The World Cup through the eyes of U.S. Soccer's lead designer


Be it baseball, football, basketball or soccer, fans may think it’s pure sport that draws them in. But the electric atmosphere surrounding the World Cup, for example, is partially the result of the players' exquisite athleticism and partially the result of long hours put in, and deliberate decisions made, by designers like Savannah College of Art and Design alumna Emily Choate (B.F.A., graphic design, 2005), lead designer for the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The club may not have advanced, but thanks to Emily and her team at Stone Ward in Chicago, who have worked with U.S. Soccer for five years, feelings of patriotism, a shared sense of pride and adrenaline, albeit mellowed, still hang over the remainder of the World Cup games for fans of U.S. Soccer. You wouldn’t have known it by passing a pub on the day of a match, but the job of rallying a country and that kind of intensity behind U.S. Soccer, which typically plays second fiddle to American football, basketball or baseball, was no easy task. 

Emily’s work touched every piece of collateral that one could imagine being associated with the World Cup, and many others you wouldn’t think to imagine, from ticket design and swag (i.e., t-shirts and scarves), to email signatures, bus wraps, stadium graphics and bar regalia (i.e., posters and coasters).

Here’s Emily on designing U.S. Soccer’s “One Nation. One Team.” promotional and awareness campaign for the Men’s and Women’s World Cup, finalized in November 2013 and rolled out to the public in January 2014.

Thread: What was the brief that you received from U.S. Soccer?
Emily: ‘We need a more coordinated campaign across all our platforms, a unifying iconic statement and look that is big enough and simple enough to engage with all Americans during the world’s largest event.’

T: How many people are on your team and what were their roles?
E: We are a close-knit team of brand managers and creatives. Our intern, a SCAD undergrad, Jackson Bernard's (B.F.A., graphic design) first day was the first day of the World Cup. During the Ghana game, he worked fast and furiously with our brand manager, myself and the client and his team in the U.S. Soccer Federation social hub. He's with us for the rest of the summer.

T: What considerations go into crafting a design for an event as visible as the World Cup?
E: Especially for a World Cup year, you need to make sure your message and approach are invigorating within your base (existing fans, casual and hardcore), as well as a nation of potential new U.S. fans. What we found was that the campaign even captured the hearts of people all over the world.

T: How long did it take to arrive at the final design?
E: As for the overall design aesthetic and tagline, we worked with U.S. Soccer through various concepts, honing down to our final design for about two to two and a half months.

T: Why is the design you went with – One Nation. One Team. - the right one for U.S. Soccer? How does it fit the brand?
E: It’s clean. It’s pure. It’s American. It also connects fans and players interwoven on the same journey in the most simplistic way. There is a Women’s National Team, a Men’s National Team and Youth National Teams, all representing the U.S. One Nation. One Team. And the blue, white and red bands (also similar to the 2014 away jersey) always run through the entire width of a design piece, showing a united nation behind our colors.

T: How is designing for a professional sports team different than designing for other brands?
E: Preplanning and strategy are important. Having a good plan in place helps because you always have to be prepared to capitalize on opportunities when they come about. Sometimes you have six months to prepare for things, sometimes you have 20 minutes, and in the event of live graphic creation for social media during a game after a goal you have less than a minute or two to get something out to the fan base of followers that is celebrating that moment.

T: How does the U.S. brand compare that of their opponents?
E: We’ve seen a lot of club teams in the EPL that do design well. But on the country level, soccer is the number one sport among most other countries. They don’t have to do too much marketing/design to rally their countries around a team. In the U.S., where soccer isn’t the number one sport, you have to compete and promote a little differently. I think after this World Cup we are finally changing the perception about the world’s sport among many Americans.

T: How do you measure the success of the design?

I believe the best design is the kind you don’t have to tell people about. If it’s effective enough, people see it, are affected by it and notice it on their own.

T: What else would designers or soccer fans find interesting about this campaign?
E: To do this job well you have to separate your fandom and work. I love soccer. U.S. Soccer is my team. When it comes down to watching games or working at games, you have to put yourself into work mode so that you can focus on sharing an experience with the fan rather than getting lost in the moment as a fan. 

T: When did you become a soccer fan?
E: I played in high school. I became a World Cup lover in 1998 while traveling with family through Europe, and became a Women’s National Team fan in 1999 when they had their second World Cup win. I became a huge U.S. Men’s National Team fan during the 2010 World Cup. I can’t single out any particular player, it’s such a team sport.

T: How does it feel to turn on the World Cup and see your work?
E: Seeing your work on TV always feels good, but what’s really rewarding is knowing that the work is inspiring a nation and especially the team. It’s more about knowing that I’m part of the team that is working to show the Men’s National Team that a nation is behind them. We collected fan messages and have carefully placed them in locations on the Men’s National Team’s journey from training camp in May all the way throughout the World Cup. Whether it’s a quote at their training camp, in a stadium, in a locker room, or even inside the jersey, we truly let them know in a unique way that their nation was with them the entire way.

