As skateboarding culture develops, art and design seamlessly transform into what is popular during the current time. The sub culture becomes aware of the advancement in society which leads to modifying graphics to accommodate to current trends.
The art of skateboarding has gone through many different cycles throughout the years, more often than not skaters become attached to the idea of being sponsored. As the years go by we are faced with new riding styles that emerge, within that change new deck sizes are introduced and remodeled. Depending on the size of the board a layer of art is associated with the product. Graphic designers have understood the increasingly popular rise of art that the subculture of skating promotes. More often than not consumers of this product will buy their deck based off of which graphic is most compelling to them, regardless of brand. The importance of maintaining brand image is crucial for skate companies, allowing consumers to recognize company identity separates a brand from an empire. When evaluating successful skate organizations, the most predominant factor is the art that is affiliated with the company. A logo can make or break a company, regardless of the products performance, unless the skateboard brand art isn’t up to industry standard it will affect client interest and lose popularity at a rapid pace.
A company that has maintained its popularity and image since the 70s is the notorious surf & skate brand “Santa Cruz”. The company was founded in 1973 in California, while the American skateboarding scene was taking off during this time, professional skaters required graphic designers to advance the popularity and evolve the sport into the mainstream. A wide range of art directors were hired to create distinct imagery for skate decks and brand merchandise. Santa Cruz hired Jim Phillips to be a part of the team hoping for his expertise in hippy / psychedelic design. Little did they know Phillips would soon create the most iconic skateboarding logo of all time. The “screaming hand” is one of the few logos that is recognizable to anyone in society who can immediately associate the image with skate. This form of graphic design implements the true characteristics which a successful logo needs to have in order to become mass produced. The screaming hand is a logo which is beloved by streetwear including the underground urban community. In order to understand how Phillips created his signature style I looked into previous artists that were leading innovators before him. The artist that had the most historical impact in California in my opinion was Ed Roth, an illustrator who created hot rod graphics in the 60s. His work signified freedom, the ability to create grotesque imagery that was refreshing. He was one of the few American artists at the time that profited off making art for himself without worrying about others opinions, he went by the nickname “Big Daddy” signifying his importance as a father figure in the hot rod art society.
I believe that Jim Phillips took inspiration from Roth in order to continue the legacy of psychedelic art, the never ending cycle will continue to develop. Jim’s influence hasn’t gone unnoticed, he was introduced into the skateboarding hall of fame in 2017 and continues to work with Santa Cruz to this day. Furthermore, his domination as a skate artist has propelled many other Illustrators and graphic designers to follow in his footsteps in creating psychedelic art.
Jim Phillips, Santa Cruz – “Screaming Hand”
Ed Roth, “Sidewalk Surfer”