This year’s theme art for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships (USTA), which starts August 31 in New York, was designed by Pasadena-based illustrator Paul Rogers. Invited to submit theme art concepts to the USTA for use on posters, banners, tickets, programs, etc., Rogers pencil-sketched more than a half-dozen ideas, and then developed six into fully rendered color images. Rogers admits that “On a project like this I tend to over-produce concept sketches because I don’t want to lose the project due to a half-hearted execution of an idea.”
In its creative brief to the select artists who were paid to submit theme concepts, the USTA cited three requirements. First, if the illustration depicted a player, the figure had to be generic and not recognizable as either a male or female. Second, New York City had to be a key element since the games are played in the renowned Flushing Meadows, located in the borough of Queens. Third, the US Open’s flaming ball logo had to appear in the art. The key impressions to evoke were entertainment spectacle, toughest tennis and high energy.
“During the pencil-stage, I thought I could successfully execute a strong treatment of a non–gender specific player,” Rogers admits, “but as I tightened up the image, the figure kept tipping one way or the other, or it just looked like a dude in a skirt.”
Of all of his concepts, Rogers’s personal favorite – showing slanted type and the skyline silhouetted onto the court – was what he considered his homage to Joseph Binder’s poster for the 1939 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, but he admits that no one got the reference. The USTA did like the bridge/tennis net idea, but found the bridge tower could have belonged to any bridge. Even though the Brooklyn Bridge doesn’t lead to Flushing Meadows in Queens, they decided it was okay to take some artistic license because people immediately associated the Brooklyn Bridge tower with New York.
If you’re going to the US Open next week, you’ll see Rogers’s illustration on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs.