From Doodling NBA Logos to Working with Sports Brands: Anthony Morell
Anthony Morell is a French Graphic Designer and Illustrator living and working in Montréal. He currently works at creative agency, Sid Lee. Also running his own creative practice, Anthony has produced a number of innovative projects including Zodiac Basketball, Music is minimalist, and The Postman FC. In his own words, Anthony’s style is “characterised by a clever use of shapes and colours to create minimal and conceptual illustrations.” We chatted with Anthony to find out how he’s honed his minimalist style over the years, and how it’s enabled him to tap into a number of different genres, including sports, and work with varying clients.
Hi Anthony! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how design slots into your life?
I'm a 25-year-old French designer and illustrator, living in Montreal and working at Sid Lee. I've always drawn since I was a kid, from comics to graffiti to drawing football jerseys and NBA logos too. Then I studied Fine Arts and Graphic Design at ESA Pyrenees in the South of France and went to Canada for an internship four years ago.
What was it about NBA logos, in particular, that made you want to pick up a pencil and draw?
I loved the variety of colors and shapes in sports logos and jerseys when I was a kid. I used to support teams with great logos and colors, even if the team was not performing very well! And each of the elements, in a sense, mean something! Like in heraldry in the Middle Ages, with coat of arms, the logos represent their city’s colors, symbols, etc. In my recent project NBA Gameday posters, I tried to use these principles. In each illustration, you can see something related to the team’s city, history, architectural elements, and symbols.
What team do you support now?
I'm a big fan of the Raptors, since I moved to Canada! Last year was crazy!!!
What do you find most interesting about the design of NBA logos?
What I find interesting is to compare the evolution of the NBA logos over the course of history. In 1990, the arrival of the Mac and digital technology marked a major change in the design of NBA logos. Before they were sober and wise, often drawn by hand. From that date, everything was digitized, taking advantage of the design softwares. Visual effects such as 3D, shadows, color gradients have become easy to achieve. Today NBA logos seem to be a trend towards graphic simplicity, which leads to a very "boring" standardization. I wrote all about the Graphic Design history of the NBA as part of my end-of-year thesis and it's available to read on Medium.
Talk us through a typical day in the office and what fuels productivity?
Wake up checking last night NBA results, then leave for work. I'm very productive in the morning so this is when I try to be very focused on the creative work. I always carry a Field Notes notebook with me so that I can write any ideas I have any time, and anywhere. I listen to a lot of music to stay focused, from indie rock to French hip-hop. I leave work around five o'clock, and I like to take time to cook, drink a beer, and relax after work.
"Today social media is very important for any designer/illustrator. I think a lot of clients and agencies reach illustrators through Instagram, because it's easy to find someone and quickly check their work."
The phrase ‘less is more’ is well applied to your portfolio. Is your minimalistic style inherent, or something rather more influenced and, with practice, honed over time?
My minimalist style was developed years after years... I'm a graphic designer and for the past three or four years I decided to use minimalist illustrations in all my projects because it allows me to tell so much more. And what I love with my minimalist approach, is that it's very universal and quick to understand. I remove all unnecessary details, so you can focus on the message. I love to add a funny or playful touch. I was very influenced by Paul Rand's work. His "Eye-bee-M" poster is pure genius.
How do you usually go about finding work / how does work find you? Has this changed in any way over the years?
I develop a lot of side projects about things I love to do. Projects like Impact Montreal posters, FIFA World Cup poster, Music is minimalist, allow me to bring things I love into my designs. Since these projects show up online, a lot of related themed projects find me!
From branding Power Boxing to Zodiac Basketball, you’ve a number of sports-focused projects. Have you always been keen to tap into the sports sector and if so, how did you pave your way?
I've always played sports since I was a kid, from tennis to soccer. So when I had to choose a subject for my end-of-year thesis, I chose to work on NBA logos. It was a very interesting subject and I found in my research that design is very important and very present in sports, particularly in the last century. From there, I decided to keep working on sport related personal projects. I started The Postman FC last year to regroup all my sport designs. I wanted to showcase all these illustrations. I watch a lot of sports, so I wanted to show my love for design and sport. It's my way of reacting to sports news. The posters play with shapes, colors, and symbols to create minimalist and conceptual illustrations. And since, I've had the chance to work on real sports projects like Zodiac Basketball, and some illustrations for Adidas Terrex.
"I loved the variety of colors and shapes in sports logos
and jerseys when I was a kid. I used to support teams with great logos and colors, even if the team was not
performing very well!"
Is full-time freelance design something you're striving to be able to do, or do you prefer the blend of working for a creative agency and doing sideline projects in your own time?
It's a little scary when you're young to think about being freelance full time. It's very empowering to work in a big agency: you work with big and real clients on various projects, and even sometimes on projects that matter! I'm able to develop my own design practice, so I really like the combination of trying new things on the one hand, and doing more "serious" things on the other.
I also started my shop last year when I published a book about a side project, Music is minimalist. Since then, I've been adding small items, like pins and stickers. The goal of the shop is not to make a lot of money (it's limited edition products). I just want to have fun creating products, and it's always nice to see people buying and using them.
How important would you say social media has been to establishing your career?
Today social media is very important for any designer/illustrator. I think a lot of clients and agencies reach illustrators through Instagram, because it's easy to find someone and quickly check their work. Also for us it's a good way to have feedback and see the reception. It's a kind of portfolio, but I think it's important to keep a personal portfolio too, because Instagram tends to be generic, and follows trends.
What would you say has been the greatest challenge/greatest reward of your career so far?
My greatest reward is to see people reacting to my work with an emotion. Many people have a smile when they see my work - it makes me feel good! I think my biggest challenge is to work on things I like everyday. And, whether it's sport or banking, to be able to put my own style and approach on it.
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Anthony?
Find time to do side projects about things you love! Work hard, think simple, experiment, try new things, and don't be scared!