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Professional graphic design in motorsport liveries

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#1 amerikalei

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 19:52

Not sure if this topic has been covered here before, but it occurred to me in relation to my finally getting around to building that 1/12 Tyrrell P34 kit I've had for about 40 years.


Tyrrell seemed to have a clean graphic approach from 1970 through the early 80's, when sponsorship needs led to some less tidy schemes.  I've read that the yellow stripe on the P34 was a gesture towards trying to get Renault power, which might not have been farfetched given their prior Matra and ongoing ELF relationships.  Was their packaging an in-house effort, or something that reflected a sponsor driven evolution in the sport following on Lotus' bringing in their tobacco branding in '68? 


The other case I remember reading about how Porsche were using a consultant around the time of the pink pig.  I always thought the 908/3 cars that JW Racing campaigned had liveries that had some echo of the WW1 era German flier's markings, but I never saw any specific mention of the process or antecedents.  Certainly the hippie car liveries, and the Porsche Salzburg cars seemed to have some professional graphic work.


Just thought this might be an interesting topic to hear about.  Superficial from a certain standpoint compared to performance driven engineering, but iconic as our image driven world has evolved.




#2 Parkesi

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 21:41

Do the Art Cars of BMW qualify for „professional graphic design“? I always found the black & white Frank Stella car a very attractive interpretation of superior technical performance.

#3 ensign14

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Posted 11 April 2024 - 22:55



^ Kaye Griffiths' Led Zep Interserie McLaren from 1973, livery designed by Richard Evans of Hipgnosis, famed for their cover art (mostly Pink Floyd to be fair), albeit in 2007 restored version here.

#4 RCH

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 10:06

Whilst some designs are clever and interesting, Pink Pig, BMW Map of France for example, how I wish we could go back to the good old days, pre 1968, of BRG, Italian red etc. and NO advertisements. Quite frankly almost everything after those times just looks a mess.

#5 dmj

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Posted 12 April 2024 - 10:57

At the higher levels of competition, I presume that most professional teams use professional designers for decades. One great example is Peter Stevens, who – beside designing some of the most iconic sports and racing cars – also had his hand in quite a few famous racing liveries. IIRC, Parmalat and Olivetti liveried Brabhams, Leyton Houses, early ‘00’s Williamses and quite a few others were his work.

#6 john aston

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Posted 13 April 2024 - 06:43

A subject close to my heart, primarily because most modern race teams run cars whose livery looks like it was designed by Stevie Wonder. In the past two weeks I have seen  BTCC and British GT cars in action and hardly a single car's livery  wasn't  an uncoordinated mess , with sponsor livery not even following the contour of the car . What a contrast to the obvious examples of superbly designed livery-none more than Peter Stevens' Brabhams, whose Parmalat and Olivetti colours enhanced the lines of the car and were recognisable half a mile away. Sunoco T70 , JPS Lotuses , 555 Subarus, Martini Brabham and Lancia (and even Tecno ) , Marlboro and West all worked but the one firm who excel , whether in WRC , Sports Prototypes and Hypercars are Peugeot. Their colours complement the car and they even succeed in making every car , even a Le Mans racer, instantly recognisable as a Peugeot .


There's  Gulf too but a once wonderful livery has been devalued by middle aged men who worship at the shrine of Steve McQueen . A GT40 in Gulf colours looks amazing but a 911 or Caterham looks tragic.  


In mitigation , even in modern F1, teams tend to have a multiplicity of sponsors , some of whose logos clash with the others  and I think only Red Bull works properly - and the matt finish introduced in 2016 was a stroke of genius, if now copied on every sporty Audi or BMW. Modern photography also will often focus on tiny details so the full uncoordinated mess of the full car isn't seen as often. 


Best livery - come on , there 's only one - rosso corsa , a cavallino rampante  and  an AGIP sticker . 


Edited by john aston, 13 April 2024 - 06:48.

#7 funformula

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Posted 14 April 2024 - 19:27



Best livery - come on , there 's only one - rosso corsa , a cavallino rampante  and  an AGIP sticker . 



I agree with most of your post but to me the liveries of the Italian F1 teams always seemed to be a bit messy to my eyes. Even at Ferrari only at rare intervals they managed to integrate the sponsor logos properly. Many times they looked like being sticked on by an apprentice in his first week at work.

For example the 1982 Ferrari C126... what a beautiful car that was, but what a horrible arrangement of umpteen stickers.

I liked the way they tried to sort it in the 1978 and 1993 liveries but as I said, most of the years it was an horrible arrangement of plenty different stickers.


Same with Alfa Romeo, they had the same sponsor/livery like McLaren had from 1980 until 1983 but it always appeared a bit shabby in comparison.

Or take Minardi, they were beautiful in 1997 but the year before and after it was a mess.


The Italians are famous for their fashion and style but when they had to put stickers on a car they lost out somewhat   ;)  

#8 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 07:09

When did the "more is better" approach take over in graphics and design? Early nineties, perhaps, perfectly in line with many other sociological calamities. Before that, there was good and bad. Since, we've had a continuity of messy monstrosities. Also reflected in driver helmets.

#9 Charlieman

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 09:10

At the time when adverts for fags and booze featured heavily on TV, there was a crack that intermissions were more creative than the programming. Those times have passed and advertisers often seem to think that any publicity works. The rate for a magazine or TV commercial has fallen in most cases along with quality. It is believed, falsely, by web publishers that more is better -- they seem unaware that high status brands or businesses which value a quality reputation have nothing to do with such tat.


