As the 2018 race seasons are upon us, I will be introducing a new series of conceptual designs to my regular workflow. With further creative exploration of the livery design discipline that I have grown to love, some of this work may be a return to my roots and an evolution of a few favorite signature schemes over the years; and others will be completely original.
Though the race livery is still the cornerstone of motorsport brand marketing, a realistic sea change appears to be pervasive among current design trends. More evident than ever is an evolution in creative process based on new materials, practices, and sponsor involvement or a lack thereof. The definition of ‘livery design’ clearly has changed often in favor of understated minimalism due in large part to levels of sponsor commitment. Though methods of implementation are more varied today as well. If it suits the brand and marketing, by all means it should be embraced, though too often ‘minimalist’ today means non-existent by my own ‘traditional’ definition of livery design. And the livery should be as much if not more a reflection of brand standards as any activation element since it represents a rare and memorable medium with which any brand can increase equity and visibility.
I’m choosing to call this blog series Livery-A-Day as each design will be conceived and rendered in a day or less. Work will be presented purely as a graphic exercise in motorsports brand design, and perhaps to reinvigorate the spirit of the race livery as a critical piece of any program. With full creative freedom, the idea of an open forum for designs without constraint or limitation is an interesting challenge. Truth be told, designers are not always at liberty to showcase what they believe to be strong work. This often includes ideation and solutions that may even best address brand strategy. Many variables go into a livery design, and having complete control over every element or decision is largely a rarity in this industry. This subset of work will be entirely void of external influence, impressions, or specifications. In an unbridled approach to the process, every variable considered and applied here will be conceived and designed from scratch, beginning with each brand identity. The exceptions are only ancillary automotive or secondary sponsors included for presentation purposes only.
At the top echelon of racing, Formula 1 teams have much freedom with fewer implementation and budgetary constraints. Technology and materials in the form of wraps and new substrates have all but taken the place of traditional paint and cut vinyl designs. Paint is nearly non-existent in most forms of motor racing today with rare exceptions. F1 is one of those exceptions, where paint is still used and applied with surgical precision so as not to adversely affect performance; and that is why I choose it as the first subject for this series. Even today, an accurate translation of a livery in paint and cut vinyl affords the most flexibility, color fidelity, and brings the purist representation of a brand and team style to life.
I imagine a future where technology and aerodynamic advancements will become minimally invasive, cameras will be smaller if not invisible, as will antennas or sensors, barge boards reduced, and winglets, which still rarely translate to production models today, eliminated. This will of course not be a literal representation of what the future holds. By all means F1 may be completely reshaped by hybrid / electric technology, aero that can be supported by improved manufacturing technologies, and further safety considerations; and I’m excited to see where it leads. As such, these are hypothetical visualizations only, based on a dialed back semi-modern racing chassis with an emphasis on sculpted minimalist lines and contours.
As neither an engineer, nor an aerodynamicist, I am placing the focus on practical graphic design while giving prevalence and weight to brands and sponsorship rather than aerodynamic efficiency. Modern budgets today beget naming rights, placement, and design ownership, and the car is still the star. Yet, few sponsors can take ownership of an entire livery these days by eclipsing manufacturer dollars. It is simply how the sport has evolved from the tobacco dominated 80s and 90s. Marketing and budgetary constraints are so critical and the barriers to entry so large, that it would be a mistake for race chassis to become so inherently complex they supersede sponsor visibility. The more extraordinary the chassis, the less accommodating to sponsors, and the fewer reasons set sponsors have of applying the most valuable of assets, their brandmarks, to any given livery design.