Reebok Supershow 1998

Atlanta, Georgia

1998

In 1997 Appetite Engineers was contracted to design the complete graphics package for Reebok’s trade presence at the Atlanta Super Show. It was a surprising decision since our background had been primarily editorial and book design. But it was that very work that won them over. Reebok was looking to ignite interest at the show by completely reinventing its graphic language. Our exuberant visual and typographic style was exactly the kind of colorful energy that Reebok had been imagining.

San Francisco-based architect Peter Pfau was already working with Reebok to design an innovative reusable exhibition structure complete with offices, exhibition galleries, lounges and event arenas. Our task was to energize the exhibition by integrating a vibrant graphic language into the materials and spaces.

Reviewing the state of visual sports culture, I was unnerved by the limitations of what seemed to be a rich subject. Even in 1997, the hypermasculine athlete-warrior superimposed with distressed, jittery type had been played out. We wanted to steer clear of cliché, so instead, we started thinking of sport as a series of abstractions — physical motion, force, and power, pitted against geometry, boundaries, and order.

Star athletes and classic sports photography, though, are important commodities for the Reebok brand. Reebok allowed us freedom to choose images of their celebrity spokespeople that would best suit the overall design.

Our initial abstract photographs, some of which are shown below, formed a visual transition between the direct depiction of the athletes and the site’s formal architecture and materials. Because of that continuity, it felt natural to crop the official action shots with uncommon tightness, heightening the direct emotional tension while deflating the idol worship expected from these pictures.

The final visual elements combined with drawn typography to fill the space and bring attendees into Reebok’s site.