Summary: From start to finish, Jonathan sourced, edited, masked, and composed a complex and exciting vehicle wrap for the Jacksonville Giants in about 7 hours of work time ready for the production facility to scale for Large Format Printing. This project is unique in execution and time from notification to completion. This post goes into details of the timeline, pre-production phase, design, and then the hand-off to the production facility.
In February and March 2017, before the ABA League Playoffs and Championship, the team owner and leadership (archive link) set the goal to brand the team bus ahead of an anticipated championship win. As I recall the series of events I was asked to submit sketches and pitch the idea to the team owner, GM, and Marketing Manager. While I am a rudimentary sketch artist, the plan was as depicted below.
I dedicated only a few minutes to the sketches themselves. Since this wasn’t enough to pitch the concept and properly explain to the business-side of the team what it will look like, I prepared a short-and-sweet deck of notes, ready-to-use assets, samples of possible textures, and some typography decisions. See the images below of the deck slides. (While these weren’t pretty, the sense at the time was urgency to pitch an idea.)
At that time in mid February or so, this research and proposal was the extent of the ask of me. It was, as I recall, the only proposal amongst other artists available to pitch ideas. It was management’s intent to outsource the design to a contractor to free me up with to complete other tasks for the Law Firm. At the time, I was working for the Giants’ Primary sponsor and owner the Law Offices of Ron Sholes P.A. (site link and backup link); Giants work was a fun, though challenging, extra set of tasks I was able to do. It was worth it at the time to redirect me to law office tasks to continue generating revenue rather than sinking time to sports team as a sponsor.
For about a month I wasn’t bothered on this project at all. In the end, I got a call from the GM at 11 PM and she needed an immediate resolution to the project. The owner had already invested about $5k to prepare the bus for a complete wrap; apparently there are some cleaning and adhesion preparation steps before applying the actual printed decal. The project was stalled on the contractor’s submissions for the bus wrap.
I don’t have the full story of the breakdown of communication between management and the contractor, but I suspect the open-ended aspect of the project and difficulty in executing high-quality large-format printing played a part.
It was literally the 11th hour for the project and the management’s investments because the production facility was ready to eject the bus from their storage and move on to other projects, and this would negate the management to clean and prep the exterior.
I jumped out of bed, dressed, swallowed some caffeine, and drove 40 minutes to the office and set to work on the plan I had setup the month prior. After about 6 hours, I had a prototype for the owner to review.
Execution of this project in the small hours of the next day took some technical forethought; the design plan was essentially completed but with large format printing the technical is a consideration. With some of my experience gained from Xerographic Digital Printing as a pre-press production artist (link and backup link, I was able to know what the large format production artists and printers would need in the pre-press department. While I didn’t know their end of tiling up the artwork for print and executing the physical wrap, I did know I had to divide up the art in Photoshop in to bite-size pieces. I would be unable to deliver a ready-to-print document but I could provide a plan and all the assets required in a hand-off.
The single biggest technical consideration is that Photoshop documents have an upper size limit; also, computers don’t want to have to generate 300 dots per inch for large format printing (you will typically only need 150 dpi and let the rip handle the rest).
This was an excellent opportunity to utilize Adobe Photoshop’s then-somewhat-new feature to nest linked assets as non-destructive smart object layers (link and archive link).
The execution of the pre-production and design plans with the strategy of using linked nested smart objects worked. The full-size elements of each of the players, textures, backgrounds, text, trophies, logos, and the mascot were all linked, rather than embedded, into a visualization of the Bus and where those elements would be placed, approximate scale of elements, and etc.
A large portion of time spent was shopping for stock images for the flame, cloud, and brick textures, masking photographs of the Giants Athletes and the mascot, then ensuring the linked smart objects would re-render properly upon a change of resolution from screen-size to print-size proportions.
The owner and GM made only few changes to the first version of the near-complete design I proposed at 7am, the day after I received the call. Revisions from the original plan included making the rear of the wrap an advertisement for the law firm, moving Bruce to the front of the bus on the hood, and placing images of the team’s previous championship trophies on the folding passenger door.
The final result was very pleasing and has lasted and remained relevant to the team’s brand since it was designed and physically applied to the bus in 2017. The combined efforts of production artists at the print company, player photography donated by Gary McCullough (archive link here), the Giants Athletes depicted in the photography, the licensed images from ShutterStock, and the passion of the management and fans all made the design possible.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re in luck. If you would like to sneak a look at the assets for this project, you may download them here.