and then I asked him to select some of his favorite designs which you’ll see after the Q&A. Enjoy!
Nick Heller: I am. I’ve been a follower since late 2009 when I started working for the Arizona Cardinals. Before the Cards’ black uniform was introduced we were discussing the NFL helmet rule and a co-worker introduced us to the blog. I’ve been on and off Twitter since then, but have always followed @UniWatch.
UW: How old are you and where do you live?
NH: I’ll be 35 at the end of this year. I live in a suburb of Phoenix–Gilbert, AZ.
UW: You design some interesting concepts. What’s the though process when you’re designing these?
NH: I wanted to accomplish a lot when I set out to do this project. Obviously after following Uni Watch for all this time, I’m very aware that people not only take their uniform designs seriously, but also are very good at using a critical eye to see mishaps, template problems, or inconsistencies. It was important for me to consider those things when I was coming up with concepts. That said, I love some of the more insane concepts you can find when making a Google search. My goal was to try and be somewhere in the middle, so every team comes from a place of, “Does this work with their team history? Would the current supplier (Nike) design in this way? Does it stay true to the franchise style and attitude?” and so on. I often get feedback that I’m using an out dated helmet and uniform template and I think that’s fair. When I’m considering a design though, it’s important to me to remember that the design has to work not only on a SpeedFlex, but also on a Vengeance, or Vicis. For the sake of delivering the concepts, I’m using what I feel are the best 3D mockups on the market.
UW: Are you a graphic artist or designer by trade or is this just a hobby?
NH: I’m a designer by trade. Have been for about 10 years. I own a small branding and design studio and work mostly with startups and small business owners developing their new visual identities or re-positioning their current brands. I only started designing uniform concepts earlier this summer as a creative outlet outside my day-to-day client work and posted two Green Bay Packers concepts on my personal Instagram. When I pushed back 1,000 likes the first day, I figured I should start a separate page and try my hand at the whole NFL.
UW: What program did you use to create these?
NH: Almost all of my work is done exclusively in Photoshop, but from time to time I’ll make adjustments to team logos or create patterns in Illustrator as well.
UW: How long (approximately) does each individual uniform take? How long for an entire team?
NH: It really depends on how in-depth and thought out the designs are. I’ve done my best to streamline the process and create some repeatable elements. All in all, each concept takes 2-3 hours so an entire team can take anywhere from 4-6 hours.
UW: Do you have a website or blog or social media presence?
NH: Yes to all of that. The best place to see my concepts are on Instagram at: @prime8_sports. I post the concepts on Twitter a few days later and interact with the sports design community there. Same handle: @prime8_sports. I don’t have a sports concept-specific site yet, but plan to soon. For now, feel free to visit me at: https://nickwork.us. And please reach out. I love talking to other fans or designers.
UW: Do you have any other concepts besides the NFL?
NH: I’ve created a handful of collegiate concepts, but haven’t released them yet (they were a collaboration with another Instagram fan account). I’m working on an English Premier League-specific concept and I’ll eventually move on to hockey, baseball, and basketball but want to figure out the best timing content-wise. It felt great to provide NFL content during the off-season when less was going on…it gave everyone something to talk about.
UW: Anything else you think our readers would like to know about you?
NH: I’m looking to develop some other sports related design outlets. I used to design and run a Packers apparel shop with the great Jerry Kramer and would love to start up something like that again. Also – Phil Hecken rules!
UW: OK, that last part totally wasn’t necessary, but I appreciate it. Now, can we see your top 10 designs?
NH: I talk a lot don’t I? Without waiting any longer, here are the 10 NFL concepts.
The Bears’ stylized “C” logo is one of the most iconic in the NFL, but I felt the secondary bear logo was underrated and unappreciated. I thought it would be interesting to make that logo the star and let the classic Bears uniform styling support it. This one feels vintage and modern all at the same time.
I wanted to incorporate several mini-series inside my 32 teams concepts. One of those mini-series was a “State Pride” line. This Cardinals concept showcases the Arizona state flag with its styling. The color inspiration is drawn from the flag on this concept and supported by a white-to-grey gradient from head to toe (or knee).
