Tips for jersey design

This time of year everyone is scrambling to design new jerseys. If you’re smart, you’ll think this through very carefully. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few seasons.

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These photos show Mountain States regional teams. Notice how they’re all different. Zach Griffith from Full Tilt Cyclery.

Jerseys serve four purposes:

1. Team branding

If you’re a shop team, the jersey better look like the rest of your shop materials. You’re building a brand, and you oughta be consistent. Is your shop earthy, techy, hardcore, friendly? … Your logo, shop motif, banners and jerseys should all work together. If you want to make a major change, do it for a good reason.

2. Differentiation

Your team should stand out from the others in your market. If a key competitor is black and white, you probably want to use color.

Chris Boice, Team Orbit. Steve Wentz, Team Turner/Wahoos.

3. Pride

You can’t design by committee, but your team riders should think the jersey looks cool. You want them stoked to wear it. As team manager, you should listen to input, but when the time comes be a man (or woman) and make the decision.

4. Media exposure

If you have sponsors, or if you’re trying to attract customers to a shop, you want to appear in print, online and in videos. This is key for a serious team.

Troy Cooperman, Team Mojo Wheels.

As Mountain Bike Action’s main photographer, John Ker has a huge say in which photos appear in the magazine. I asked him for advice on last year’s The Fix team jerseys, and he shared these insights:

Contrast. Your kit should contrast with everything: trees, rocks, dirt and sky. If you blend into the background, chances are your photo won’t be chosen.

Writing. Should be clear and legible.

Your chest should be light. Your underside tends to be in shadow, and dark colors get lost. Go for a light base color with high contrast writing.

Yellow. Super photogenic. It’s colorful and bright, and it stands out well.

Red. Great color. Yellow and red are a great combination.

White. Avoid large areas. The highlights blow out. White can be good for the chest. But it’s bad for your shoulders and back. It blends into the sky.

Black. Great for small parts like piping and writing. But it blends with shadows and looks invisible, so don’t use it on large patches.

Me, Team The Fix. People wanted to change the jersey for 2007, but this one accomplishes the four goals, so it’ll stay pretty much the same.

Red and white with black. Works well if it’s done right.

Blue. Use caution. Dark blue looks like black and gets lost in many shots. Light blue — like a wimpy sky blue — tends to look lame.

Women. Tend to have a better color sense than men. Trust their opinion.

Ideas. Look in the magazines. If a photo appears in MBA, the jersey must be pretty good. Said John, “I’m looking through the magazine right now. Fox jerseys look good, and Yeti jerseys look good too. But the turquoise is kind of pale and blends in with the sky; it’s not as good as yellow or red.”

Ask. For people’s opinions. If they say they love it, ask them what they don’t like. No matter what they say, thank them and DO NOT get defensive. They’re helping you design a cool jersey — one that will appear in a major magazine.

Well there you go. I hope this is helpful.


— Lee

6 replies
  1. todd says:

    blue is definetly a great color when contrasted against other colors. Most racing photos dont have the sky in the background so blue contrasts well against the earth tones. And i totally agree with white. Too much white can mess with your auto exposure camera and make the surrounding too dark.

  2. Bob Burnes says:

    Dang, Lee.

    I was just thinking about my new 07 jersey and how I was going to lay it out when I jumped over to the web site and BAM-there it is. Ideas. What I thought I was going to get would have kept me out of the mags. Too dark.

    So, I’m going with bold reds, minor sharp yellows, and black lines.

    Keep the info rollin’, Lee!

  3. Matt F says:

    A good thing to consider is clutter. Designs should be simple. If it takes you longer than .5 seconds to identify your main sponsors maybe there is too much going on. Think billboards, you tipically have 6 seconds to get it as you drive by. That is probibly all you will get from the average mag reader or person walking around in the pits at the races. Keeping it clean (figuratively) and simple will allow people to get it quickly without having to work at it.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Great advice Matt. In all things, the greatest designs tend to be the simplest.

    Here’s a proposed corollary:

    A. If you have multiple sponsors, your base jersey must be super clean, so the the logos are readable.

    B. If you have one sponsor, or you’re buiding a single brand (as in a shop team), perhaps you can get more design action.

    Just a thought …

  5. Kevo says:

    shoulder space is key- the yeti logo on the shoulder of their jerseys pops in every cornering shot of their racers… but is blank/too cluttered on far too many small/regional/whatever jerseys. key logo placement here matters. it shows up when the rider is shot from the side or from the front if you just put it in the right spot.

    flames- uhh, dewd, like so agro. but also whack. avoid flames on your jerseys lest ye get flamed by the fashion police.

    whites- throws off auto exposure? who uses auto exposure? white is clean (when it’s clean) and is baller on the streets. our kind of racing isnt on the streets though, consider light greys. you dont see it much but grey doesnt always equal drab. if done right it can pop in a photo almost as much as a white and yet wont blow out details so much.

    side of torso- yeah sure, covered by your arms when your walking around… but reveals sponsor logos when your riding by a photographer in lee’s pattented attack position. and when your arms are hoisted in the air on the podium.

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