Matt Stevens is a dreamer, which comes in handy in his work as a graphic designer in Charlotte. So when his friend Ryan Kalil, the Panther Pro Bowl center, asked him recently to imagine what the Panthers' history would look like if the team had been founded a long time ago instead of in 1995, Stevens couldn't stop thinking about it.
As a personal project, with no endorsement from or affiliation with the Panthers, Stevens decided to imagine a logo and brand history for the Panthers if they had been founded in 1955 instead of 1995.
The results are pretty stunning if you're into that kind of stuff. Stevens said he put "about 30 hours" of work into the project, which he then posted on his own blog. I'm reprinting some of his work here, but if you want to know more about how he did all this, I'd recommend checking out this post. The level of detail is amazing, as Stevens not only designed a fake logo, but also a fake game program and fake football cards (Kalil's name is hidden in one of them -- notice the guy on the left is a made-up player named Bryan Lilak (which is "Kalil" backwards.)
Stevens, 42, grew up in Asheville, graduated from UNC Charlotte in 1994 and has lived in Charlotte ever since. After working in small to mid-sized graphic design and branding shops for most of his career, he opened his own company two years ago. His is a small, one-person office in the Cotswold area. He has a wife and three children and did one of the sketches for the program cover while waiting for a pizza at Hungry Howie's on a Friday night to bring home to them.
This sort of "on spec" project thing has worked for him before. He has obsessed with Nike shoes in the 1980s and so he did some creative illustrations about one particular brand of Nikes not long ago. Nike saw them and eventually hired him for a project. He has also done work for Facebook and Pinterest.
"I like to do things I'm passionate about," Stevens said. "And I'm a huge football fan and a huge Panther fan, so this made sense."
Stevens got to know Kalil when he designed a logo for a charitable foundation that Kalil does some work with called "LittleKings.org," and the designer began to realize quickly that Kalil was no dumb jock.
"Ryan has all sorts of creative interests," Stevens said. "Movies, comics, design -- he's into lots of stuff."
After Stevens finished the project, he put the work on his website Monday. Kalil gave it an online boost by sending out the link on Twitter, and the link has since been picked up by one of Sports Illustrated's website and several other national sites. Stevens said his personal website usually draws around 500 hits a day, but that increased to about 12,500 per day this week.
Based on feedback Stevens has gotten, the most popular part of his design seems to be the black Panther on top of the silhouette of North and South Carolina. So he's making a modified version of that one into a T-shirt, figuring he will sell at least a few of them at $30 each. It won't outsell the "Ice Up, Son" T-shirts, but I think it's cool, as is the rest of this stuff. Stevens didn't imagine any results for the team in these 40 "lost" seasons -- I guess he's going to leave that to you. (All the pictures reproduced here are used with Stevens' permission).