Another one of my mini-series explored what the NFL’s “Salute to Service” could look like if teams adopted the aesthetics of each military branch. The Chargers felt like a natural fit for a Navy-inspired concept and I didn’t hold back. With haze grey throughout and font stylings matching naval ships, there’s still just enough Chargers blue and yellow in this one to make it stand out.
In my opinion, there are quite a few color rush offenders, but the Eagles going with a black look feels like a complete misfire when considering their classic throwback Kelly greens. Eagles’ fans and Owner Jeff Lurie seem to be on the same page about bringing it back. Hopefully this mock-up expedites that process.
Arguably my personal favorite, I wanted to celebrate one of the oldest franchises in the league by modernizing the Giants 1920s-30s era striped uniforms. I ditched the old school khaki/tan for a complimentary grey to balance the bold blue and red. A matte grey helmet and single-tone uniform pant compliment without making the uniform feel heavy or dated. [I gotta say, I LOVE this one, but I can’t get on board with a gray hat. Even though I love when helmets match britches, to me it’s sacrilege to give the G-men anything but a blue lid. But that jersey and pants are outstanding — PH]
To be honest, I’m not sure if the Jets have fixed their on-going coloring issues. The helmet white doesn’t match the uniform white. The green stripes are a different color than the green pants. The shoulder stripes just sort of stop…it was kind of a mess. That said, the Jets have a grittiness to them that can be felt in their uniform designs, so I just wanted to finesse them a bit with a new green shoulder yoke and simplified shoulder and pant striping.
I get requests all the time to give every team a full black uniform concept. In my opinion, only a few teams really deserve one and the undisputed winner is the Oakland Raiders. I completely ditched all traces of white and really pushed the concept a dark, dark place. If Oakland wore these for a night game, they’d be in stealth mode.
For my last mini-series, I thought it would be interesting to think of other ways the NFL might push promotions through uniform concepts (e.g.: Breast Cancer Awareness, Salute to Service, Color Rush) and created “Vegas Nights”– the league’s promotion of the Raiders upcoming move to Las Vegas. I picked 5 AFC teams–introduced a carbon fiber overlay and color panel to the helmets, and amped up one of their colors to full-on neon mode. The Ravens concept is another one of my favorites. It’d be hard to miss these ones even among the casino lights.
I think the ‘skins color pairing is one of the best in the league. That said, their uniform designs and stylings makes me wonder if I’d still see Art Monk or Joe Theismann out there in a game. They’ve seen very little change since the 1970s so it was time to give them an update. With new technology in apparel like sublimation printing, I wanted to explore the idea of an “all over” pattern or splatter. This one just looks tough.
The great guys at Uni Watch just recently put on a Tennessee Titans redesign contest and this was my entry. There were a ton of great concepts submitted, but I still really love what I accomplished with this one. The Titans’ logo and overall visual identity is getting a much needed update this offseason so I built on what’s already being used or leaked. Their colors are already fantastic, so I updated the primary logo (bye bye weird flame trail), and used that new logo as inspiration for the styling: clean lines, new Grecian patterns, and opportunities for fresh new logo placements.
Hope you guys enjoyed — even if you’re not necessarily a fan of some of the colors or elements, you have to admit these are still some very solid concepts. Let him know what you think in the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has in store for some of the NCAA teams down the road!
The following is a list of some (though by no means all, obviously) uniforms, patches or helmets teams have announced for their games today.
