By: Collin Hamman
Topsheet graphics have changed as much over the years as the shapes of the skis themselves. There have been many technological advancements that allow for more creative applications and new trends that push the idea of how skis should look - some of which harken back to the classics of yore.
Recently it has been popular to create topsheet art that looks as if it came out in 1979. Over the years, the process of creating lightweight topsheets with almost limitless color and texture options has become faster and easier. This has lead to not only a massively broad range of design styles over the years, but also to the hottest trend in ski graphics today: custom topsheets.
Small, micro-brew ski brands have been popping up all over the place, and most are based around the idea that they can press your choice of graphics onto one of their sidecut templates. State-of-the-art printers make this incredibly easy using high-resolution images. Most topsheets are designed digitally for ease and speed, which means the art is made to scale using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. These programs streamline the process as they make it easier to work on a canvas large enough to create high-resolution art for a topsheet. But with a quality camera or large enough scanner, actual paintings can still be applied to skis and snowboards, giving them a unique hand-made look. Right now, Folsom skis appear to be leading the custom graphics charge with in-depth forms on their site for customizing your perfect ski.
Trends by Discipline
If you start to break down the different ski and snowboard disciplines, you find glimpses of trends. However, none of these observations are absolute.
You almost always see bright, colorful, and flashy linework on race skis. You'll also see a lot of italicized all-caps on top of long shapes. Recently angled planes of color are being used, much more simple than your typical, hot-rod style ski graphic.
Freestyle skis, including freeride and park, tend to feature graphics with more attitude. This doesn’t mean they are all punked out, but more that these graphics usually are trying to evoke emotions from the viewer. We start to see more collages, photography, hand-drawn illustrations, and textures rather than the fast-looking graphics we see on race skis.
Where a lot of race or beginner ski graphics stay relatively simple - either using the same graphic on both skis, or a mirrored, symmetrical approach - freestyle skis play around more with carrying the graphic over from one ski to another, creating a diptych composition. This has led to a constant debate between perfectionists and people who really don’t care which ski goes on which foot. Nevertheless, this style has opened the door to much more creative topsheets.
One trend that some of the biggest names in skiing participate in is letting their sponsored athletes create the art for their own pro model skis. Eric Pollard started providing paintings for his LINE pro model skis and now they feature his art on more than one of their models. Another well-known athlete that hand draws the graphics for his own pro models is Chris Benchetler. His designs for Atomic range from goofy, hand-drawn landscapes to more serious and edgy linework. Featuring these legends’ artwork on skis creates an even stronger bond between the consumer and the athletes that they idolize. These professionals not only create unique art for the topsheets, but they also design how the skis are built, creating the ultimate expression of their passion.
A common sight that you may run into at the grocery store these days are skis and snowboards for raffles made by well-known companies that feature topsheets advertising different brands of beer. From PBR K2s to a Dale’s Pale Ale snowboard, no brand or beer is sacred. These promotions don’t always stick to beer brands, but they are the most common. Skiing on skis with graphics featuring your favorite beer is a large source of pride for some riders.
Also gaining in popularity are graphics with an air of Swiss minimalism and color blocking. Brands like Volkl and Black Crows are standing out with bolder color blocks and less textures. This minimalist approach is taking a step back from the flashy and highly detailed designs of the past decade. Simple designs like these also create a great opportunity to make an entire range of skis that is easily recognizable and pleasing to the eye as a set. DPS skis do a great job of this, and because of this, you can usually spot their skis from a good way off.
With these trends in mind, what does the future hold for ski and snowboard graphics? My predictions are thus:
So if you're wanting to take on the trends of 2020, here are some things to think about if you are designing ski (or snowboard) graphics.
Got a custom topsheet idea or looking to plan your 2021 lineup? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll make it happen.