Craig Ward was commissioned to design a piece for P&G’s Olympic campaign, he spoke to US gymnast Alicia Sacramone about how to bring the type to life. They felt that chalk dust best captured an athlete’s energy

Craig Ward: Fear

Craig Ward was commissioned by ad agency Leo Burnett Chicago to design a typographic piece for P&G’s Olympic campaign. The concept centred around athletes’ fear of potential failure at the 2012 games, and he created a font to accompany a photograph of US gymnast Alicia Sacramone, who at the 2008 Beijing Olympics fell from the high beam during her routine. 

Alicia and Craig discussed how to bring the type to life, and athlete’s chalk dust, used for a good grip, felt appropriate. He first ground up chalk sticks and fashioned felt pads to hold as much of the material as possible. However, the chalk that athletes use is extremely fine, so Craig also added some flour to the mix. “I enlisted my wife Lisa’s help in creating clouds of chalk as if they we’re bursting out from an athlete’s hands as they clapped them together or when they land on their hands,” he explains. He photographed the action against a black background with a high speed flash to capture the detail.

Around 75 of the 300 images he shot were used, and composited in Photoshop to create the typography. The lettering needed the energy of impact, as well as a softness as the chalk dissipated. Each letter used around 25 to 30 images, according to Craig.

“[Such a hands-on approach] is always a lot more work but the stories you get afterwards are worth their weight in gold,” he believes. “People really respond to that.”