Designer Limelight: Charles Sollars

We would like to introduce the community to one of MESH01’s newest members, Charles Sollars.  Many of you, like me, may have stumbled across his work while searching for the new 2012 NFL uniforms.  His faux uniform designs have generated over 2 million views to his flickr account in just 60 days.

Hey Charles, can you tells us about your background in design?
I have no real design background. I do photography, I paint, I doodle, I took art in high school, but no art school or any high level formal training. I just know what I like and what I don’t like.  I want to be able to learn in a higher ed art school setting but with out someone else paying for it I can’t afford to go back to school.

What inspired you to start redesigning team football helmets and uniforms?
I saw the new Missouri helmet on the web months before it was known to be the helmet and I didn’t like it. I talked to some people and was like I can do better and they should do this. So, I downloaded a free trial of the newest photoshop and tried to make something better. I think my Mizzou helmet kills the one NIKE did and the uniform for that matter. I did Mizzou and the Chiefs and then people started telling me to do more and I just kept doing it because the demand just kept growing.

By now you must have spun hundreds of professional and college football uniforms, any favorites?

It is well over a thousand at this point. I like the Chiefs headdress helmet, the tiger head Mizzou, LSU wrap, several of the ravens helmets, the corn Nebraska ones because I love the idea of butter stickers for big plays, the Bama ghosted houndstooth, the Nebraska blackshirts skull helmet, the army hat helmet, the jags helmet, some of the terps ones I like because I think I did a better job than UA did, the seahawks, some of the cal ones, and the Oregon ducks full mascot uni I really would love to see Nike run those out this year.

I am sure you have heard some feedback from fans of the various teams.  How has the response been?
Response has been really good I have had 2.1+ million views on my flickr account alone, 4,000 or 5,000 sites have covered my stuff everyone from yahoo to the smallest blog. Most everyone loves the helmets except for the die hard traditionalist at some schools but even people that say they hate uniform change have said they would be fine with some of my designs. The biggest feedback that I get is why hasn’t someone hired you yet, are these real, and I hope we get these.

How about the fans of teams with “untouchable” designs, like the Oakland Raiders or my personal favorite the Pittsburgh Steelers?
I actually had a feature on a few Raiders only sites. Most of the fans were cool with the idea but only on a special one or two time kind of thing. The logo removing the mask to show the skull face was really popular. The Steelers fans all liked the one that had the logo on a rusted beam looking background. Several fans wanted to buy a print of that design. I don’t think any fans want to see my designs replace the classic looks of any team like the raiders, steelers, sooners, and so on but for a one time thing most people like it if nothing else so they have new team stuff to buy. I know I feel the same way with the Chiefs, I am a huge Chiefs fan but if you have a white and a red uni you have the entire uniform collection since the team started there are no alt or throwback for them which is cool because it is classic but on the other hand it sucks.

Anyone approached you about turning your designs a reality?
I have been in talks with Va Tech and Illinois. We are currently trying to get a real helmet made to determine pricing and build time to see if it is something the schools can first afford to do and then get approved. The Illini Chief helmet is also in the prototype stage but only as a fan item since the school doesn’t use anything Native American related anymore.

Now I noticed that many of your designs put the mascot front and center.  Does your experience as the Springfield Cardinal mascot have anything to do with this? Sorry had to ask. :D No, not at all. I just like the cartoon mascots of some teams better than the blah logos they use. I mean KU has a sweet mascot logo but they use the letters k u on all their stuff, same can be said for Oregon, Ok State, and a bunch of other schools. All of my designs are meant to be a one time special kind of design for 95% of the designs. Some of the NFL ones are everyday but most of the NCAA designs I was thinking once maybe twice a year kind of thing so why not bring in something fun either with the size, color, or logo or all 3 for some.

Where can we go to see more of your work?
You can see all of my work on my flickr account. I also tweet my new designs @charlessollars, tumblr, and youtube also have some stuff but the full collection is on flickr the designs are set up by team, conference, ncaa, nfl, and finally full uniform

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Be sure to check out Charles Sollar’s profile