Feature Friday #013 — Josh Gibson

Oh hello again! Here we go with Feature Friday #013! Today we get to hear about Josh Gibson, travel extraordinaire. You can find Josh on Instagram, his website or shop his Cotton Bureau collection here.

Hey Josh! How's life? Any recent trips you want to share?

Life is good! Fall is in full swing here in Virginia so it's my favorite time of year.

Yes! I just travelled with my wife and three kids to California for a couple weeks this summer, hitting up a few new-to-us spots as well as some old favorites. We visited Yosemite National Park for the first time and thanks to record snowfall and melt,got to see the waterfalls three times larger than recent years, hiked, and rock climbed. Then we explored the Big Sur coast for a few days and revisited the spot where we got married 18 years ago (Santa Barbara). Then we spent a few days in San Francisco exploring the city and doing all the ultra-touristy things before heading back to the east coast.

Wow that's amazing. Ultra touristy is fun! I took a similar trip a few years ago and have been itching to go back. Half Dome was the highlight for me but if Vernal and Nevada Falls had been three times the size I think that would've taken the cake.

What were the kids favorite parts? Did you check out Alcatraz? See any famous climbers on El Cap? Should we just talk about Yosemite the entire interview? Jk... sort of.

I think Vernal and Nevada were the faves as far as waterfalls go. The volume was so intense that there really was no mist...it was more like battering rain the entire time and everyone was dripping for miles longer than normal. Raincoats helped very little and it was FREEZING. Really cool experience and daunting to watch that much water go over the top!

Their favorite thing overall was probably climbing at Swan Slab. They went well above the tree lines and I loved watching our fellow park goers admiring them from below like they were pros. But they are not pros, and no way, I didn't let them near El Cap! I am not a climber so I spent that day fly fishing the Merced.

Yes, we did get to check out Alcatraz...the night tour! It was definitely creepy and I prepped the kids by showing them movies and YouTube videos about Alcatraz history and lore, so I think they enjoyed it. There is so much to do in California and we just saw a small sliver so I hope to go back at some point. Since a large segment of my design output involves public lands, natural areas, and outdoor activities in general, it was a great inspirational trip as well

Oh my gosh I can't even imagine. That much water would be intense. Sounds like it was a spectacular trip for all of you, I feel like that's what core memories are made of.

Loving the opportunity to segue here into some art questions. Many of your designs depict as you mentioned public lands, natural areas, and outdoor activities. Have you been to all of the places you illustrate? And what's your creative process like. Do you photograph the places and start creating when you get home? Just go off of memory? Whip out a pen and paper on the trail? I'd love a glimpse of start to finish what typically happens when you come up with an idea.

Sadly I have not been EVERYWHERE but have been to most. I interned for a season in Yellowstone and I think my appreciation for Americas Best Idea started there.

When it's a place I'm visiting, I almost always get started designing that day. My discovery of Apple Pencil, iPad Pro and Procreate fundamentally changed my design process for the better about 5 years ago. Now I travel with them (and my MacBook) everywhere. Most of my ideas go nowhere, but I have found that getting started right away and then putting on the finishing touches after I travel yields the best results. And yes, most is based off of photos I've taken, edited, and combined to create the best composition. Creative embellishments, like creating a super dramatic sky that didn't exist in the photo, it one of the most fun parts.

The process for creating T-shirt designs differs from commemorative posters in that I try to make merch much simpler and less painting-like. I like vintage style tees and even though very little of what I do gets screen printed anymore, I avoid gradients and dozens of colors, and I use negative space so that most of my stuff still looks screen printed.

Oh wow really cool, I haven't seen Americas Best Idea but I'm intrigued, I'll check it out.

Do you enjoy photography as well? Or are you taking pictures more for memories sake/inspiration later on. The embellishments sounds like it would be a really cool part of the process. I just got back from a trip to the smokies and found myself wishing there were more red trees in my photos. It would be cool if I was talented enough to just add them in myself. If I was I'd maybe sneak a bear or two in there as well lol.

I guess I meant that "best idea" quote as referring to the national parks themselves, I forgot about the documentary. But you should definitely watch that, it's great!

I have a decent camera but photography is a means to an end for me, i don't real have the eye of a professional.

I love the Smokies! It is the most visited park since it's near Dollywood and Gatlinburg but no one ever gets out of their car, so if you go for a hike you have most trails to yourself.

And with the new AI updates to Photoshop you can add in all the red trees you want! I am actually kidding, the only experimentation I have done with that new photoshop AI (called "generative fill") has yielded nightmare results. I mean really weird stuff. Im sure that will improve and get better though, probably pretty rapidly.

