Designing Swatches Not Cards – Things Have Gone Way Too Far

If there is one thing I value in cards these days, its design and layout on a card. One of the most important thing to me is the picture of the player on the card, as I feel it represents the essence of why we love football. Not only do I have VERY specific standards of what I will put up with, but I am vehemently against creating a card that doesnt prominently feature the subject on the card.

Recently, in Panini releases, and in a small portion of Topps releases, there have been cards where the player picture is actually non-existent or so tiny its unrecognizable.

2012 National Treasures Charles Woodson Jumbo Pro Bowl Patch – Not game worn in the game no one cares about.

2012 National Treasures Demarcus Ware Jumbo Pro Bowl Star Patch

2012 Topps Five Star Jerry Rice Letter Patch 1/1

2012 Panini Prime Hockey Joe Sakic Jersey Tie

2012 Panini Prime Hockey Sidney Crosby Jumbo Patch

2012 Topps Five Star Ichiro Letter Patch

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Signed Football Shield 1/1

That is completely unacceptable in my mind, almost to the point of bastardizing the soul of what cards are supposed to be. I have gotten a lot of explanations as to why it happens, but many of them function around the fact that collectors dont care about design, only about the patches. Although this is likely true, it SHOULD NOT be this way. We should not reward poor concept work that disengages us from the main point of collecting – the players.

What is even more crazy is that the relics that are so prominently featured in many of these cards are not game worn. The swatches that collectors clamor for are worn for a matter of seconds at the Rookie Premiere or Pro Bowl each year, and are never used on the actual field. That jersey in your card is not the jersey in the photos they took when the rookies go to LA in May. Its just slipped on and off on the sidelines while the other players take their pictures with the companies. I want to reinforce that I am not a whistle blower, as this is a commonly known fact, but it does little to deter people from assigning astronomical value to patch cards over the course of the season. I mean, there are 5 NFL Shields per rookie in national treasures alone, and some rookies even have screen printed replica patches! Doesnt stop people from buying, but it should.

Let me add a caveat here.

I 100% support the Rookie Premiere, as it gives us great photography (most of the time) to use prior to the season getting started.

We need the rookie premiere.

If we also want relics to accompany the autographs, we need event worn stuff too – as rookie game used jerseys are either unavailable from not seeing playing time, or in too short supply. All im saying is that we need to be conscious of more rewarding the way a card looks, rather than the size of the relics included in the card.

Aesthetically, its cool to have memorabilia embedded in the card in a supporting role. Supporting being the key phrase in the sentence – as a lot of times we fall prey to a dominant focus of the swatch on cards. I want the design of a card to be rewarded, the theme of a set to be rewarded, and the concept of the layout to be rewarded. NOT a card that is basically a cardboard border slapped on a jumbo swatch. That should be against the rules.

Lets face it, collectors are a weird bunch. The things that pique the interest of the hobby as a whole are fleeting at best. Its a dragon that the companies chase at every turn, to the point where they likely pull their hair out. So the question is – WHY DO WE BUY THIS CRAP?

I dont know, and I dont think I care to know. I just want people to understand that these cards are not something worth their buying consideration. I want them to buy cards that are beautifully composed and take the visual appeal of the card seriously. Not some haphazardly thrown together example of why certain events arent really as they seem. If you are going to do a super swatch – at least do it well. A common reaction is “why are you complaining – you can get the good stuff cheap!” but that isnt a good thing. It reinforces with the companies that they shouldnt focus on the right things, instead giving into the screaming child who just wants their pacifier – regardless of the fact that this pacifier is a bad idea in the first place.

Sometimes you have to wean. You have to wean the desires over to a more reasonable expectation, as these awful and hideous cards are bad for everyone. Its to the point where eBay auctions list their card with a super close up of the patch on the card, not the card itself. Speak with your wallets and ignore the shoddy work, to embrace the true reasons we collect. Cards that look awesome and illicit that “Wow” response when shown to people. This is not what will do that.

5 thoughts on “Designing Swatches Not Cards – Things Have Gone Way Too Far

  1. I’d be interested to hear your opinion on booklet cards. It seems like there is a lot of hate when it comes to them but, in my mind, it is a better platform to incorporate some key aspects of solid design–large, on card signing area, large player photo, and plenty of room for the jersey. I think they display better due to their larger size as well.

  2. Im okay with them if they are done with the proper use of an extra card surface. Outside of just adding extra content, there isnt much use. The NT ones this year were really nice, as have been the Five Star ones.

  3. Gellman, this is a bit off topic, but I wouldnt mind hearing your take on these auctions panini has now started to run on single cards, which they promote through twitter. Are they not packing these cards out and choosing to profit from the secondary market value themselves? Seems very shady to me.

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