As featured on moderngame.co.uk, interview with Alvin Chan, founder of Superlarge:
Malaysian born, Australian grown, Dutch based Alvin Chan is a design and branding specialist with extensive experience building international brands. Alvin has worked as a designer and creative director at top design firms such as Studio Dumbar and Koeweiden Postma, but he’s really made his mark in internal branding. His 6 year career at Nike had various highlights and touched numerous categories. He became Global Creative Director for Nike football and was responsible for the brand and design efforts worldwide. He has since set-up his own consultancy and worked with the likes of adidas and G-Star jeans.
1. Hi Alvin, first question – Who do you support?
This is a challenging question as I didn’t grow up with a team, I adopted one. My team is FC Barcelona but for the Premier League, I have a soft spot for Manchester United as I like teams with drama:) Most importantly, I support the Dutch National team.
2. You were the global creative director of Nike Football. Can you take us through a couple of your favourite projects?
It was dream working for; in my opinion the best marketing company in the world. With Nike Football, I was responsible for the branding and design aspect world wide for the category. That meant building and evolving Nike Football’s images and presence globally, to be innovative and inspiring. 2 projects come to mind, the first was the National Team campaign for European Championship 2008. It was a a few week long photoshoot around Europe where we shot 3 key players per country. This gave me the great chance to meet all the players including a couple of my favourites, namely Ruud van Nistelrooy. The second project was a Nike Football event in Camp Nou, Barcelona where I designed the entire event including dinner on the holy pitch with guest speaker Pep Guardiola.
3. You have worked for some legendary design studios, however did you always intend to work in the sports design industry?
It was quite a coincidence actually. My passion for graphic design brought me to Holland to work for the studios that I admired - Studio Dumbar and Koeweiden Postma. After many years under cover in Dutch Design industry, I wanted a more international exposure and accepted a call from Nike for a gig. At the time I didn’t realised the European HQ was based in Holland.
4. Has there ever been a piece of work where you thought 'I wish I did that’?
Back in the days when I was in Australia, I really admired Dutch graphic design and lots of the work I wish I did. Nowadays, there are plenty out there I admire. I am always quite impressed with Stefan Sagmeister’s work.
5. You have obviously created design solutions for some amazing products, which product has been your favourite? (ie, Maybe a new boot like when the Mercurial was released)
Mercurial was indeed an amazing product based its innovation. It was super light and the premium version had retractable studs that adjusted to the ground conditions.
6. Who has been the best athlete to art direct? (and the worst?)
I never thought I would ever mention this but David Beckham would be the most professional athlete I have every worked with. During an Adidas shoot after I left Nike, I had the chance to work on a campaign with him After a quick briefing lasting 30 seconds, he nailed an action shot in the first 2 frames. He knew exactly what the camera wanted and delivered it like a pro. The worst would be my love hate relationship with CR7 Mr Cristiano Ronaldo. Depending on his mood, he would decide whether he understood English or not. My best shoot with him was when he won the Ballon d'Or, that day, the sun shined in snowy Manchester and he was in just the best mood and we had fun.
7. What do you look for when commissioning design agencies or people to collaborate with?
I look for like minded people that are passionate in what they do. At a certain level, creativity and craft are a given, however you look for people that can build on what you have and take you to a new level.
8. How much input do the athletes have?
The athletes are the actors in the play I conceive. Obvious, we build a scenario that heroes a campaign and product which also make them shine. However, when we are on set, for that 1 hour, they do exactly what we tell them to do. Some athletes come up with suggestions but we spend a lot of time preparing and researching the athletes and we know how they would approach and play a ball and how they move.
9. Big question, but how has design changed since you started working?
I think design has become democratic. What I mean is that you always expected the big studios to do amazing work. Nowadays with blogs and social media, there are so many people doing interesting work. There is also a globalisation of design which in the past, there is a signature from a country. Today, the work is international and there are a lot of cross pollination.
10. And finally, what advice would you give to designers looking to make a career in football-led design?
I think you need to be passionate and love what you do. It is not hard to love football but you need to understand how to translate this with a brand in mind. Adidas is very different from Umbro, Puma is different from Nike. So you need to embody the brand to be able to express its vision. Work hard and keep pushing yourself to be better.