Yesss you're so right! I was actually nervous because there was so much traffic but as soon as we got out to start hiking everyone disappeared. I really enjoyed the park overall. Do you have a favorite place you've visited? Or even a least favorite?

I may check out the generative fill. As the ultimate photoshop amateur it feels out of my league but we'll see. Personally the whole AI thing scares me. What are your thoughts? Helpful? Risky? Just a phase?

My favorite place I've visited is probably the Big Sur coast. There's nothing like it and there are usually so few people there sometimes that it feels like a different world. I'd go every year if I could. I also love Costa Rica. Have visited a couple times and there are so many things to see and do in one country, it's a great visit every time. And the people are so friendly.

I feel like AI manipulation of photos and art is definitely not just a phase. There are SO many designers I know or follow on socials who are leading boycotts or rallying the troops to stop it, but that's a tough battle to win. It is moving rapidly but I am trying my best to stay up on the goings on. I do not think true, original design and branding can ever be completely replaced by AI.

Sure, if someone wants a super cheap logo and isn't at all picky, an AI-generated design may save them the $25 they'd otherwise be spending on Fiverr. But I think if we get to a point where AI can truly understand the nuances of what humans get from art and design and can create real art with real value, or generate good visual branding, then we are at Skynet level anyway and AI images are the least of our problems.

Right now I see it as a really convenient way to explore different art styles and disciplines and I am trying my best to figure out good ways to use it for ideas and inspiration, since it's probably here to stay.

Aaah Big Sur is beeeautiful and I've heard great things about Costa Rica. It's possible I'm actually using these interviews to create a travel wish list lol so thanks for the recs.

AI art has got to be a pretty stressful as a designer, not surprised there are boycotts going on. It seems like a pretty slippery slope to me but who knows, maybe something good will come of it and using it for inspiration sounds like a great way to make the best of it for now.

Well hey, let's wrap this up here. It was a blast talking with you, Josh! Can't wait to see where you're headed next.

On Demand Totes.

First up for the new year, our fourth unique on demand product: totes. When the big blizzard looms and you need to haul cans of chicken noodle soup, there’s nothing better than a high quality cotton canvas bag. Same sturdy OAD totes we’ve used for years, now available on demand from Cotton Bureau in black and natural.

Head over to the submit design page to show us what you can do. We’ll be sharing our favorite tote designs all month long.

Just a heads up, for natural-colored totes, any white ink in your design will become transparent. Light colors may also be slightly darker than expected. Last thing, cyan and magenta lose some vibrancy when printed on totes. If your design depends heavily on those colors, it may be more muted in person than you see here.

The bags measure 15" wide by 16" tall. Maximum print size is 10" ⅹ 12".

New On Demand Hat Color: Forest.

It might be cold and snowy outside, but Cotton Bureau hats are evergreen. No, literally, we now have three hats in a new forest color.

Joining black, charcoal, natural, white, navy, royal, light blue, and red, we’re pleased to make the unstructured dad hat, premium wool-blended snapback, and mesh-paneled trucker cap available in forest.

If this is the color you’ve been waiting for, green means go ahead and do it.

Feature Friday #012 — Maria Tina Beddia

Well hey there, here we are with Feature Friday #012! Today is all about Maria Tina Beddia. You can catch up with Maria on her website and Instagram or track her down at Maria's Bread Sandwiches.

Hiya! We're going to do this interview a little bit different and see how it goes! We'll call it rapid fire and I'll hit you with all 5 questions at once. Let's get started...

Pleeease tell us all about Maria's Bread Sandwiches. Is this a Covid Sourdough Experiment turns full on Passion Project situation? Have you always been the most talented person ever? Do you find yourself drooling all day every day being around so much delicious food? We need to know more. I guess I'm specifically asking how you got started but feel free to share it all.

Maria’s Bread Sandwiches came about when my husband and I were living in South Philly talking about what we wanted to eat for lunch one day. I was describing the kind of sandwich I wanted. “I don’t want a cheesesteak. I don’t want a hoagie. I don’t want a 5lb sandwich. I want a bread sandwich! Like from childhood! I don’t want to feel like I need to take a nap after eating.” “Maria’s Bread Sandwiches would be a great name for a sandwich shop!” said my husband. I was like, no one will get it. That’s the point! He said. Haha It doesn’t need to make sense but it will stand out and so Maria’s Bread Sandwiches was born.
It was actually over the pandemic that we moved to New Jersey and spotted a cute little shop on the main avenue of our town of Collingswood. The owners were changing careers at that point and we had told ourselves that if it ever became available, we’d have to do it. Once we found out they were moving on, we made it official. Full disclosure: my husband is a chef! So I’m very lucky in that regard. He’s been working in the Philly food scene for like 20 years so he’s very talented to say the least. We had never gone into business with each other but felt like we had these skills that would make it extra special. I got to work on the branding and interior design, paint murals, pick bright fun colors for the building while he crafted a menu full of comfort foods that we both loved. We actually just celebrated our 2nd Anniversary so I’d say we’re doing pretty good!

