NFL Fan Gear Reinvented for a Younger Generation

This Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots will face off in the Super Bowl. A sampling of NFLxFIT products designed for these teams can be seen above. Photos via NFLshop.com/FIT.

A new crop of fashion-forward NFL hats, shirts, leggings, and more will be turning heads at Super Bowl parties this year. What’s more, these splashy designs were hatched by FIT students.

Hoping to cater to a younger, more diverse fan base, the National Football League teamed up with FIT to develop new concepts for fashion-forward merchandise for all 32 football teams in the league. The collaboration was open to students in the Creative Technology minor, an innovative curriculum that equips students from a range of majors with skills in media design, digital culture, and cutting-edge technologies.

“We didn’t want this to be just a contest,” says C.J. Yeh, professor and assistant chair of Communication Design and coordinator of the Creative Technology minor. “It’s not about winning the prize; it’s an opportunity for guided experiential learning.” Throughout the 2016–17 academic year, Yeh and Christie Shin, assistant professor of Communication Design and assistant coordinator of the Creative Technology minor, taught the 24 participants best practices in research methodology, visual branding techniques, and presentation skills.

The students came from varied design majors—Advertising DesignGraphic Design, Interior Design, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design, and more—but none had much experience with football. When they visited NFL headquarters to learn about the history of the sport and the passion of the fans, Yeh says, “They were asked, ‘If you’re an NFL fan, raise your hand.’ No one moved.”

The participants were divided into six interdisciplinary teams. They researched the sport and the market extensively, crafted a flexible design concept, and applied it to each NFL team. At each stage, they presented their work.

Rhiannon Madden, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’99, vice president of consumer products for the NFL, initially approached FIT with the project.

“I anticipated we’d see some cool and different graphics,” she says. “I never could have anticipated how professional and creative and forward-thinking the students were going to be. My committee was just blown away.”

The winning team, announced in April 2017, was Quicksnap, which deconstructed and reconstructed the logos to emphasize their colors and organic shapes. The four students shared a $15,000 prize; the runner-up team, Sundrae, won $5,000, as did the People’s Choice Award–winning team, Blitz. The other students were each given $300 for participating.

“It wasn’t at all an easy decision,” Madden says. “Quicksnap was so different and innovative. We hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the team were consummate professionals.”

Team Quicksnap: Wing-Sze Ho, Graphic Design ’18, Eun Su Yoo, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design ’17, Arpi Dayian, Interior Design ’18, and Iwona Usakiewicz, Advertising Design ’17, Illustration ’14 (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for NFL).

The products are sold at NFLshop.com/FIT and at three stadium stores—where the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks play. This spring, Target will also carry a selection of apparel and tailgating necessities. The line will continue to expand in the next few years; Madden has not ruled out the possibility of bringing in the other teams’ designs.

“This is something we foresee being long-term,” Madden says. “We want to carry these graphics year after year.”

“If people see someone in a crowd with this stuff, they’re going to freak out,” said designer Cynthia Rowley, who appeared at the launch event on November 28. “It’s recognizable, and it’s something you’ve never seen before. I really think it’s amazing.”