Ahead of the release of the new Nike London City jersey, inspired by Carolina Panthers and Nike athlete Effe Obada, we spoke to designers Sam Bailey and Kelly Anna about their inspirations and process behind their individual jersey designs and more.
What is your name, occupation, and what area are you from?
My name is Sam Bailey, I’m a designer, but I also do animation and digital, experimental and abstract artwork. I like to play with software and I’ve been doing a lot of animation and 3D work recently.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you got into design.
I’m from Somerset initially but I moved around a lot when I was little. I lived in Cornwall for a while and then moved to Africa and lived in Zimbabwe and Ghana. I was always into drawing and I wanted to be a comic book artist when I was growing up. I was obsessed with video games but I ended up doing design kind of accidentally. I didn’t realise what it was until I needed, for example, to design a t-shirt and then I just ended up falling into it and designing for other people.
How would you say design helps you express yourself?
I don’t really communicate very well. Design feels like the best way for me to communicate how I feel about things straight up. Nothing else is quite as clear if I’m trying to express something so doing design work or artwork feels best.
Touching on the NFL Jersey collaboration, what was the inspiration behind your design?
They told me the jersey would be inspired by Carolina Panthers and Nike athlete Efe Obada so I read up quite a lot about him and it’s so interesting how he grew up doing an American sport in London. I think that for me was the first thing I thought about. Because it’s an American sport, I decided to think about what somebody who is into that sport experiences here. What do they see, how do they play, etc.
Break down the process behind your design, starting from the first step.
I start by collecting a bunch of images and thinking about places I could look for inspiration to do with the NFL and London and find crossover points between the two. I took elements of the NFL tactics; it is a game that requires so much planning, they have so many systems and the drawings of the plays look amazing! I was just looking for things that would jump out from the game and London. Things I would imagine someone from London playing the game would experience – like the patterns they would see if they looked out from where they were playing. What would the skyline look like, what would the grass on the floor look like? From there I made a lot of assets and pieces and started collaging them all together into one and that’s when it all started to come together.
How do you know when you’re finished? Is it difficult to not overthink things?
Time. Having a deadline and a time limit makes you have to finish. If that wasn’t there I would just keep going. Also, because I’m working for somebody, it helps to balance ideas off of who I’m working with. Asking what do you think, how is this going, do you think this is looking good? Based on their reaction, I’ll be able to refine things. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s really difficult and sometimes you just know when it’s time.
With the NFL being quite new to us in the UK, was it easy for you to find similarities between NFL sport culture and London culture?
I think what was useful was looking at and searching for UK teams. There are a lot of London teams and they have Instagram so looking through them, looking at their players, their pitches and getting a sense of how they’re integrating a very American sport over here is really interesting. I think because it is here it has to integrate somehow. It is something you relate very strongly to American culture so it will be interesting to see how it picks up and evolves here and gets a UK edge.
What can we expect from you in the future, going on from here?
My top priority as an artist and creator is to just keep trying to learn new things, exploring new software and just getting into different things and playing around with stuff. I do all of that to make me happy so if I can make that into a job then that’s a bonus.
What is your name, occupation and what area are you from?
My name is Kelly Anna. I am an artist and designer currently living in Peckham. I work predominantly on the relationship between sport and art which is usually what my work is based around.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you got into design.
I grew up in a family who were all into sports. My uncle was a champion boxer, both my mum and dad were dancers and I grew up a gymnast so my whole childhood was in dancing and sports. I was always sketching at competitions and that carried on right up until I went to college. I spent years sketching competitions and watching how people moved. I became obsessed with the figure, the body and the way it moves. My dad was a figurative artist as well so that’s also where I got that obsession from.
Going into the Jersey and the collaboration with the NFL, what was the inspiration behind the design you made?
I was given a few words and the main ones that struck me were speed and energy from the NFL. It’s a real team sport. I wanted to extract those words and create an energy that you could see coming through the image. That’s why I wanted the figure to feel forceful and energetic.
What was the first step in your design process?
I will usually look through all my books because that gets me really excited. I look through my Greek pottery books and Olympic posters because I love Olympic memorabilia. Then, I will start sketching some ideas based on what the brief has asked of me. For example, this brief was based around London so I started looking at ways I could use London. I didn’t want to incorporate London so literally, I wanted to take what I see London as and replicate that. And for me it’s energy. I feel like there’s always an energy here. There’s always something going on, you always feel that here.
As well as looking at the brief and the inspiration you already have, how do you also express yourself in the product?
It’s always quite hard when working for a client to keep things authentically you. However, with this project, they really let me incorporate my style and were very excited about it so that to me is what I would have done regardless.
With the NFL still being quite new to the UK, would you say it’s easy for you to mix London and the NFL and how do you feel about the NFL becoming more popular in the UK?
I didn’t find it that hard because I focused more on the feeling of it. It wasn’t literally the NFL and London, it was all about that energy, the team sport, the speed. That’s what I took from it rather than just being London and NFL. I think it’s amazing that it’s coming here more!
What can we expect from you going forward after this?
Lots of exciting projects and collaborations coming in but I want to continue working in that relationship between sport and art and continuing to make good work.
94 of each Nike London City edition jersey design are available exclusively in Nike Town London. Be sure to get your hands on one!