Why are skateboard decks so awesome?
Tony Hawk. Rodney Mullen. Bam Magara. Eric Koston. These were the names of skateboarders I was familiar with growing up thanks to a classic Playstation game called Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Graphics for video games have come on a long way since people were replicated as pixelated blocks, but I still happily play this game. It’s nostalgic and never really gets old. When Tony Hawk Underground came out on Nintendo Gamecube in 2003 I found a whole new love for the skateboard gaming franchise – the ability to create your own custom skateboard deck.
Back in the teen days I was big into skateboarding. Could I actually do any tricks? No. Unless you count falling off the board and being too scared to go up the ramp a trick. But still, my deck was well loved and thrashed about in the process. I came to love the bashed-up look.
It’s obviously a part of skateboarding that your deck gets messed up. You can’t expect to be grinding on bricks and metal and have your paintwork intact. But before decks get to scratched up and loved, they showcase a skateboarder’s personality with some crazy graphics. But the deck also represents freedom and unity. “Skateboarding is transnational — a common language which unites kids from Afghanistan to Russia to the US” (Fedorova, 2015).
A skateboard deck is an interesting blank canvas for designers. You’re restricted by how narrow the shape of the board it. You also have to consider the placement of the trucks and wheels which will block any intricate illustration. It’s a small canvas to play with. But if you get it right, then it’s a great piece of art.
A skateboard deck is just an extension of print – and you may not realise that.
Even if you aren’t a skateboarding fan, there’s still something to appreciate about how awesome a deck looks when it’s been thrashed about. I’d love custom built shelves made from a couple of decks in an ideal world. They have so much character and a story to tell. There’s even creators out there making furniture from old decks. You’d be surprised at just how creative you can be with such a small canvas.
“While the ’70s hosted some minimal art on skateboards, it was really the ’80s that brought the use of the skateboard deck as a graphic medium into play … The ’90s pushed the envelope with controversy and trademark infringements, but the ’80s defined the culture and gave people something tangible to rally around.” (Ghafarian, 2012).
Clearly skateboarding has been around for decades. Decks will have changed and evolved over the years. They will continue to change too. But the art will always be about the skateboarder. A skateboarder makes the deck look good, but the deck equally makes the skateboarder look good too.
But why am I telling you about skateboard decks this week? As a designer it’s always fun to play around with different canvases. But being a designer that specialises in print, there are so many versions of print to consider. A skateboard deck is just an extension of print – and you may not realise that. A deck is a physical piece of art. The graphics have been painted or vinyl cut and lacquered onto the board. You may not see it as print and that’s okay, but that is my interpretation.
Over the last couple of days I was working on a skateboard deck for a competition on CreativeAllies. From time to time I like to enter these competitions – not to win, but just to work on a brief that’s completely different to what I work on with clients. So here is my design, and a few inspirational decks that I found a long the way during my research.