Product Graphic Design – Professional Bicycle Racing Saddle

Saddle Graphics Main Top ImageDesigning graphics for product is one of the facets of design that I enjoy the most. The design process is more 3-dimensional. I greatly enjoy that. The concepts are put together on a flat art board in 2 dimensions but the thought process requires you to consider the shape and area where the final design will be. The wrapping around of objects creates additional requirements to consider. The design needs to be done slightly larger than the flat plane might suggest as it needs to wrap around a larger area. Such is the case with this design.

Let me tell you a little more about the object. This is a high end bicycle racing saddle by RAVX Inc. It is an expensive product for serious competitive cyclists. It is very lightweight and has very impressive features such as carbon fiber rails, ultra lightweight padding and top-of-the-line Lorica® leather covering. The rails are an upgrade over the already lightweight titanium allow rails, and a huge upgrade over lower-end chromoly or steel rails. The nature of the product requires a design that projects the same fast, high-end, racing image.

In 2008 I designed the XRD® logo that graces the saddle. XRD Racing® is a registered trademark.

The budget for this kind of project is pretty high therefore there are a number of design options at my disposal. First of all, I was not limited by ink alone. The design uses a combinations of inks, clear gloss spot UV coatings and de-bossing patterns. In other words, the final design in a combination of layers that yields a very intricate piece. The challenge comes in translating these details to the manufacturer. In order to guarantee the manufacturer stays true to my design, after the final artwork has been created and approved, I proceed to break it all down into color-coded layers. The layers are kept together on one end of the artboard, however, to the right of the board I divide the layers individually and space them out evenly. This ensures the manufacturer can see and understand each process individually. Take a look below to see an example of the final layout and how it’s divided. Each of the layers has a unique cyan, magenta or yellow color that is then replaced with the proper ink color, embossing or spot UV pattern. In fact, I even have separate color keys for outline-only debossing and full debossing. This further ensures the manufacturer interprets my design correctly.

Saddle Graphics Original First Mockup
First mockup of the design. This one was scrapped.
Saddle Graphics Final Colorways
Saddle graphics - Final colorways of the design.
Saddle Graphics Final Black Colorway
Final artwork, black colorway example.

I started off with a more traditional, yet complex design. I laid out all the patterns and lines in such a way they would flow with the shape of the seat. After a few hours, I was happy with the overall concept and laid it out as an example colorway in both black and white. You can see the initial mockup in the example to the right. Darren, the product manager, thought the design was good but he wanted to see something completely different. Instead of redesigning the current file, I decided to scrap it and start from scratch to force myself to come up with something completely different. The result is the design pieces you can see to the right and bottom.

For the new design, I went with more aggressive lines and racing styling. The artwork emphasizes length and sleekness and gives the impression of speed and movement. The sharp triangular shapes towards the back of the saddle were originally solid black. They are bold and sharp so some people weren’t sold on them. We decided to keep them but tone them down slightly using clear gloss coatings instead of solid inks. Upon close inspection, you will notice some of the printed sections sit inside de-bossed patterns, in other cases it does not. Some of the de-bossed patterns are also accentuated with glossy UV clear coatings. To make the design even more interesting, the solid printed sections are actually embossed only as outlines, keeping the center fill intact. The large solid spikes towards the back are all de-bossed completely, not simply outlined.

Saddle Graphics Final Layered Layout
Final layout. Example shows a layered separation of each print, embossing and gloss coating layers.

Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - Black
Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - White

After the design was ready, the final product was completed in a few stages. The factory sent us a blue line sample of the design and how it fits the base of the seat. Then a final sample was created. We changed a few things here and there, so the final photo does not look exactly like the final design on paper. That’s just part of the refining process.

By Danny Cruz

Danny Cruz is a resourceful creative designer, publisher and lover of the ocean and water sports. He's also a musician and overall cool guy. Follow @sixstringsensei.

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