I don't want to be too controversial here but it feels like you're the right person to ask... how do you feel about cheddar cheese on apple pie? Have you tried it? I just can't seem to take the risk. If I have a piece of apple pie in front of me it just feels wrong to add anything other than cinnamon ice cream. What do you think? From the short bit of Googling I Just did it looks like this idea originally came from England, jury is still out on if it should've stayed there or not.

Alright, I’m a BIG cheese person. Stinky, gooey, aged…love it all. Keep it off my pie. It’s that simple. I’m not into it and ESPECIALLY cheddar. Cheddar is delicious to eat when it’s cut up in cubes on a cheeseboard but once it’s melted, yawn. I’m going to sound controversial myself but I swear, once it’s melted, it loses all flavor. Doesn’t do it for me on a burger or nachos. Give me some American, Cooper sharp, munster, Colby jack…I’m telling you, I love cheese. Haha

You've sold quite a few shirts on Cotton Bureau with Philly sports designs. Would you consider yourself a sports enthusiast? Have you always been a Phillies and Eagles fan?

This is funny because I’m not really a sports person. Don’t yell at me! That’s actually why I created these shirts. I felt like everything I saw out there was for such diehard fans and I’m thinking, what about me? I love this city and I love the enthusiasm but I don’t want to be a walking NFL billboard. Everything I saw was too corporate and not playful at all. All the women’s stuff is pale pink (blah) and I just felt there was a huge gap in it all. I want it to be for all of Philadelphia, not just the people that know sports stats.

I couldn't help but notice a sweet pupper making appearances in your Instagram posts. Who is this adorable fur child?

I actually have two dogs. Bruce (Springsteen) and Willie (Nelson). They are best friends and make my life so much more entertaining. Bruce is a little terrier mutt that made his way to Philly from a kill shelter in Georgia. He’s our southern gentleman. And willie is the chillest dog in the world. He’s a miniature Labradoodle. We adopted him when he was 5 months old. The very first night at our house, we had a party and literally walked to the middle of the room, laid down and fell asleep. We assumed he had something wrong with him and would be dead in a month because what kind of puppy acts like that when there’s a party going on around him? But he’s still going strong at 9 years old!

Lastly, if you got to pick a question for the next designer interview, what would you ask?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Everything is so digital now. I think about it and wonder if the pencil will be completely useless in my lifetime. But the question is do you prefer pencil and paper to the digital drawing pads or vice versa? It kind of freaks me out that mistakes can just disappear instantly. Like did it even happen? What does that do to us creatively? We’re not living with our mistakes anymore and that is very weird to me. Sorry, that’s a deep one. I personally absolutely love my pencils and pens and PAPER. But once I draw something how I like it, I do still scan in to colorize and clean up. So who knows.

And that's a wrap! Check out Maria's latest product below and use coupon code MARIAFF for 15% off any of her Cotton Bureau designs.

Feature Friday #011 — Todd Radom

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Feature Friday #011, our first in 2024, featuring friend of the site Todd Radom. Check out Todd’s incredible work over the years on his website. You can keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram. You might also like his tribute to Cuban baseball on Cotton Bureau.

Todd! It’s good to finally catch up with you. Before we get into your prolific career in sports branding, I just have to ask: what do you think of the NBA City Edition uniforms for this year?

I hate being a hater, but there’s more bad than good here. This is what happens when the mandate is one of constant churn, a revolving cycle of change which distances many teams from their familiar core looks. Like many, I see game highlights on my phone and wonder, “who are these teams?” The novelty that surrounded this program has abated, and I wonder how it moves forward.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but sports is a business and being a business means constant pressure to not just make money but make more money than the year before. The original city editions were fun. Time to move on, I guess.

While we’re talking NBA, the In-Season Tournament courts have been a lightning rod for design criticism. Where do you weigh in?

I’ll start by saying that I have created colorful, unconventional courts for the BIG3 for several years now. Theirs is a half court, a more forgiving canvas for bold blocks of color, and it goes without saying that some of the NBA courts look great, while some are an assault on the eyeballs. The idea here is a good one–a graphic approach that has been done before (the classic Robert Indiana-designed Mecca court in Milwaukee.) Ultimately, court design is about form and function, and form sometimes needs to take a step back. I applaud the Association for doing something different here, if their intent was to get people’s attention they have succeeded.

