Designing an INDYCAR Livery
Written by Loxley Browne
When you are watching F1, Indycar or Funny Car races do you ever think about the paint scheme and who creates that look for the team? Livery design is the key marketing tool used to show the story of each team and those who support them. Some are attention grabbing, some are subtle, and the bright pink catches your eye every time…. you know who we’re talking about don’t you? Even if you can’t name the brand, you know THAT color on their race cars.
One of the things that impressed me the most about these young Athenians was how well they presented their projects and the depth in which they went to explain their creative process not only in representing the Carvana and Athena Racing brands but also the personal meaning and message the students were putting across. The Athena Racing students are clearly being provided all the tools and support needed to help reach any goal’s they desire.”
–Mike Le Gallic, Chip Ganassi Racing
When Carvana approached us about the “Driven to Donate” fundraiser with the #48 Chip Gannassi Racing car driven by Jimmie Johnson as a fundraiser to provide awareness of our #GirlsinSTEM program, the idea of our brand being on the livery of a race car became a fun learning project for a Spring Intensive.
Our team immediately thought of the importance of teaching our Athenians what it takes to create a livery, or to those non-racing folks, a paint scheme. So many of our Athenians are artists and a project like this feeds their creative exploration into jobs related to the automotive and motorsports industries. They come to Athena Racing for the curiosity of what type of jobs are out there and what skills they need to learn, then they hone in on the projects that really spark their interest.
For example, we have a future medical doctor building our FABcamp project, a BMW 318 driving simulator, this year. In the future, she’ll have firsthand experience of what it takes to actually build a medical device from her summers of leading fabrication projects. Experience she would not have gotten without first getting her hands dirty as an Athenian.
As usual, our CEO started plugging her network of contacts into what our Athenians need to learn:
• What is a livery?
• How to take so many ideas and turn it into a great paint scheme design.
• How to turn that design into a graphic and how does that get onto the car?
We had three intensive sessions where we brought in the experts to assist in explaining the process. Then the Beethoven of our time for automotive and livery design, Dave Marek, the Executive Creative Director for Honda Acura, livery designer for Ron Capps Motorsports, and an instructor at the Art Center College of Design led our Athenians through three months of livery design. He explained the process of design, showed the timeline of years and a hundred or more livery designs he has created for NAPA and Ron Capp’s funny car team, talked over the regulations for the design, and explained how to digitize the artwork. Using a template designed specifically to print the wrap of an INDYCAR, he explained how the graphics are printed in specialized shapes to wrap onto the car.
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And to wrap it up (pun intended), we called in the graphics and car wrap expert at Chip Gannassi Racing, Michael Harmon, to walk us through the process. Leading the graphics department for the race team, he is in charge of maintaining all of the liveries on their race cars and developing the special one-off liveries for special occasions – like Jimmie Johnson’s car at the INDYCAR race in Portland International Raceway having our special Athena Racing livery.
When the day of the final presentation came, our Athenians were ready. Each presented a portion of the design process – the colors, the brand, the design process, and the current livery – and then we wowed the judges with our designs.
Our three Athenians – Heleina Cicero, Andrea Chan, and Sachi Goel – gave college-level presentations of the designs they had created and the meaning behind the design.
Keep scrolling to see the five livery designs that were presented to our audience.
LIVERY DESIGN #1
“DON’T RUN AWAY FROM CHALLENGES, RUN TOWARDS THEM.”
Q: How was it pitching to such an esteemed audience? What was your favorite part?
A: I enjoyed presenting to everyone when the final graphics were ready. Having experience with public speaking in the past through Athena Racing, I didn’t feel nervous or worried- instead I was excited. It felt great to be able to share the design board process, drafts, and final images, and those there to watch and give feedback were enthusiastic and encouraging.
Q: What was your favorite part of designing the livery?
A: My favorite part of designing the livery was the learning process. I enjoyed being able to approach creating the design from a problem-solving mindset as if it were a puzzle- combining my own creative ideas and preferences with the Athena Racing brand. It was amazing to see the final digitized images of the car that exhibited all of our hard work.
Listening to Dave Marek talk about designing the same funny car for years in a row and coming up with a new design each time, the amount of years that he has worked at Honda and helped to shape the brand, and his years of teaching at the Art Center.
