Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Don't Know Him, But You Know His Work

Kevin Jimenez (KJ) is the graphics manager for the Cyclones, tasked with creating much of the artwork and imagery fans see throughout the season. KJ has been with the Cyclones since the team's interim stint as the Queens Kings in 2000.

Most of fans don’t know me, but they see my work all the time; on the field, in the parking lot, in their seat. That’s the mark every designer wants to make – on everything. A ‘grip and grin’ position it’s not. However, my first priority is to make an impression.

Having the ability to make a fan happy with what I do is a big challenge. You always want to outdo what you’ve done in the past and do it better.

One of my biggest challenges is our giveaways. Our fans have some pretty high standards...and I do everything possible to live up to them. Now, if you’ve always wondered the process is of honoring someone with a bobblehead – sometimes it isn’t easy. For example, last year we gave away Joe Smith, Lee Mazzilli, and Willie Randolph to name a few. We got great pictures of each, put them in a position and...well, you’re done (sort of). This year, not so easy. Take our Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton bobble giveaway for the July 14 game vs. the Spikes for example. If you didn’t know, Boomer & Carton host a popular morning show on 66 WFAN.

Of course, you can’t just make a likeness of someone and not ask for their feedback. Well, little did I know that feedback would create a controversy that would span an entire week on the morning airwaves. My first sketch was of Boomer (a former pro quarterback) receiving a football hiked to him by Carton. I’ll admit – it wasn’t a great sketch and it only took me a couple of hours from start to finish. The half-life of this doodle was many times longer. Carton proceeded to rip the sketch for almost four hours the next day. To tack onto the exposure, it was even featured on their page on the duo’s website! The last thing any designer wants to hear is negative feedback. Boy, did I.

As the debate continued on with the hosts, listeners and even my co-workers, I had other work to do. I had three heritage nights to create on-field jerseys and caps for the players to wear: Jewish, Irish and Italian. On the flip side, the Jewish uniform was getting some love from uniform fans online. That was a nice breath of fresh air – seeing some positives for my work from people I’ll probably never meet. Despite the controversy of the first bobblehead design, I also had other bobbles to create – Maverick the Wonder Dog, Carl Erskine, and mini versions of those Brooklyn Birds; Sandy and Pee Wee. No critiques from Mav and the mascots – if you don’t count barking or hand gestures. Still, with less than a month left before the season starts, I’ve got miles to go.

Plan Ticket Holders need their guaranteed giveaways, the Ladies Clinic needs a new logo, the pocket schedule has to be finalized, victory balls, speed pitch balls...but wait. Did I forget something? Oh yeah...those guys on the radio. After three more versions, additional blog posts to their webpage and video homage on Jib Jab to my original design – success!

These are the items that need a bunch of lead time to get made and shipped to the ballpark in time for the giveaway. Other items, like the game program and superhero comic coloring book giveaway take a lot of time to put together. As a former aspiring comic book artist (which put me on the path I’m on now), it’s a guilty pleasure – letting my imagination go, drawing STS and P’Dub don their crimefighting capes and invoking their Cyclone Powers!

The greatest compliment is when I see something I’ve created years ago – like someone wearing a 2005 Irish Night tee at the grocery store, Kevin James with a Cyclones jersey on during a “King of Queens” rerun or getting a kid excited about baseball when they use their Diamond Dreams activity book.

There’s a lot to do during the off-season and 38 home games can make a summer by the beach a memorable one. I hope that my work helps make those memories last with things like that programs, t-shirts and bobbleheads (even one that gets dissected then bisected on the radio or on the internet).

-- KJ

Check out the entire Promo Schedule to see some of the giveaways KJ's been working on this year.


Jason said...

I'm glad to see the designers getting some recognition. As a fellow designer and baseball lover, I'm always taking note of the many things the team logo or colors appear on at the park, from promo items to jerseys, and even things like custom bathroom signs. I look forward to checking out the work you do for the Cyclones when I head to NYC in July.

Lisa Gav said...

I also have a behind-the-scenes job (in theater, not baseball), and it's wonderful to showcase the numerous talents that make an organization work.
I've gotten to know a lot of the Cyclones' staff over the past few seasons, and it's great when they get some love - check out Liz Lombardi on Cyclones TV as well.