“Putting lights in Wrigley Field is like putting aluminum
siding on the Sistine Chapel.” – Roger Simon
Baseball says different things to different people. Some people love it for the statistics, others for the lush sights and sounds. Brian Lindstrom, a graphic designer and printmaker currently studying at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, loves baseball for the tradition. The stories, legends and athletes that have come and gone throughout the decades have compiled a massive legacy that is ripe for artistic expression. Lindstrom dove into this legacy as the inspiration for a series of 18 screenprinted posters, titling the series "Bases Loaded". Lindstrom deftly combines carefully hand drawn typography and iconography with some of the greatest moments in the history of the game (including some quirkily obscure ones) to create a stunning series of work that any fan of baseball’s history will love.
Brian carefully selected his subjects and his medium. The moments of baseball lore he focuses on range from the great players like Lou Gehrig and Hank Aaron, to contriversies in the Steroid Era, and the more delightfully obscure, like the first
game played under the bright artificial lights in Wrigley Field (Lindstrom’s Cubby fandom showing through). The colors are classic red and blue, honoring the position baseball holds in American culture. The designs are printed onto massive 26"x40 sheets of wool felt, mimicing pennants.
Lindstrom’s hand made designs reflect the intimacy of baseball, how it has touched us all individually in unique ways. In his words, "The game of baseball is intertwined in the fabric of the United States of America. The players are household names and the sights, smells, and sounds conjure up memories of our past." These prints are baseball, they perfectly capture its essence.
I was lucky enough to interview Brian about his experiences, his love of baseball, and his fantastic work. You can find more images and information about the Bases Loaded series at
www.basesloadedseries.com, and see more of Brian’s steller work at www.newbaric.com.
Tell me a little about yourself and your artwork
I’ve been designing for over 11 years and started out freelancing out of design school. After a year of freelance, I worked at Oakley (the sunglass co) for about 3 years. I designed logos for eyewear, apparel graphics, packaging, and graphics that were applied to eyewear/goggle straps etc. It was a great experience in learning the power of branding and design within the context of a company.
At the end of my time at Oakley, I started to freelance for other action-sports industry clients like Skullcandy, Rhythm, Infinity Surfboards and Reef. Once I got to a point where I was busy enough, I went freelance full time and opened Newbaric Design Co.
My work has always had a major lean towards apparel graphics for surf/skate/snow brands as well as logos/identities for the same clients as well as start-ups. I went to grad school, away from California, because as much as I want to keep doing that work and have a foot in that door, I was also craving a new perspective on graphic design. I wanted to design with more than a trend forecast telling me what's “in.” I wanted to have a concept and meaning behind my work, something that you rarely get to experience with client work in the surf industry. They already have their brand identity and it wouldn't do them, or myself, a service to try and incorporate my aesthetic and desire into their work. So, I went to grad school to give myself time to explore, research and dive a little deeper into the potential of graphic design.
What made you choose Wisconsin? Did you have prior printmaking experience?
I chose Wisconsin because of their flexibility with incorporating other outside courses (Entrepreneurship courses in the business school etc) and the strong printmaking program. I felt that all the “graphic designey” stuff is crucial for a foundation, but I had been working on that for over a decade and didn't feel the need to be surrounded by a typical, formal graphic design school. Wisconsin is the furthest from a formal graphic design school as you can get, while still offering plenty of design courses with an incredible design faculty for support.
My goal was to get back to the nuts and bolts of design: the ideas. I also have this weird thing about the lost “craft” (I know it’s cliche and overused) of graphic design. Back when the “great” graphic designers were not even graphic designers at all! When you look at old trade-marks (logos) that are branded into masonry or on glass jars, those were done by true craftsmen. The typography and care they took is amazing and yet they treated it as a craft, not a profession. I like Wisconsin because here I can focus on that craft of letterpress and screen-printing while still using the tools and “rules” of a graphic designer. After printing with the Vandercook letterpress I have such a greater appreciation for typography since having to set paragraphs of type by hand. Also having designed my own typeface while at Wisconsin (nothing great) was a priceless experience. My committee chair, and head of the graphic design department, is a typographic wizard. His sole focus is on typography and typeface design and that has had a great influence on my direction.
As for prior printmaking experience, I have designed for screen printed applications for my entire design career so I was always very aware of the process. My first experience with hands-on screen printing was around 2005-ish. I went to Screwball Press in Chicago, and learned from Steve Walters in what he calls his “Screwball Academy.” He has taught a lot of well know printers including Jay Ryan of the Bird Machine, and it's an incredible printing community around
Tell me more about the Bases Loaded project
For the Bases Loaded Series I needed to reprogram the way I designed and determine my own goals, rather than following a client brief with their goals outlined. My best work for clients has always been my hand drawn graphics and typography. That has always been my paycheck. But when it came time for me to design my own project, I felt I needed approval to do it.
Bases Loaded was that approval for me. I love baseball, the nostalgia, and the history. It has the greatest storylines and most dynamic characters of any other sport. It also lent me the opportunity to design a series around it while using my hand-done approach, as well as using printmaking as way to produce the series. I never like to design things that are not authentic. If something is not appropriate (like hand-done graphics) for a project, I will not do it just because “its my aesthetic.” So I felt bases loaded provided that authenticity.
