Tell us a bit about your design background?
I’d say I come from quite a traditional Graphic Design background. I studied Graphic Design at college and did my undergrad at University of West England. I still remember that ‘wow’ feeling I had looking around the Graphic Design department at college. For the first time I was looking at art that wasn’t created using a traditional paintbrush and palette. Instead it was some strange hybrid between art as I knew it and media and it blew my mind.
How do you define ~sports design~ and where does your passion for it stem from?
I embrace Sports Design as any creative artwork that promotes or represents a brand, team, event, or product in the sports industry. It sparked my interest back in 2014 - a year I took out of education to figure out What I Wanted To Do With My Life. I’d just dropped out of Nottingham University where I’d been studying English because I realised I wanted, excuse me, ~needed~ to pursue a more creative career. So I thought the most productive way to spend this time and discover what I really felt passionate about would be to build some sort of portfolio that would show my creative skill. I started doing some self-initiated projects to get the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing. Without realising at the time, any brief I wrote myself involved creating or re-creating an identity or campaign for an iconic athlete, sports team, or sports brand.
“Mantra is really the product of countless daydreams, big ambition, patience, and practice.”
What do you think prompted you to subconsciously write yourself briefs that were specifically related to sports?
Well, away from my desk, I spend the majority of my time swimming, running, practising yoga, going to the gym, and just generally being very active. I love training and it’s no surprise that when you train day in, day out it consumes a lot of your headspace too. So I guess that’s what naturally led the two to take shape together. It was a real light-bulb moment when I realised that there was a whole industry that combines these two passions and a demand for people creating artwork for it. Needless to say I felt like I’d finally hit the nail on the head with regards to the whole what do I do with my life thing.
So how did you develop it from there?
Whenever the holidays came around or I had cleared some of my university work I would do a project of my own. Of course, this would be sports-related and something I knew I would enjoy creating. I’ve always been more process-led than outcome-led so I would always write myself a brief that would allow for lots of sketching, coming up with my own slogans, and using bold digital typography. I also spent a lot of time just looking at sports design stuff and reading various articles, books, and blogs that discuss the latest artwork produced for sports brands I admire like Nike, Under Armour, The North Face, and the design process of the studios and designers who created it. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from simply setting aside ten minutes of your morning to look and read about stuff in the sector you’re interested in, before you crack on with your work. Making a habit of it definitely helped develop my own work and be consistently inspired.
In a nutshell, what is Mantra Sport?
Mantra Sport is a design company that specialises in creating artwork for clubs, brands, events, and companies in the sports sector. I launched it in 2018 when I graduated from university.
Why ‘Mantra’? What’s the story behind the name?
Whether you’re running a marathon, swimming the English channel, or just doing a really gruelling workout, everyone has these positive affirmations they tell themselves over and over in order to reach the finish and achieve their goal - myself included. I’m a firm believer that your mentality directly affects your physical capabilities. We wanted a name that shows we value the mental side of sport just as much as the physical aspect and thus reflects our holistic approach to designing artwork for sports brands. Mantra seemed simple yet encompassing of all of that.
What motivated you to start your own business?
By the end of university I’d built a pretty substantial sports design portfolio and actually had a few sports design agencies offer me a job when I graduated. And although I’m grateful for those opportunities, I was surprised when didn’t feel excited by any of them. I’ve always looked for gratification and fulfilment through my work and I just knew that if I wasn’t building a business of my own then I would never really find that fulfilment. So, whilst starting your own business is incredibly scary and risky, what terrifies me the most is that feeling of regret and what if. So taking the plunge whilst I’m young with little to none real responsibilities seems like the opportune time! Mantra is really the product of countless daydreams, big ambition, patience, and practice.
"It’s nice to watch a person’s face light up when you hear them talk about their work and that alone usually leaves me feeling inspired."
Who/what inspires your work?
A few designers whose work I follow quite religiously are Jon Contino, Hort, and Bureau Borsche. Recently I’ve been really digging the work of Daniel Barkle, BIS Studio Graphique, and Kendall Henderson. A project doesn’t necessarily have to be sports related to give me inspiration but it is usually type-based. To be honest, I feel most inspired when I simply talk to other creatives - no matter what their discipline. I attend a lot of talks and events for freelancers and independent businesses. It’s nice to watch a person’s face light up when you hear them talk about their work and that alone usually leaves me feeling inspired.
What does the future hold for Mantra Sport? What are some of your ambitions?
Ah, who knows! At the moment we’re keen to do some branding projects for sports events like triathlons, swimming events, and marathons. They would be really great projects that we believe are within our capabilities. The dream is to be commissioned by Nike or the Olympic Committee. But one step at a time!
Finally, what’s your personal Mantra, Dawn?
Don’t let failure put out the fire.
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