Elevendy Exceeds Sports Illustrated's Wildest Dreams
When kids come together to play games, they don’t need rules. They make them up as they go along, with explosions and trucks and dragons. It’s not about the process, it’s about the experience and making it as exciting as possible. As we age, we tighten up our games with formal rules and stricter systems, but for many of us the fantasy still remains even if it’s hidden away. When we take a take a long drive to the endzone, or hit a ball far into the outfield, or sink a basket from half court: we feel like superheroes displaying our incredible strength and cunning skill in a world that needs a winner. Unfortunately, the sports world rarely supports those feelings of fantasy. In some ways the pursuit of the glossy and sharp has dulled how we play these games. The focus on player statistics, angles, and odds has sobered the experience and brought it firmly on the side of reality. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
For those that engage in the fantasy games, like Fantasy Football, they can enter worlds beyond reality and find an imaginative fun again. But Sports Illustrated Magazine wanted to bring it one step further and tapped creative visual studio Elevendy to help them out. This month they’ve released four distinct covers with Antonio Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Quinn, and Ryan Tannehill all picturing what “Fantasy Football” can mean in entirely new ways.
“People are so inundated by the messaging of Hollywood right now,” says Dave Cox of Elevendy. “Almost every aspect of entertainment has that fantasy, larger than life vibe to it and one spot where that's really missing a lot of times is in the sports world.” So they took the assignment of ratcheting up the fantasy and ran with it.
For the cover with Antonio Brown of the Pittsburg Steelers, they started with the source material and then were as imaginative as possible. “They gave us a killer shot of him jumping, so we wondered what could he be jumping over. We looked at lava flows and all this different stuff. And we also wanted to play off the Pittsburg Steelers and the heat that it takes to make steel form into what you want it to.” Combining all these different elements together resulted in a composition where Brown is leaping over a crevasse of molten lava, with hot earth shooting out towards him, recapturing that childlike imagination and making the unreal real. Even for just one frozen moment. As Dave says, “I think when anybody sees that cover they going to be like, ‘Holy shit this is me. This is my life. I love this.’ That is how they picture it in their minds when they're doing that.” Then it was just a matter of repeating the same creative process for each cover.
Elevendy had to perform their own brand of magic for this project as they had less than a week to execute it. In fact, they barely had five days. But the reason Sports Illustrated came to them was because they knew Elevendy would make it happen. “They were great. They were perfect. They understood the subject matter. It was a great creative process. They were dialed into what I was looking for right out of the gate,” says Chris Hercik, Creative Director at Sports Illustrated. That kind of creative relationship is exactly what makes these projects so fulfilling for Elevendy. When asked what the most satisfying part of the project was Dave says, “The trust that the client gave us.” And it made for results that were better than anyone could have imagined.
Elevendy Talks Creative Inspiration with Advanced Photoshop
How do you maintain an open and creative work atmosphere where all players are equal and ideas are king? You name your agency after that idea so that every conversation, every mention, and every printed object sings that story. When the founders of Elevendy were looking for their company name, that’s where they looked. For the latest issue, Advanced Photoshop Magazine caught up with Eleventy to parse through their process, their people, and the work that they do.
Dave Cox, CEO and founder of Elevendy, explains that “Human beings are most creative between the ages 2 and 8,” before we know the rules and pressures of society. “Anything is possible for kids. We want to make that our rally cry.” Elevendy is a word independently created by innumerable children when learning their numbers, exploring language. Untethered from pedestrian, oppressive behavior and arbitrary rules of decorum, children reach into the fog of language and pluck out an impossible word, “Elevendy.” A word that is understandable to whoever hears it, regardless of how much “sense” it makes. That’s what Elevendy, the agency, traffics in. They communicate experiences and ideas before trying to figure out if they’re being “correct.” You can’t innovate without first considering the impossible.
This is just common sense to Dave. “Everybody has value throughout the process,” so it's counterproductive to stifle anyone’s voice at any point. When everyone is honestly working towards making every project better, every time, the next best idea can come from anywhere and anyone. “We won’t settle for less than the best,” Dave is clear to state.
That’s why every “Eleven Day” (the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 11/11) the agency comes together as a group and destroys all the awards they’ve earned that are less than gold. Sure, it’s always great to be recognized, but Elevendy treats them as encouragement to go further, that they’re on the right track. Dave explains the mindset that they meditate on when firing arrows into those “This was a great honor but we don’t need to keep it and aspire to get second place again.”
Dave’s emails all end with a simple and inspiring quote, “Anything less than the best, is a felony.” This little bit of genius isn’t from Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, or the Sufi poet Rumi. This is Vanilla Ice, whose lyrics have been frozen in to Dave’s brain since the sixth grade. During Dave's own formative years he was exposed to the Rapper's lyrics and despite their assumed expiration date, the words live on through Dave. Because if you're going to accept any idea from anyone, even the brightest wisdom can come from Vanilla Ice.