I chose the content based on research, surveys and my own bias. I tried to cover the most interesting and pivotal players/events, not just the best. Obviously it is lacking the Mays, Aarons, Williams, etc. They are worthy of inclusion, but I was looking for specific storylines and themes with the content. The Cubs events (Billygoat, Wrigley Night Game & Ernie Banks) are my bias showing. I do feel they are significant events, but probably more so to me because I am a brainwashed Cubs fan. I really did want to get Ernie Banks in from a positive stand point on baseball. I thought his “kid-like” attitude was refreshing for the series.
I chose to print them onto wool felt banners to reflect the pennants of past eras and to get the nostalgia and authenticity I was looking for. Having them printed digitally would have severely undercut the message of the exhibition.
The subtle undertone for the show is that no computers were used in the design or the production. I am always being asked “Oh, you’re a graphic designer. So you work on computers?” Or “you do computer graphics?” No, I use the computer as a tool. I really wanted to get off the computer and let my brain direct the project, not Adobe.
So, I’m assuming the color palette you chose is another nod to the Cubbies?
No, actually I never thought of that! It is to baseball being America’s pastime. The colors of our flag (muted and tweaked a bit). I thought Red White and Blue might be cliche and obvious, but then my logical side took over and determined, “why not?”
It works beautifully, you chose well. Your hand lettering is exquisite, how did you learn how to draw typography? Did you draw inspiration from a particular set of typefaces, or an artist?
I have always used a lot of hand type in the apparel graphics I’ve done for clients. I guess my influence was coming up in the surf industry. It is a very DIY industry and hand type is no exception. Many designers utilize hand-done graphics, and many companies request it.
My hand typography was developed from practice and learning as I went. Of course looking to vintage hand painted signs and typography from eras past inform me. Learning to design a formal typeface this last year really helped in defining my hand lettering and I was able to give the Bases Loaded type a DNA.
There are really two “styles” through Bases Loaded. A script and a nostalgic “baseball” style typeface. All through Summer I did the research for this project, and had around 40 baseball books checked out from UW (Another reason I chose Wisconsin was because of all the great research tools available). The old found type from baseball's past is amazing and inspirational; hand-writing on balls, bat logos, team ligatures etc.
I wish I had found your site before my design process was complete, because you have A TON of great things on there. When I found your site it was a goldmine!
Do you have a favorite baseball logo, or uniform, or some other design element? One that really embodies what you love about the sport?
I really like the Detroit Tigers style. The Navy and white (off-white), the ’D’ and the script “Tigers.” I am not remotely a Tigers fan, but can appreciate the aesthetic. I’m also a sucker for the Baltimore Orioles colors/logos. and of course the Cubs, just because it has gone unchanged for the most part. The Yankees and Red Sox are great for tradition, but neither top my favorites.
I'm not a fan of the designs for the Padres, Rays or Brewers because they lack that tradition. It doesn't seem like they know who they are, and they lack the identity and rich tradition of the sport. (Although the previous gold Brewers logo with the “mb” as a baseball glove was a real gem.)
I am definitely with you there. It’s not really fair, but I definitely think the older franchises have a much better visual identity.
Agreed. Giants, Dodgers, and the ones I named have tradtion in their favor. It’s the smart ones that dont mess with it. Oh, Indians too. So much good design inspiration in baseball, I could go on for days. Another great reason for choosing it as inspiration for the series!
How did you produce the pieces? Are you selling smaller versions of your designs?
I am screen-printing each 26"x40" felt banner in my studio at UW. I then applied a felt border around the edge to finish them off. Each banner will be hanging on flag poles in the gallery. (18 total, 9 Navy, 9 Cream. 9 for the number of players on each team, innings etc.) Navy ones on one side of the gallery, and Cream on the other, like two teams.
I started to print each one as an edition, but the felt was sucking up all the ink. They are available on Society6 for purchase as prints.
What are your plans for your MFA subject?
For my MFA I’m combining the process I’ve developed with the Bases Loaded Series and the lessons I’ve learned in the MBA Entrepreneurship courses I’ve taken since being at Wisconsin. With these tools I will be starting my own company and implementing my own identity and brand strategy.
I see this company as an example of how graphic design can be utilized within the context of a brand. It’s the perfect culmination of my studies and knowledge to this point. It will serve as a case study for my clients and, hopefully, become a success in itself.
The company is
50 Built and is a hub of information and resources for all things manufactured in America. Buying American-Made goods is a strong passion of mine, and the MFA project has been extremely enlightening and educational.
I’m sure it will! You did amazing work with Bases Loaded and you’ll do the same for your MFA
The Bases Loaded Series has been a truly amazing experience. The first exhibit was a success and I hope for it to become a traveling exhibition.
The series will be showing at the “Sports and Society Conference” this May & June where Bud Selig is the Keynote speaker. Pretty excited for that!
That’ll be incredible! I’m sure you’ll be a huge hit
I’m hoping! Thank you so much, Bethany!