A flick through this year’s (Whitelines!) Buyer’s Guide will demonstrate the formulas being discussed here. Design trends are easily spotted, particularly in the high and low end boards.
“The acceleration of an F-22 Raptor,” boasts the sales pitch of the menacing-looking (and pricey) Burton T6. “More tech than a stealth bomber,” say Atomic of their (all black) Rapture model. To find the more edgy designs you really have to look at the mid to high priced boards aimed at jibbers and freestylers. This where we find younger, more sophisticated riders who know what they want their board to say about them – as David Farcot, Snowboard Design Manager at Salomon, explains.
“On a core freestyle board, we have to be right on the edge, while staying fresh and spontaneous. So we’re focusing on visual impact, colours and all the little cultural references that will position the board within an identified universe.”
Photo: Marcel Lammerhirt
To operate successfully in this more demanding market presents a different set of challenges to designers and the marketing bods who build careers around image making. Here, the designers need to spot trends emerging early on, from a variety of sources, and spin them into graphics that are going to speak to the riders who pride themselves most on knowing what is going down in the world of snowboarding. Focusing exclusively on this ‘core’ demographic, with boards and graphics to suit, has seen the rise of companies like Capita, Dinosaurs Will Die and Bataleon. The kids buying these boards are looking for something alternative, something that is pushing the envelope – in terms of riding, technology and graphics. It’s a fickle and fast moving world, where formulas are uselss and gut instinct plays a central role. “Target market? Design briefs?” laughs Danny at Bateleon, “It just needs to look good, that’s all.” Sean Genovese, rider and founder of Dinosaurs Will Die, agrees: “We don’t think about what our ‘target market’ is going to want. We make what we want and then they can decide if they like it. And hopefully that makes us stand out because we’re not trying to appease anyone except ourselves.”
Recognising the freedom that this approach can have, and the way that certain (influential) riders respond to it, led Burton to create ‘Un-Inc’. Here the Burton mothership has launched an independent department where the designers can play around without tarnishing their overall brand. This has resulted in some great work, including the iconic Un-Inc pig and last year’s ‘animals’ series, which made a mockery of the trend for ‘blood/death/skulls/gnar’ by featuring baby seals, puppies and kittens (“the animal range are graphics of which I am most proud,” says Lance Violette). These boards show what is possible when you lock a group of talented snowboarders and designers in a room with one objective: come up with boards that speak to riders in a way that cuts out all the baggage that has accumulated over the last few years. Back to basics. Back to risk taking. Don’t worry about upsetting mom and pop.
Photo: Basti Gogl
“There was no brief,” recalls Violette, Un-Inc’s original design director. “René [Hansen] brought us all together and did a great job of blocking out the obstacles which exist in the usual process of developing a snowboard graphic. It was just myself and the riders, doing whatever we wanted, pure and clean, direct from our minds to the factory floor with no ‘outside’ involvement. The fact that they let us get away with it is evidence of their commitment to real snowboarding and has been greatly appreciated.”