Patrick Savile on designing Yuto Horigome’s Olympic gold medal-winning skateboard
The London-based graphic designer talks us through the considerations of designing for a skateboard and what it feels like to be part of an Olympic gold medal-winning triumph.
- Jyni Ong
- 6 August 2021
When graphic designer Patrick Savile was commissioned by April Skateboards to design a few decks, little did he know that one of them would be used for an Olympic gold-winning performance. The London-based designer was approached by co-owner Shane O’Neill for his surreal airbrush techniques that we’ve seen grace many a graphic poster or artwork in the past. Patrick ended up designing a bunch, including three for Yuto Horigome, the professional Japanese skateboarder who recently claimed the title as the first person to win a Gold Medal in skateboarding at the 2020 games. He’s also designed boards for Diego Najera, Rose Decks and Shane O’Neill himself.
Patrick’s collaboration with April Skateboards marks his first foray into design for the sport. “I’m not going to lie,” Patrick tells us, “I haven’t really given the world of skating much thought since I gave up trying to do it myself years ago, but it is definitely a blessed world to be part of.” The airbrush style seen across the new boards is a style Patrick has been working towards of late, a “central force” seen across his portfolio. Abstraction and weirdness pepper the designs, tied together with surreal themes which see Patrick depict hazy skies, luxurious banquets, peace-giving doves and more.
Though Patrick is an established designer, well known in his field, the task of designing skateboards presented a whole new challenge and was, he says, “one of the most challenging pieces of work I’ve done to date”. Forced to learn numerous new techniques to push the work to suit the shape and function of a skateboard, Patrick had to learn quickly how to design the boards efficiently as the designs incur high production costs on a tight budget. Because he had no prior experience designing for the sport, he approached the brief with a fresh go-with-the-flow attitude.
Taking us through the composition, Patrick says, “We kept them pretty straightforward.” Most of his boards feature a central image between the trucks with some type below. While the execution came naturally to the designer, nailing the concept was the hardest part of the process. He looked to classic airbrush artists for the aesthetic, drawing from 70s and 80s trailblazers such as Peter Palombi, Masao Sato, Philip Castle and Sorayama. While the majority of skateboard designs feature block colours or screen print-style prints (which Patrick remembers well from his teenage years), he wanted to do something different with his designs. “I suppose you could say the graphics pop nicely,” he says.
GalleryCopyright © Patrick Savile, 2021
Taking us through the details of his favourite designs, Patrick takes us on a whistle-stop tour of his boards to date. For his design for Rose Decks, he created a black and gradient board depicting a chromed rose. Briefed to capture a strong image of a rose on the board, he put his own spin on the composition, adding a floating ring and other chrome aspects to the design. “It definitely catches the eye when you see it flying down a stair set,” he says. Patrick uses his own hand as the central element for Shane’s deck and for Diego’s 240sx board, he depicts the skater’s beloved car, his pride and joy. Patrick drew the car by hand directly from a photo reference, making up a couple of details along the way as the photo’s resolution wasn’t clear enough. “A fun nut to crack”, the design saw Patrick take up draughtsman’s techniques to illustrate the car on a reflective floor “which was way harder than I anticipated”, he goes on to say.
Finally, Patrick takes us through two designs for gold medal-winning Yuto Horigome. The first board was designed in honour of Yuto’s first pro deck. To celebrate the fact he is now a pro skater, Yuto’s team planned a photoshoot for him, and in one image, the skateboarder is caked in the face. The board captures this moment and “was real fun to draw,” says Patrick, “I love the detail on it and it’s pretty cool to see how he’s risen to where he is now.” In another design for Yuto, the board pays tribute to all of the skater’s favourite foods. Inspired by a scene in Dragonball Z where Goku chows down a tasty banquet, Yuto’s version features Natto soya beans, noodles, Wagyu beef and many more delicious Japanese delicacies.
On the other side of the world, however, while Patrick was busy illustrating these foody delights he was consuming a very different kind of British staple: Tesco meal deals. Rounding up our interview with a question on how it feels to be part of an Olympic gold medal in some small way, Patrick notes: “It’s a mad one. I’m so blessed to be involved somehow! But mainly I’m so glad Yuto got it, just because of how humble and deserving he was, and I love how perfect it was for him. Riding Mount Fuji, the Tokyo resident takes the first ever Olympic Gold in skating in Tokyo.”
GalleryPatrick Savile, April Skateboards (Copyright © Patrick Savile, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.