— Clint Richardson (@Clintau24) October 6, 2017
— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) October 5, 2017
Game look vs. Texas Tech
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) October 6, 2017
— TrinityU Equipment (@TrinityTX_Equip) October 6, 2017
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 6, 2017
— Northwest Equipment (@BearcatEQ) October 5, 2017
Week 6 Look for @NWBearcatsFB
— Northwest Equipment (@BearcatEQ) October 6, 2017
Las Vegas –
From all of us at Virginia Tech… We are with you pic.twitter.com/rWOIeMIMMh
— HokiesFB (@HokiesFB) October 6, 2017
— P.J. Fleck (@Coach_Fleck) October 5, 2017
Battle armor pic.twitter.com/P6NOhWIHIq
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) October 6, 2017
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) October 6, 2017
— LATech Equipment (@LATechEquipment) October 6, 2017
— Akron Zips Equipment (@ZipsEquipment) October 5, 2017
— David Harns (@DavidHarns) October 6, 2017
— SDSU Equipment Room (@SDSU_EQ) October 4, 2017
— UNLV Athletics (@UNLVathletics) October 4, 2017
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 5, 2017
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) October 5, 2017
Sooners to Wear All Crimson Uniforms Saturday vs. Cyclones https://t.co/TeDxIjZyBS
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 5, 2017
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) October 5, 2017
— UNC Equipment (@UNCEquipment) October 5, 2017
— TCU Football (@TCUFootball) October 5, 2017
— UtesEquipment (@UtesEquipment) October 4, 2017
@EMUFB Uni Combo:
Green White Green
Oct. 7th | Noon | Glass Bowl
Vs. Toledo pic.twitter.com/BQJF88U2Pp
— Eastern Michigan EQ (@EMU_EQ) October 4, 2017
UM going with all-white ‘storm trooper’ unis at FSU https://t.co/5maZWyvxFx
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 5, 2017
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 4, 2017
— Stony Brook Football (@StonyBrookFB) October 4, 2017
Purdue to Honor Tiller Saturday w/ throwback helmets & tribute sticker https://t.co/K1Sk7LryOl
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 4, 2017
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) October 4, 2017
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 6, 2017
Look: Nebraska To Wear Uniforms Honoring The 1997 National Championship Team This Weekend https://t.co/jGp44fF526
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 3, 2017
All teal everything. pic.twitter.com/YoV5burlNM
— CCU FOOTBALL (@CoastalFootball) October 3, 2017
— Zach Sills (@zachemblem) October 3, 2017
— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) October 2, 2017
— Ignacio (@igTXSalazar) October 7, 2017
Uniform combos for the Buffs when they take on Arizona this Saturday pic.twitter.com/oYDDOULJj3
— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) October 2, 2017
And Now a Quick Word from Paul
Hi there. Just a few days left to get our latest limited-edition shirt from the Uni Watch Artist’s Series, designed by the great Sean Kane (shown at right; click to enlarge). It’s available here through this coming Monday, Oct. 9. Additional info here.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled weekend content.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: Bad form from the Red Sox and Astros yesterday, as both wore their softball tops in the playoffs. The Indians also wore their softball tops against the Yankees (check out Francisco Lindor’s stirrups, though!). … C.C. Sabathia went either without socks or with ultra-low socks last night (from Zach Kindt). … The Dodgers’ Twitter account posted this image of one of their batting helmets last evening. Those numbers seem a little larger than usual, no? (from Ryan Feuerstein). … The Nationals are selling brown and blue playoff M&M’s, inspired by Max Scherzer’s eyes. Scherzer has heterochromia, one brown and one blue eye (from @OlegKvasha and William F. Yurasko). … The police department of Deer Park, Texas, a suburb of Houston, added the Astros’ logo to their shield for the postseason (from @igTXSalazar). … The statue of Bob Feller outside of Jaco…excuse me, Progressive Field got dressed in a red jersey for the postseason (thanks, Phil). … In last night’s Cubs/Nationals game, the RF Umpire (Far Right) had a peeling Postseason logo on his top and no New Era Logo (from Niko Goutakolis). … Tweeter Jon Rowland notes the Dodgers “obviously sewed (the) Postseason patch on Kershaw’s season long dirty cap… lol.”
Football News: The Giants have changed their captain’s patches as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign (from Diego Quiroga). … The Rams will throw it back on Sunday against the Seahawks (thanks, Kris). … Robert Hayes gave the Browns’ social media guy the third degree and found out that they’ll be wearing all-white again this weekend, with brown socks for the second consecutive week. … Not uni-related, but Jason Hillyer sends along this great article about the man behind the Chiefs’ mascot KC Wolf. Highly recommended. … Calvin Farris was going through old Getty Image archives of the CFL and discovered that when Fred Biletnikoff was a player-coach for the Montreal Alouettes, he was evidently given an old jersey with the sleeve numbers ripped off and replaced by an Alouettes logo. Another image here. … Also listed in the hockey section: Tyler Wild spotted this backpack with a Jaguars logo and a Penguins wordmark at an Orlando retailer. … Steve Salayda came across this Instagram account from a former Northern Iowa football player who refurbishes old helmets. Tons of great photos. … The hosts of the new Covergirl-sponsored all-woman NFL pregame show wear Covergirl-branded football jerseys (from James Lee Gilbert). … Mitchell & Ness made a funny mistake on one of their new sweaters (from @FtWaynePistons).
