Designer Tracie Ching: Sublimation has its limits, too

12 Jan 2012 / Tracie Ching is a graphic designer living in Washington DC, the capital of the United States of America. She started her ultimate career a few years back in New York during her college studies. Before reaching the end of her studies, Ching participated in VC Ultimate’s designing contest. Even though she didn’t win, she landed a new job. As the Chief Designer of VC Ultimate she has designed USA Ultimate’s tournament logos, as well as jerseys for USAU and other teams, even Google. reached out to Tracie for a few questions regarding jersey designs. Frank Abagnale Sr. once asked: ”Why do the Yankees always win?” The answer was: ”The other team can’t stop looking at their pinstripes.” Would you agree with Abagnale? Why?

Tracie Ching: Haha, I think their immense talent has been a greater factor in their success, but I do agree with Abagnale that a team’s image can be a powerful thing. If a team has the luxury of having great gear, it stands to reason they might have more confidence due to pride in their unified awesomeness. Additionally, a confident team who not only plays well together but looks good doing it can absolutely be intimidating (especially if your teams jerseys aren’t exactly gems). And let’s be honest, it’s exceedingly hard to defend someone when you can’t stop looking at their jersey.

U: As an artist, what is key on designing jerseys, team wear and sports apparel? What are the focal points that make up a good jersey?

T: The beautiful thing about designing sports apparel is there isn’t any one formula for creating a good jersey. You can decide to focus all the attention on one spot, one image, or a pattern or design that moves the eye all around. The focal point is flexible, but the important thing is balance, placement, and strong space. (Having strong space is leaving empty space and/or filling it, and having good reason for doing so.)

U: What are the absolute no-no’s of a design? What can absolutely break a shirt and come out completely ugly?

T: For logos or screen printed jerseys: Messy or low resolution images… also… stick figures. No stick figures.

For sublimated design: Over-doing. Sublimation does not translate to ”pack everything and anything you think is badass into one shirt”. Sublimation is pretty much limitless and because of that you must give yourself guidelines. Pick 1 theme or idea. Be careful with your colors. Pick 1, at the most 2 fonts. And for goodness sake make sure your images are clean, crisp, and cohesive! No one wants gear that looks like ultimate got drunk and threw-up on it.

U: Do you prefer to design fully sublimated or a classic ”logo in front, number in back” shirts? What are the challenges when designing both?

T: Honestly, I love both. They are completely different animals. Classic ”logo in front, number in back” jerseys are a sprint. Your one image has to catch the viewer’s interest and instantly tell them what your team or tournament is about while being limited by both space and color. Sublimation is a long distance race. It’s about control and the perfect utilization of what you have. You must find a balance between colors and images and place them in a way that is not only highly visible but aesthetically pleasing.U: Do you need any background information on the teams before designing for them? If yes, what kind of information do you require?

T: Absolutely. For a designer, knowing nothing about the team, their history, their likes or direction is like taking a shot in the dark and hoping you hit the target dead center. The more information you can give a designer about yourselves, the better. Examples of jerseys, images, or designs you like are monstrously helpful. Any company worth their salt will provide you with a client questionnaire if they offer design services. The more thoroughly you answer the questions, the more likely you get exactly what you want, and quickly.

U: How much creative freedom do you get from your customers?

T: It varies from team to team. Some teams have a very specific image in their mind of what they want, but those are few. Others have absolutely no clue, and while they are more common, not the majority. Most customers come to you with an outline and you fill in the blank.

U: How do you get inspired to start your work, do you require three days of meditation etc. before starting?

T: Haha, there are definitely some designers out there who like to ruminate on a design for a while, but I am not one of those. Every opportunity I get I look at images and designs that interest me. When I find something I’d love to try or incorporate, I store them away in an ”inspiration” folder on my desktop or in my head and just wait. So when a client comes to us with an idea, at least one of those images jumps into view and I’m off like a shot. Don’t get me wrong, I get stuck just like the best of them, but most of the time I come preprepared and raring to go. 

U: What are the steps you take when designing? Where do you start?

T: Designing always starts with the name, location, and attitude of the tournament or team. I normally work my way from the typography to the iconography, text before images, and then I work in whatever inspiration I found beforehand.

U: On average, how long does the designing process take?

T: The average would be misleading. Sometimes a design will take an hour and sometimes it takes 8. It entirely depends on the client, the idea, and the communication.

U: What kind of pencil or computer program do you use?

T: The closest I ever get to a pencil is the stylis for my Wacom Intuous tablet. As for computer programs, I almost work exclusively in Adobe Illustrator.

U: What is your best work for VC Ultimate? Why? Please tell us about the process behind the product. What was your vision when you started it, etc.?

T: The USAU Sublimated jersey (Dark) for Club Nationals (currently on sale at VC’s online store). I love it because it’s fun, so very USA, and looks equally sexy on male and female players. The process was very much my usual MO. USA Ultimate redesigned their entire image this past year and friggin’ nailed it! So when Adriana asked me if I’d like to do a USAU sub, I was already dying to design something based on their new brand. Their website has this great grunge effect that just had to be incorporated, as well as their new logo. Vision-wise I wanted to capture a little of the beauty, spirit, and movement of the sport, and it’s my hope US players can wear the jersey with pride as ultimate steps into the mainstream light.

U: Do you have a ”dream product” you would like to design?

T: The gear for the first olympic ultimate team.
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Designer Tracie Ching’s website >>
WordPress is quirky and doesn’t allow spacing, LOL.s
VC Ultimate is currently hosting a competition to design a national themed jersey for any country – even for Sweden. The most liked jersey’s designers will be allowed to choose six shirts they desire amongst the winners. A winner may choose for example six of his or her own shirts or one of each. More info can be found from their Facebook-page. Be sure to hurry as the competition is only open until the 13th of February! 

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