Jon Contino | Books

Branding Baseball By Hand

Jon Contino Personal Logos 2010-2013

When Abrams approached me to do this book, I was so insanely excited I could barely contain myself. It felt like a milestone I'd been eyeballing since the day I picked up my first design book. I always saw it as such an achievement, something to really indicate that what you've done as an artist is worth something to more than just say...I don't know...your parents! But as soon as I agreed, I immediately was thrown into a shadow of doubt and fear. "What the hell am I even going to make this book about? Is it going to be just another picture book? Who even cares about a book with no words?!" That's where my good friend, and Abrams project engineer and mastermind, John Gall came into play. He came up with the idea that we treat the book more like a journal. "Maybe talk about your inspiration in a more personal way and then we can include work to help support it." That's all I needed and it was off to the races. One of my favorite chapters is about my second love after design: Baseball. What better time to share than right now during the playoffs? — Jon Contino

The following is an excerpt from Brand by Hand, by Jon Contino, out now from Abrams. All text and images © 2018 Jon Contino.

When I was not even two years old, my brother Nick was born with Down syndrome. This was the early 1980s, and it seemed like his diagnosis could only mean one thing: fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for the future, fear for health, fear for daily activities. He knocked on Death’s door for the better part of two years. My parents were thrown a curveball they could’ve never expected. I spent days on end sitting in a hospital waiting room and sleeping in my grandparents’ guest bedroom. But Nick was a  ghter. He had no idea, but he was laughing in the face of doom and came out the other side victorious. Nick barely made it past his  rst breath, but thanks to some medical miracles and the instinct to survive, he’s thriving and breakin’ chops to this day, into his early thirties. But fear can sure do a number on a kid. Before I could even write my name, I understood Death was lurking. I knew at any moment a black drape could be pulled across an open window and that would be it.

That awareness, that fear will do funny things to you. You either take flight or you fight. And ever since my brother was born, all I did was fight. Eventually the fight in me morphed into aggression and a deadly competitive spirit. Suddenly I was fighting the world without even realizing it. Every obstacle in my way became a personal challenge as if the world was singling me out, betting on me to fail. Whether it was an actual physical fight with another person or something as simple as a portfolio review, I knew that my only option was to give it everything I had and not accept failure as an outcome. Survival, competition, failure, redemption. Life and death. It’s all I’ve ever known.

ESPN The Magazine, Sketches and logotypes for the magazine's MLB Preview 2014 issue.

“You gotta believe!”

Now I’m a die-hard Yankees fan, but that catchphrase from the clowns across town really grabbed me. Baseball itself really grabbed me. It had everything I loved all crammed into one sunny summer day.

On air graphics to kick off the 2017 baseball season on FS1

It had survival! The playoffs. Win or go home. The bottom of the ninth inning. Every single breath counts until it all comes down to a final swing of the bat. It’s exhilarating.

It had tradition! This is the sport all Americans were born into. Old-fashioned logos and uniforms have stayed through to modern day, and if anyone even mentioned changing them, a chorus of complaints and empty cans would rain down. Baseball is a game judged by men (in their own traditional uniforms), replete with human error. Not because of a lack of technology, but because of tradition. And the superstitions ... my god, the superstitions. Don’t you dare step on that white chalk line.

Leatherhead sports identity and packaging

It had make-believe! We played baseball, stickball, and Wi e ball; whatever was manageable with the number of kids around the neighborhood. And we would always skip right to the ninth inning. We would play nine games of all ninth innings, just to feel the excitement of a do-or-die situation. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs . . . a last chance at redemption. And the best part was that if you failed, there was another ninth inning coming up right after your three minutes of absolute agony. There was always another chance because make-believe is forever.

Invisible Creature, 2014

Every squad has its own attitude. Its own wrinkled and clumsy face that’s seen some shit. A crudely rendered letter or two sewn onto the front of a wool hat and on the chest of a button-down shirt. A nickname hand-carved into the fat side of a splintered club used for bashing and smashing. A wooden bench dug into the ground where you sit, spit, and yell nothing but nonsense, over and over and over again. This is a game where most people don’t move for three hours and somehow, thanks to survival, tradition, and make-believe, it’s still the most exciting way to spend an afternoon.

Because Weekend, 2017

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