Wow, I didn’t realize how extensive your involvement was with the Big 3.

Personally I enjoy the creative license the NBA took. They weren’t the first — you mentioned the Big 3, and we’ve seen some adventurous college football fields (Boise State) and basketball courts (Oregon) — but if I had to guess, we’re going to see more from the NBA and others now that the seal has been broken. Let’s just hope we can find a happy medium between creativity and clarity in the mold of that Robert Indiana court.

Meanwhile in baseball, the big uniform news is… narrower plackets? The devil’s always in the details, I suppose. When you’re working with teams and leagues, how much are you taking physical materials and other real world production constraints into consideration as you work through design concepts?

My Big3 work represents the most immersive creative collaboration of my long career, and it’s constant and ongoing.

The new Nike MLB template is going to take some getting used to. Teams like the Tigers and Red Sox have more or less looked the same for almost a century–the use of what we have come to know as a standard sized placket dates back even earlier. To answer your question, some details need to be designed to fit such constrains, while others do not. A half inch difference in the size of a sleeve patch or a uniform number makes no difference, but thinking about the dimensions of uniform trim, for example, can make a huge difference when it comes to envisioning the final product.

Physical media constraints are a frustrating but I think ultimately enjoyable puzzle for designers. We’ve seen that first-hand as we’ve worked with designers on transitioning ideas that were originally conceived for screenprinted or DTG t-shirts to the much chunkier and restrictive world of embroidered hats.

With your portfolio ranging from Super Bowl logos to MLB identities to the full league challenge of BIG3 and beyond, is there a particular area that you are hoping to explore in the future? Maybe if we speak it into existence you could be involved with the 2026 USMNT World Cup kit?

Dimensional puff embroidery has changed things. Abundant detail should be carefully considered, knowing that the final intended results may be difficult to achieve.

In terms of what’s next, I will have a couple of milestone, “bucket list” things to share in 2024, things that I couldn’t have imagined when I began this creative journey all those years ago. Stay tuned.

We will! Can’t wait to see what qualifies as a bucket list project given what you’ve already accomplished.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Bill Simmons’ imaginary sports czar position where the government decides one day to nationalize all sports leagues and give one person full authority over all decision making. If this pretend sports czar empowered you to make all decisions regarding uniforms, branding, and media, what kind of changes would you institute in your first year in office?

- Always start with “why are we doing this or making this change?”
- Be mindful of the balance between form and function
- Know that we live in a profoundly different world than we did in 2017, 2007, or 1907. Brands evolve, fans and customers evolve. Appealing to something that worked in the past offers no guarantee of future success.
- Sports is fun. What we do should reflect that.

Speaking of the world changing, let’s wrap this conversation up with a look at where things are right now in the sports graphic design universe and where they might be going.

A lot of your work is firmly anchored in the physical world. As a kid who grew up watching sports and collecting trading cards, I can appreciate both the fun of opening, holding, and preserving a tangible artifact as well as the reality that sports memorabilia is a massive industry with a lot of money attached. How do you think the introduction of officially licensed NFTs (like NBA Top Shot) fits into the sports business and design space? Are NFTs something you have any personal or professional interest in?

No interest whatsoever. Crypto feelings aside, I want to connect with actual, tangible objects, not another image in my phone.

Based on the complete collapse of the NFT bubble, you’re probably not alone. A lot of speculation, very little genuine enthusiasm.

Okay, for real, last question. I have to ask because it’s the single most transformative event in graphic design since Photoshop… what do you think of generative AI? Legality aside, why should someone work with Todd Radom the person instead of Bot Radom?

It’s a great question, and it’s one that the world is reckoning with in real time. We do know that generative AI is rapidly evolving; as someone said early last year, “this is the worst it’s ever gonna look.” Being able to eliminate a background in Photoshop with one click is truly astounding. But ultimately, and it’s easier for me to say this at this point in my career than when I witnessed the adoption of Photoshop and friends: You are getting me, my knowledge, my technical skills, and my experience as an actual living breathing human being who has a lifetime of creative experience, which includes making well-informed instinctive decisions on composition, color, balance, and harmonious use of elements, in addition to strategy and four decades of production knowledge. I do worry about the continual devaluation of creativity going forward and I remember vising the late Milton Glaser at his New York office, where the following motto was inscribed above the front door: “Art is Work."

Thank you so much for your time, Todd!