7 Awesome Action Sports Artists You Need To Know

Why Work in Action Sports?

Design work for action sports brands tends to be a highly competitive environment.  For traditional sports participants and casual observers, it’s hard to see the connection between artists and athletes.  Skateboard artist Todd Francis may have summed it up best, “For some folks, it’s a chance to finally work in an industry they’ve followed their whole lives.  It’s a chance to create artwork with very few rules or restrictions.”

There is a raw creative connection between art and action sports.  In the end it’s about self-expression, experimentation and last but not least – fun.  If a company is able to manifest these primal desires into its products, you have product excellence that often times ends up influencing an entire industry.

Designing for action sports companies can be a little tricky.  Sometimes the product a designer must work with is limited by material, awkward forms or even color.  Now add to this long hours, heavy competition and small pay and you see why the designer must have a strong connection with the underlying industry he or she is designing for.

Making A Connection

There is hope however for aspiring designers wanting to get their foot in the door of action sports companies.  Big companies like Nike, Burton and Element are able to produce work and connect with a core audience much like smaller core brands do by searching for artists that possess ‘street level’ knowledge of unique and emerging styles – and in return pay them handsomely for it.  This in turn subsidizes the artist’s income to be able to work with smaller brands and create more design that pushes the envelope and “feeds the machine”.

This is the process that is often hated on by smaller companies, but often these roles are necessary to keep each competing brand fresh and push the industry towards new ideas, events or markets…

Larger action sports companies can sometimes have a difficult time evaluating the latest styles, trends or product features.  Hierarchy or company structure just doesn’t allow for ideas to “trickle up” fast enough to beat the smaller core brands to market.  What do the larger smart brands do?  They are able to entice consumers to the brand by hiring talented designers to help them bridge that gap with their audience.

Here are 7 talented designers that have helped companies push design boundaries and connect with their audience while doing it with great style.

7 Awesome ‘Action Sports’ Artists

7. Adam Haynes

If you participate in action sports you no doubt know who Adam Haynes is.  If you’ve been living in a cubicle, he is Nike’s go to man for much of their media campaigns and branding.  His illustrations are a dreamland of shred-able terrain.  Makes us want to stop writing this and go outside.

6. Todd Francis

Todd has been creating graphics for skateboards since 1993 among the other “crud” he does.  He’s worked with anti hero, stereo, and real skateboards before being Element’s main man starting in 1999.  Todd has a very diverse style and adds some great culture relevant humor in his designs.

5. Christian Hundermark

Runs C100 Purple Haze studio with Clemens Baldermann out of Munich, Germany.  They work with an impressive list of clients large and small. Conception, art direction, typography, design and illustration – you name it – they do it.  Crisp, clean, thought provoking style.  They have a street art book called “The Art of Rebellion”. They’ve got some great notoriety through Rome Snowboards.

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4. Devin Leggett

Designs for Norco Perfomance Bikes.  Does some pretty standout designs for traditionally hard shapes to work like bikes.  Take a look at his logo design work on his site – pretty awesome stuff.

3. Paul Willoughby

Paul illustrates on surfboards.  His surfboard illustrations have been to some of the biggest galleries and exhibitions around the world – like the one he did for Blank: A Surfboard show.  Paul’s website was on vacation at the moment but if your feet every touch one of his designs, consider yourself lucky.

2. David Carson

Author, photographer, humanitarian, graphic designer, shaper, surfer, world traveler – this guy does amazing work and lives an amazing lifestyle.  He clearly loves being involved with the surfing community and it shows.  He’s worked with Quicksilver from the beginning and helped transform surfing’s largest magazine publication.  He is a big inspiration and possesses a DIY style.

1. Steve Cousins

Steve is one of the key members of Jager Di Paola Kemp Design where he has helped Burton Snowboards build every aspect of their image since 1989.  This is the man behind the global powerhouse – enough said.