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“The Willy Wonkas of Graphics” – ESPN’s Creative Services Team Works Their Work-From-Home Magic with New College Football Graphics and Animation

Saturday’s start of the 2020-21 college football season begins with the seventh annual Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). It also marks the debut of ESPN’s Creative Services team’s latest feat: a complete redesign of the network’s college football graphics and animation packages, tools used to seamlessly transition between storytelling, statistical analysis and game action.

A team of dozens contributed to bringing ESPN’s latest graphics and animation package to life. More than 50 ESPN employees worked tirelessly from home to create thousands of animations in a four-month timeframe. It took teamwork and pivoting to new solutions to build the 3D-heavy package, creating new event and studio graphics packages to utilize across ESPN platforms.

“When our entire team transitioned to a work-from-home format in March, we made a strategic decision and worked to collectively ensure we crafted efficient, team-based solutions, without compromising the overall aesthetic,” said Lindsay Reiff, Supervisor of Motion Graphics Design. “We leveraged a unique, edit-based approach that diversifies the product.”

In addition to the new look for ESPN’s presentation of college football, the Creative Services crew also built new graphics and animation packages for all NCAA Championships, the American Athletic Conference and the Big 12 Conference.

“The cross-departmental collaboration and sharing of knowledge has made each and every one of us better,” said Pam Neff, Senior Director, Production Design & Animation. “Early engagement, inclusion and alignment across many different departments – Sales, Marketing, Production, Digital, Social, Production Operations – has allowed for the utilization of these new package elements across many platforms and businesses, in turn, creating a stronger brand presence.”

Senior Creative Director Carol Boyle agreed that teamwork and strong leadership was key in getting this new creative package across the line, even in the most unusual of circumstances: “It was an honor to work with this seasoned leadership team. Throughout the project, they provided levity and clear strategic planning to elevate our talented team’s capabilities and contributions.”

One of the newest elements viewers will appreciate is the updated clock and score design, something Supervisor of Motion Graphics Design Dana Drezek wryly noted is important in giving college football fans the latest stats and storytelling throughout the game.

“We pride ourselves on being the Willy Wonkas of graphics,” Drezek shared. “We set out to make something fun, inventive and visually delicious. With the game scoreboard, we made something akin to an Everlasting Gobstopper. It never disappears, but rather morphs into many different layouts and shapes based on the needs of the game and production. More stats. More content. More possibilities.”

The overall goal for the Creative Services team was to craft a unique approach while creating a diverse and expansive animation package with the opportunity for longevity.

“When building out a design system for more than 130 teams, we always stress test the core concept to see if it can hold up for dozens of games each Saturday, for five years,” Creative Director Tim O’Shaughnessy said. “This requires expanding the world constantly while never relenting on the quality level of each element. The Football Test Facility we’ve created for this look has given us a great starting point for expanding the college football universe for years to come.”

“The Football Test Facility we’ve created for this look has given us a great starting point. . . for years to come,” O’Shaughnessy said.
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