Anthony Zych sees art as the next step in hockey marketing and publicity.
The Columbus Blue Jackets graphic designer believes that through design and creativity, interest in the sport can be enhanced to a higher degree. So far he has backed up this logic with several stunning posters advertising various Blue Jackets games during the season.
From a Blue Jackets fan ‘mowing Maple Leafs’ to a coyote chasing after Columbus mascot “Stinger” through the desert, Zych’s designs have perked the interest of hockey fans in the Columbus area and beyond.
“The thing I find the most special about these, we’re using the world’s most universal language to communicate something, and as a graphic designer that’s our job – which is to communicate visually,” Zych said. “Every language, every written word out there, it all came from art. All the old caveman pictograms and everything that was adapted and turned into a full language – art has been the one constant language everyone has been able to understand. So you may not be a huge hockey fan, but art can communicate something to you that may get you involved or interested in hockey.”
Zych, a Columbus native who started working with the Blue Jackets in 2011 shortly after graduating from Ohio State, said the idea for the posters began about four years ago. It was only this season when they became a reality.
He calls these posters “the little monster nagging me in the back of my head.” Not from a negative perspective but more because he’s constantly thinking about how his next piece will look.
“The way I overthink so much of these posters that I become my own worst enemy sometimes like changing my mind and changing how I want to do something or changing a style midway through when I already have one drawn, but it’s fun,” Zych said. “It’s a great process. I enjoy it. It’s become something, quite frankly, I didn’t expect it to take off like this and I don’t think anybody else did. It’s nice to see people enjoying some of the creative stuff we’re putting out here.”
Zych grew up involved in art, which he said was fostered by his mother. When he was in fourth grade he took Saturday morning art classes at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
At Ohio State he studied interior design and graphic design and dabbled in architecture classes and photography classes. It was at OSU where he also got an internship with the school’s athletic department. Through his work with the Buckeyes he found out about the opening with the Blue Jackets.
“It was a nice foot in the door, and I’ve been here since,” Zych said.
Zych said he was heavily influenced by Ralph Steadman, who did the art for Hunter S. Thompson’s books. According to Zych, these involved “heavy ink” and an “emphatic style.”
“I like the beauty of simplicity behind art,” Zych said. “If it can communicate something effectively and clearly then that’s the kind of stuff I like to get behind.”
He also has a sense of NHL art history. Bring up the much-maligned Guardians Project and he sees something that spoke to a larger group of fans – not just hockey diehards. And in some sense, he hopes his posters do the same.
“I saw it as a different way to reach a different audience at that time that may not have been so invested or interested in hockey,” Zych said. “From that perspective I think it helps some people pay attention or maybe got some eyes turning in a different direction that maybe never looked at hockey.”
Zych’s life hasn’t changed much since the posters came out. He said he was once spotted at a grocery store checkout line from someone who saw a Fox Sports Ohio segment on him, but that’s about it. Still, the pieces are nice for him to have in his portfolio.
“It blows my mind every single time we post one of these and my Twitter feed just starts to blow up, just from random people that are able to reach out and say ‘this is awesome.’ It’s very humbling,” Zych said. “I’m doing something I’ve been doing since I was three years old, I get to share this passion with thousands of people right now.”
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