I fear that motor sport marketing has fallen into the same trap. If we recall Canon's advertising with Williams, branding on the car was relatively uncluttered and there were even panels with no adverts at all. Williams made sure that secondary sponsors and key suppliers were given value for money. Canon backed up the car adverts with associated dealer and press promotions. They bussed in camera shop owners and photocopier sales reps to races. I'm sure there are similar contemporary examples amongst the waste of money.

#10 ensign14

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 10:13

When did the "more is better" approach take over in graphics and design? 


Benetton in 1985, covering the car with flags.  Thierry Boutsen also got his Arrows drive in 1983 with an astounding plethora of sponsors, but that was more needs must.


Question for sociologists is how much this reflects the change in coverage and general greater affluence.  The JPS and Marlboro liveries were never quite as per the fag packets because they did not stand out so well on television.  By the time we get to the nineties is there greater use of "meta-coverage" so standing out does not matter so much?  More glossy magazines or other outlets where a hint of the colour scheme triggers another reaction?  Association with Ferrari and being able to parade that was more important than being visible ON a Ferrari?  Similar with the Target Ganassis where you weren't so much meant to pick out the companies but marvel that Target carried so many in their stores?


Similarly with helmet designs - drivers now use their logos more than their colours when it comes to promotion.  And driver ID on telly is less important because telly now has so many more graphics.

#11 AJCee

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Posted 15 April 2024 - 14:18

I rather liked the United Colours of Benetton flags on the Toleman, with a prominent larger one for the country of the GP. Nice livery for a tidy car.

#12 cantabriamadrid

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 15:06

Ever since I was a child, I have always been interested in the colours and designs of racing cars and motorbikes. For years, I have been doing this as a designer and sign-maker. I like many of the designs you have mentioned here. Of particular interest to me is the work of Rob Powell, who is behind iconic designs such as the Rothmans for Porsche, Boss, etc.

#13 amerikalei

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Posted 02 May 2024 - 12:03

In pursuit of additional information on this topic I reached out to the Porsche archive, thinking they may have documented their work with whoever did the liveries from the late 60's (Salzburg cars) into the Wyer/Gulf and Martini eras, and how that relationship developed. 


Evidently they didn't have any "of the shelf" documentation on this and were unable to conduct research based on a private query.  However they did suggest that a book the museum had published, Colours of Speed - Porsche 917 (out of print) might have some insights.  Anyone have any insights about this book?



Edited by amerikalei, 02 May 2024 - 12:03.

#14 2F-001

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Posted 02 May 2024 - 12:38

I have that book somewhere, but cannot lay my hands on it just now - too many books, too little organisation - but from memory it is a nicely produced general account of the development and races of the 917. Other than being 'official' I don't think it offered more info than Peter Hinsdale's book does, but is similarly well illustrated.  
I don't remember it specifically discussing the detailed background of the liveries.


Perhaps someone who has the book to hand can confirm of refute? I'll see if I can find my copy to refresh my knowledge of it!


However, it seems to be fairly readily available (in the UK at least) for 20 - 25 UKP; there is also a "50th anniversary edition" (which I don't have and have only seen with German text).

#15 PCC

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Posted 02 May 2024 - 13:51

More than half a century later, this still makes me salivate:




Far too understated for today's taste, but for my money, as good as it gets.


(I found this photo on Twitter; it was credited to Pete Lyons, although I don't know for sure if it is. It's certainly good enough to be one of his.)

#16 MarshalMike

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Posted 02 May 2024 - 17:51

For me the livery on Hector Rebaque's F1 entries was simple yet elegant.

#17 john aston

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Posted 03 May 2024 - 06:15

And it helped that it was often going by slowly enough to enjoy properly ...

#18 blackmme

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Posted 03 May 2024 - 08:42

I distinctly remember an article by Peter Stevens in one of the early issues of F1 Racing (now GP racing) where he talked about current (so circa 96/97) livery designs and his approach to livery design.


In the article IIRC he mentions the 83 Brabham livery and said that he inverted the colour scheme because he finally got a colour television in mid 1983 and thought that although the 'blue on white' looked fine in black and white it lacked impact in colour.  Hence the mid 1983 'negative' image BT52b.


Regards Mike 

#19 MoebiusPT

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Posted 03 May 2024 - 13:04

Daniel Simon's efforts in Hispania are generaly overlooked, but the racing look of the 50's was IMHO a well done effort.



Edited by MoebiusPT, 03 May 2024 - 13:05.


#20 mariner

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Posted 05 May 2024 - 14:18

It is almost to famous to mention but the JPS livery was done by Barry Foley and Noel Stanbury's company .


I didn't know it but there is now a booka bout teh JPS years 





Still my all time favourite livery both on the 72's and the 78/79's - pure class

#21 amerikalei

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Posted 05 May 2024 - 16:06

It is almost to famous to mention but the JPS livery was done by Barry Foley and Noel Stanbury's company .


I didn't know it but there is now a booka bout teh JPS years 





Still my all time favourite livery both on the 72's and the 78/79's - pure class

That was the sort of detail I was wondering about:


... the Stanbury Foley Organisation, a motor racing promotions hothouse based in East London. Its major client was John Player & Son, and the livery of the Lotus 72 in its JPS guise was designed largely by SFO partner Barry Foley. In 1972 the black-and-gold livery also extended to the Team Lotus transporters and JPS hospitality vehicles.


An internet search also gave me this colorful insight on the early JPS era: https://www.motorspo...smoke-and-heat/