Hockey News: Here’s out first look at the Golden Knights’ inaugural season patch. For whatever reason, Vegas didn’t wear it during preseason (from Paul and Nick Maggos). … Speaking of Vegas, the Golden Knights have added a “Vegas Strong” decal to their helmets, featuring the Las Vegas skyline in the shape of the state of Nevada, in the wake of last week’s massacre. No word on whether it’s temporary or a season-long addition (thanks, Paul). … The Stars have also added the decal to their helmets (many thanks to Tim Perkins, Brian Ogden, and the others who sent this in). … Bruins rookies are still receiving and wearing Reebok gear despite the changeover to Adidas. Presumably, other players on the Bruins still have and wear Reebok gear, too (from @TheGoalNet45). … The Devils’ new scoreboard is the world’s biggest in-arena. It evidently generates quite a bit of heat—one player said it felt 20 degrees hotter underneath the scoreboard (from Ted Arnold and Mike Chamernik). … Ryan A. Romano sends along this article ranking the uniforms of all 60 Division I college hockey teams. … Cross-listed from the NFL section: Tyler Wild spotted this backpack with a Jaguars logo and a Penguins wordmark at an Orlando retailer. … The Oilers’ legal department has told an Edmonton bar owner to cease his Oilers-themed promotion because the bar does not carry Molson, the team’s official beer sponsor (from Wade Hedit). … Atlantic Hockey, an NCAA Division I hockey conference, has added a fifteenth anniversary patch to every member school’s uniform (from Joe Werner). … Goalie Darion Hanson of Union College is such a big Allen Iverson fan, he added Iverson to his mask! (from Blake Fox). … Here’s something that’s so fantastically minor league hockey: the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL unveiled their new unis on beer cans (from @Outinthedark). … The 100 Mile House Wranglers, a junior hockey team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League out of 100 Mile House, British Columbia (yes, the town is called “100 Mile House”) are wearing wildfire awareness sweaters all month (thanks, Phil). … The Fargo Force wore 10th Anniversary jerseys last evening (from Patrick Thomas).
Basketball News: SB Nation has published a good piece about everyone’s least-favorite now-defunct uniform element: sleeved NBA jerseys (thanks, Phil). … Great shot of the Timberwolves’ new court design (from Sam Lebewitz). … It’s hard to find photographic evidence proving this, but many Celtics fans—myself included—have noticed that the Celtics’ new Nike Icon jersey appears to be a lighter shade of green. You can kinda tell when you compare this picture of Isaiah Thomas from last season and this picture of Kyrie Irving from last night’s preseason game, but it’s most visible in the actual game broadcasts (thanks Ricky Eddleston, whose tweet was the impetus for all that).
Soccer News: After being teased for weeks by leaks, Italy has finally launched their 2018 World Cup kits. Note the new crest (here’s the old one for comparison). Interestingly, they chose keeper Gianluigi Buffon to debut the kit. Because of rules mandating that keepers wear a different kit than outfield players, Buffon won’t be able to actually wear the kit he helped unveil in an actual match (from @captainIOW). … Scottish side Rangers have somewhat belatedly launched their new third kit. … The Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL are wearing pink kits for tomorrow’s match and auctioning them off afterwards, donating the proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (from @redbuppy).
Grab Bag: James Lee Gilbert sends along a link to a free download to an ebook detailing the history of NASA’s logos. Here’s a direct link to the online PDF. … Here are the new alternate rugby kits for England and Ireland (from Eric Bangeman). … Wired has an article about Adidas’ new “Speedfactory” in Bavaria, Germany (from Adam Herbst). … Austin Kaut, a lacrosse player for Penn State, has a pretty unique helmet design (from María Canales).