Kobe Bryant Chases Imortality with Sawdust
Sawdust is knee deep in creating a series of new typefaces for Nike’s signature basketball program. Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant have worked with the sneaker designers at Nike to create the perfect shoes to enhance their play, while Sawdust has worked with Nike to extend that flawless fit into their presentation. Each player has their own personal story, and the sneakers are an incredibly important part of that. The way Nike talks about them and presents them is just as important to the story as the games these players play, especially if the shoes are to have a life after their player’s career, like Michael Jordan’s.
The challenge with each of these projects is that Sawdust is brought into the project years after a visual language had already been created for each of the lines. Logos and advertisements have been running since the shoes debuted. But that offers a baseline of design for Sawdust to come into and work with, and a native space to find inspiration.
We already examined how they worked with the Kevin Durant signature sneaker to create a new typeface, but now we’re looking at their process for the Kobe line. “We worked closely with the designers at Nike to realize something that is unique, versatile and very much on brand with Kobe Bryant as a Jordan-signed player,” says Rob Gonzalez who makes up Sawdust with Jonathan Quainton. It’s crucial that each of these typefaces fits with the personalities that they’re created for to better serve the stories that these players, and Nike, are telling in their long game.
The Kobe logo was created back in 2007 and is referred to by Nike as the “Sheath.” It references the imprint designs on the blades of samurai swords. Kobe said himself that a sword is like raw talent, whereas all the work that goes into training and honing that talent is like the sheath the sword sits in. The basis of Sawdust’s typeface is drawn from this visual language, the language of work, effort, and the shaping of skill. “The design was inspired by the star-like negative space that is created in the central point of the logo mark,” says Rob. “It creates movement and energy, which is something we tried to capture in the type design.” Working off the inspiration that helped launch the line eight years ago guarantees a common thread from the first days to the latest.
“Heroes come and go but legends are forever,” muses a recent poster by Nike using the typeface. If past is prologue and we are seeing the new generation of sneaker brands that will outlive the careers of their namesakes, it will be thanks to work like what Sawdust did for Kobe’s brand. It is these elements that make these players’ stories available for wider application and the center of a lifestyle.