When the National Hockey League finally made the decision to return to play in early July, they had to scramble to get everything up and running by debut day August 1.

NHL longtime creative partner, Brooklyn-based Undefined Creative, had designed an entire slate of new motion graphics for the league to use in its new Manhattan headquarters. Like everything else in 2020, move-in plans were delayed due to the pandemic but the creative slate remained available. So the NHL turned to the agency to adapt that package into motion graphics they could use in their fan-free TV broadcasts.

Undefined Creative began production on the new broadcast package July 6, less than a month before they had to start delivering final renders for the Western and Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff games being played in Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Instead of seeing an empty stadium packed with CGI fans or cardboard cutouts, the NHL went with bright and bold LED screens on all sides of the ice while essentially greying out the stands. Filling those screens are some 1,500 deliverables, including 20 unique animations in three screen sizes for each of the NHL’s 24 teams as well as sets of generic NHL, Eastern/Western Conference and Stanley Cup elements.

“Each of the looks had to be based off of 24 different team logos,” said Maria Rapetskaya, producer and creative director at Undefined Creative. “The main challenge was how far we could stray from those team colors and logos.”

Team logos needed to appear exactly as they were, but in the flashier motion graphics, the team had some leeway to play with backgrounds and transitions. Adding to the challenge is that each team has its own color palette, whether that’s the Boston Bruins’ black, yellow and white or the Colorado Avalanche’s less traditional combination of teal, burgundy and white.

“At some level if you follow the brand guidelines to a tee, you are just going to end up with a logo that’s scaling up and down against a background. So we took some risks and we got very lucky. It’s hard to deny that the stuff we did looks really cool on those screens,” said Rapetskaya.

Even with the compressed production process, client and agency worked closely together to move all the creative through the pipeline as quickly as possible.

“The NHL creative team has been a really good partner,” Rapetskaya said. “We made a lot of these decisions jointly,” and making those decisions early in the process meant less issues on the back end.

The NHL’s Eastern Conference is playing in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, while the Western Conference is playing in Edmonton’s Rogers Place. It wasn’t until the NHL arrived on the ground to start things back up that the creative team had a chance to see how Undefined’s motion-graphics package looked on the in-arena screens. As most designers know all too well, designing on one screen doesn’t mean the colors will appear the same way when transferred to another screen.

“Everyone knew that [could potentially be a problem] going into it,” said Rapetskaya. “We were making something in the dark and we were just going to use our best professional judgement and all the technical experience that we have and then just cross our fingers and hope that when they get there it looked as good as we intended. We were all on standby over the first weekend of play, anticipating worst-case scenarios, which thankfully did not happen.”

Now that hockey is fully back, Undefined Creative has continued to work with the league to add additional graphics to keep up the excitement.

The NHL is currently playing Stanley Cup qualifying games and if all goes as intended, which should not be assumed during the ever-changing conditions of the pandemic, the Stanley Cup will conclude no later than Oct. 4, 2020.


Client: National Hockey League

Agency: Undefined Creative

Creative Director/Producer: Maria Rapetskaya

Lead Designer: Stephen McNally

Lead Production: Mikaela Kalmar

Tags: nhl undefined creative

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