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Art Direction of Powell-Peralta and the Bones Brigade

I always admired the athleticism and brotherhood of the kids who rode BMX and skateboarded in my midwestern high school. I spent hours photographing their street tricks for my photography classes. It seemed uncomplicated and pure: wanting to be close to this two or four-wheeled machine and yet longing to be far away from the ground.

A whole new world of aesthetic culture opened up to me. I loved their punk zines and choppily-edited amateur promotional videos. Lately, I’ve been bidding voraciously on late 1970s  to mid-1980s issues of SkateBoarder Magazine on ebay. I buy them especially to pore over the art direction of the Bones Brigade team and Powell-Peralta brand established by Stacy Peralta and George Powell.

Powell-Peralta, founded in 1978, was faced with the task of promoting its brand of skateboards and the Bones Brigade team (a crew they assembled of the time’s most promising young stars, around the age of 15 years old). They brought in artist and photo-journalist Craig Stecyk to build its anti-brand. Powell-Peralta advertisements rose to the forefront of skater visual culture with irreverence and deliberate experimentation.

Skateboarding ads at the time were dominated by product shots.

Powell-Peralta let others showcase the gear in a traditional manner, and this freed them to be more conceptual with their imagery. Often Powell-Peralta ads had nothing to do with skateboarding, and they were richer for it. They did however capture the aggressiveness and attitude of those pioneering the sport.

This ad is an homage to the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street album cover.

In 1986, they painted a young Tony Hawk in the style of his signature skateboard graphic.

In this advertisement, they combined publishing direct quotes from skateboarders who didn’t want to join their crew with a burning car image.

I love the unpredictability and brashness of these ads. Though we have them as artifacts, the motion and activity itself was the real art. These ads captured the spirit of the kids who invented the tricks: the mctwist, the ollie, the Godzilla rail flip, the 50-50 sidewinder, air walks, 540 shove-it, helipops, gazelles and kick flips. And I love following the visual culture that rides and skates along side of them.

Additional Resources for Branding Knowledge

  1. Archetypes in Branding” is a toolkit that merges strategy with creativity in the branding process.

  2. Build Your Own Brand” walks designers through one of the most challenging branding projects they’ll probably tackle: developing their own brand.

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