T: Is this the job you envisioned yourself having while you were studying at SCAD?
E: I wanted to be a graphic designer since I learned that it is a real career. When I went to SCAD, I remember one of my professors talking about a former student who was the designer behind the Super Bowl logo that year. I thought to myself, "Maybe one day I’ll be doing that." I know very little about football, but the magnitude of the Super Bowl is something I know very well. Now I’m creating graphics and helping strategize campaigns for the U.S. National Teams, which play in the world’s largest sporting event. It’s humbling.

T: What’s the best design advice you’ve received and given?
E: Received: Pick your battles. Given: Do what you love and believe in. It shows in your work and the people affected by it.

If that’s the case, then the hearty response of U.S. Soccer fans to their team’s World Cup run would seem to indicate that Emily has found work she truly loves.

Next post
Bridal fashion's rising star and newest TV show: Heidi Elnora
Previous post
A career in … amusement: It's not just about the rides

The evolution of an art and design education from a faculty perspective


This week we've featured the reflections of Savannah College of Art and Design alumni in the Northeast, South, West and Midwest on their industries and the education that prepared them for their careers. We'd be remiss to not feature the faculty members responsible for helping to direct their paths. Below you'll find faculty perspectives on how SCAD has evolved to keep pace with, and sometimes outpace, the world of art and design. And like the students who once roamed SCAD's classrooms and study halls, so too have those locations undergone powerful transformation.

SCAD Museum of Art

What's the biggest change you've seen at SCAD since you began teaching here?

SCAD was the best kept secret in art and design education in the year 1990. Now it is a top tier university for art and design. I used to have to explain SCAD to everyone I met, now everyone I meet seems to have a story about some great experience they have had with SCAD students or alumni. 
-Tom Fischer, Professor of Photography, first year at SCAD 1990

There has been a lot of change, yet there’s something about the school’s DNA that has guided that change. You could relate it to comparing a young azalea to a mature azalea, in that the qualities and the promises inherent in the young azalea are manifested in the more mature plant. The blooms have always been there, yet now those blooms are expressed in a more elaborate array of instances, and they can be witnessed by many more people and at greater distances. They catch a larger spectrum of the sun. 
-Scott Boylston, Professor of Sustainability Design, first year at SCAD 1998

Poetter Hall

What's the most signifcant change that your field has seen since you began teaching at SCAD?

Graphic Design is one of the fastest changing industries, so the constant change of our curriculum is extremely important. Our seniors produce responsive digital publications and websites for their portfolios; they breathe new technology like air. Some of these cutting edge portfolio presentations can be seen on the Atlanta Graphic Design blog, and if you are only familiar with the old style portfolio presentation, you will be blown away. 
-Henry Hongmin Kim, Professor of Graphic Design, first year at SCAD 2004

SCAD students have always been outstanding in their eagerness to learn and excel in their majors. They are a pleasure to share knowledge with. 
-Judith Ott Allen, Professor of Art History, first year at SCAD 1986

Maisson Basse

How has your work to prepare students for careers in art and design changed?

Over the past 4 years, I have noticed the increasing importance that internship opportunities play in providing real world experience for students at their entry point into art careers. It has lead to impressive positions at colleges, public art organizations, the film industry, and museums. We are focusing on impressive internship opportunities more than ever and fitting students into compatible internships that successfully lead to jobs. 
-Susan Krause, Professor of Sculpture, first year at SCAD 2000

On some levels, I’d compare design for sustainability in 2014 to web design in the early 1990's. I remember well the days when businesses considered web design first as a fad, then as a necessarily ‘evil,’ then as an essential core to their business success, and then finally to ‘if you don’t have a website, you’re out of business.’ Sustainability is following a similar path, and so teaching sustainability has gotten a little easier since we started the program 5 years ago because we spend less time justifying the discipline and more time celebrating its successes.
-Scott Boylston, Professor of Sustainability Design, first year at SCAD 1998


Norris Hall

Is there one student you've taught whose work you are particularly proud of?

I would have to say that one of my former SCAD Savannah students and now my current supervisor, Associate Chair of Animation, Matt Maloney, might be the best personal story for me. Even as a student, Matt was always an outstanding artist, animator, filmmaker, and film historian and is only more so today. Over the years I think we've learned from each other and the fact that he is now an outstanding professor, department leader, and colleague is a really beautiful thing. 
-Becky Wible Searles, Professor of Animation, first year at SCAD 1999

It's hard to pick one, so here's a few: Chris Schweizer, Jackie Lewis, Hunter Clark, Doug Dabbs, Cara McGee, Justin Wagner. These are all alumni who have gone on to have some amazing careers. I am constantly impressed by my current students as well.
-Shawn Crystal (M.F.A., sequential art, 2001), Professor of Sequential Art since 2006

Student Center transformation

Next post
Updated: Emerging filmmakers 'see' their dreams come true
Previous post
A career in … amusement: It's not just about the rides