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Basketball culture is so much more than the game. It encompasses everything from fashion to music, and from food to street art. After fighting off tough competition, nine Ravensbourne students joined forces with young people in Chicago to build a campaign that expresses the impact of basketball from London to Chicago.
Starting in London the group embarked on an intense immersion of London's basketball scene. They developed their ideas and built a creative campaign before a select number of the group flew to Chicago. In Chicago, the group explored the game and presented their ideas to Jordan's Vice President Harold White and Nike's influential designer of the Air Max and Air Jordan trainer, Tinker Hatfield.
Navigating different time zones and perspectives, the group formed a tight bond, learning and growing together to create a unique jersey and court design, create a campaign strategy and produce a piece of spoken word and film.
We caught up with two Ravensbourne students to discuss this life-changing experience.
It was the opportunity to work with some big names, especially the Obama Foundation. The organisation has done so much for the lives of young black people.
It was also the chance to go abroad and understand more about different cultures. I wanted to experience a different way of life and to gain a perspective about other young people’s lives.
It was absolutely amazing. I felt very privileged to have been picked. When I heard the news, I was at my cousin’s house and the guys on the Zoom meeting said, “Joseph, have you had all your vaccinations… we would like to congratulate you and tell you you’re going to America.”
It was a very surreal moment, I didn’t believe it at first. It just didn’t feel real at all. It was only when I sat on the plane that I thought, “damn, I’m actually leaving the country”.
The first time we all met as a group was in London. We met them outside their hotel, and we instantly hit it off. Everyone was really friendly and excited.
There were four students from Chicago and two teachers from My Brother’s Keeper, which is part of the Obama Foundation and Champs Mentoring, a mentoring programme for men in Chicago. It was so much fun getting to know them and learning about their lives. Some of the group from Chicago were really young, as young as 17, but they were all so mature for their age.
Before we started the work, I knew nothing about basketball culture in America. I am one of the founders of Ravensbourne’s basketball society, so I could speak with authority about the UK basketball culture.
The first thing we did was to tackle the brief like a story. We asked everyone in the group what their own story was – so what does basketball mean to everyone personally.
We were split into separate groups, because we all specialised in different areas. There were three groups of four or five people with a mix of UK and Chicago students in each group.
One of the first things we discussed was the key differences between the two cultures when it came to the actual game of basketball.
As a group, we discussed how, in the US, the culture of basketball is very much focused on the grind, so whether you make it to play professionally. For this reason, the game itself is very structured. This differed a lot from how the game is played in the UK, where generally it is more relaxed and more of a hobby.
As we had the luxury of being in London, we started to walk around so the group could get a feel for the city. As we walked around, we identified three words that encapsulated basketball culture in our respective cultures.
We talked about the fashion around the sport, so Jordan’s for example, we talked about the lingo surrounding the game too. From there, we started to develop the visuals and the language to use in the campaign, and slowly the whole thing started to take shape.
I loved the final result. I think it translated really well, and most importantly, I felt it really encapsulated the game of basketball from both the UK and US points of view.
Seeing the jersey in the flesh, with all the different stickers which represent all the different meanings and different stories was really special.
When we were in Chicago, we had the luxury of going to visit the Chicago Bulls and had full access to the courts. We were speaking to NBA players, and we got the chance to ask them about their own stories.
We got the chance to meet Tinker Hatfield, the hugely successful American designer, as well as the CEO of the Jordans brand.
I think my favourite aspect was meeting Don C, the creative director of the Chicago bulls. He is a visionary, so to sit down with him and have a normal conversation with him was truly incredible.
We got to talk to him about his creative process, and his storytelling tactics. He’s a multimillionaire and incredibly successful, but he came across as being so humble and approachable. He didn’t appear to have a big ego at all, that was so refreshing to see.
When we were in London, we also had the chance to talk to John Glasgow at his studios. He runs Vault 49, a design agency based in both New York City and London. His mindset was really inspiring.
One of the biggest challenges was managing the time difference between the UK and Chicago. The UK is six hours ahead of Chicago, so this made communication pretty challenging at times.
We really stepped up to the challenge though. Both teams had to stay up all night on occasions to make sure everything was running smoothly, and to make sure we were hitting our deadlines.
I definitely developed new skills. I’m naturally a very talkative and outgoing person, and I’m comfortable pitching ideas in front of a room of people on my own.
In the past, I’ve always felt I worked better on my own than with a group of people. However, this process showed me you can’t do everything alone. Individually, we all had our own skills, but when we came together, we were unstoppable.
I’m so grateful to have had the chance to be involved in the programme and work with everyone in the wider team. It taught me that stories can be told in so many ways and from so many perspectives. We had so much fun in the process and we were all so proud of what we achieved.
Because of this process, I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing mentors. They are helping me understand my own creative process and to develop my creative skills to really excel in the future.
I have big dreams; in the future I want to build one of the biggest design studies in the world, to rival some of the biggest brands out there right now.
I want it to be a place where people are empowered to tell their own individual stories and to tell them through many mediums. I am also hoping to get a First in my degree.
I just want to say a massive thank you to all the organisers and everyone that made it happen, and to all the incredible people we met on the trip.
Everyone from My Brother’s Keeper and the Obama Foundation, Champs Mentoring, Vault 49, Wilson apparel, Chicago Bulls, Jeff Shapack and everyone at Ravensbourne and CreativeLab who did such an incredible job of organising everything. I couldn’t be more grateful.
I found out about the programme through an email I received, and it sounded like a really fun project to get involved in during the summer. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet other students from other courses and get out of my comfort zone.
I was so surprised when I found out I was one of the students selected to travel to Chicago and really grateful for the opportunity. To be honest, I was a little nervous as I hadn’t travelled abroad since I was a kid, but I was mainly excited to explore Chicago with the other students in the group.
Everyone in the team was so lovely. We had a lot of time during our first session to get to know one another as we started discussing the brief. It was interesting hearing about what everyone does on their course and their personal interests. We also got to welcome the students from the Obama Foundation the day they arrived from Chicago, so it was exciting getting to talk to them for the first time too.
As a group, we began by brainstorming ideas for our campaign message and researching basketball culture in London, before splitting into smaller teams. As part of the design team, I worked with two other students to sketch different ideas for the campaign logo and stickers to print on the jersey. I always find it easier to sketch initial ideas out on paper before moving on to creating more finalised digital designs.
I was so happy with how the final jersey design and campaign video turned out. I think we managed to successfully represent both London and Chicago basketball cultures in our campaign. We unveiled the final designs in Chicago, and I felt so proud of the team and how much we had managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time.
Meeting and collaborating with students from both Chicago and London was easily my favourite aspect of the experience. I really enjoyed showing the students from Chicago around London and learning about the differences between studying in our different cities. It was amazing getting to travel back to Chicago and to explore the city too.
I learnt so much more about branding and copywriting during our workshop with Vault 49. Throughout the programme, I also feel my presentation and public speaking skills improved. I became more comfortable expressing my ideas during our group discussions and speaking up during the formal presentation.
After graduating, I hope to work as an illustrator full time, so I’m currently working towards that. I’ve been keeping my options open for now, so I haven’t decided what area I’d like to specialise in yet. Also, being a part of this programme has made me want to travel abroad more once I graduate.
Ravensbourne University London
6 Penrose Way
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