To have Mr. Dave Marek assist us was a great opportunity because he knew exactly how to explain each step of the process to help us understand how to create a livery- something none of us had ever done before at such a young age. Seeing different ways he approached creating a new design numerous times for a car he worked on a while prompted me to try to look at this task from different angles.
LIVERY DESIGN #2
“IF OPPORTUNITY DOESN’T KNOCK, BUILD A DOOR.” ~Milton Berle
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LIVERY DESIGN #3
“THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORDINARY AND EXTRAORDINARY IS THAT LITTLE EXTRA.” ~Jimmie Johnson
Q: How did having Michael Harmon at Chip Ganassi Racing taking us through the steps of creating the graphics – graphic design, printing, and installing the wrap on the car – expand your idea of job opportunities for artists in the motorsports world?
A: Michael Harmon at Chip Ganassi Racing took the time to take us through the steps of creating graphics, printing the wrap, and putting the wrap on the car. He helped to show the logistical aspects that needed to be taken into account when designing a livery. A livery design must be complex and interesting enough to stand out in the crowd, but when designing you have to remember that it can’t be so complex that the team won’t be able to put it together. When a car is wrapped, it is wrapped in pieces, so there is some wiggle room when piecing the design together. Mr. Harmon also took us through the timeline of wrapping a car. He explained in-depth about the effort and the precision of wrapping a car and getting it ready. It was interesting to learn another aspect of livery design and one of the final steps before the car is on the racetrack.
Q: What was your favorite part of designing the livery and working with Dave Marek?
A: My favorite part of designing the livery was the drawing aspect. I had taken the time to look into stylistic aspects that spoke or were the pillars of the brand. I had the pleasure of finding the stylistic aspects that fit together and then blending them to represent all three brands and showcase the car in an appealing way. Sometimes ideas just came to mind while other times repetition helped build upon design concepts that worked on the livery. My final design came together with the help of a group brainstorming and the constant repetition of drawing and finding what fits best based upon what concept I aimed for the livery to display.
Q: Listening to Dave Marek talk about – designing the same funny car for years in a row and coming up with a new design each time, the amount of years that he has worked at Honda and helped to shape the brand, and his years of teaching at the ArtCenter College of Design – what was your favorite part of working with Dave? What will stick with you about our experience with him?
A: Listening to and working with Dave was such a pleasurable experience. With his experience, it was interesting to see how he tackled the assignment that was given. He was able to incorporate the brand but add his own stylistic touch to it.
LIVERY DESIGN #4
“THE IMPORTANT WORK OF MOVING THE WORLD FORWARD DOES NOT WAIT TO BE DONE BY PERFECT MEN” ~George Eliot
LIVERY DESIGN #5
Group Collaboration Design
“IT TAKES TEAMWORK TO MAKE THE DREAM WORK.” ~said everyone with experience
As you can see, our team of high school girls produced professional work at an expert level. Which livery would you choose?!?
The Judging Panel Representing Athena Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Carvana and HPD were:
Anna Chatten – Gearbox Mechanic, Chip Gannassi Racing
Michael Le Gallic – 48 Car Crew Chief, Chip Gannassi Racing
Kyle Clark – Sub-Assembly Manager at Chip Ganassi Racing
Michael Harmon – Graphic Coordinator, Chip Gannassi Racing
Dave Marek – Executive Creative Director Acura, Honda
Kelvin Fu – Vice President, Honda Performance Development
Racheal Garozzo – Senior Graphics Designer, Carvana
Sabrina Reyes Dods – Board of Directors, Athena Racing
John Hayes – Board of Directors, Athena Racing
Kristen Finley Brown – Board of Advisors, Athena Racing
Written by Loxley Browne
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Commander Blythe Blakistone is a 2002 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and an Information Professional Officer in the U.S. Navy.
BOARD MEMBER Sean Yoder “Passion can take you a long way in any career path and learning how to cultivate passion into opportunity is something I truly feel changes the world."Nemesis Labs FOUNDER & CEOSean started riding moto-cross at the age of 4 and racing at...
Zachary Sharpell is a mechanical engineer at Qualcomm and start-Up founder in variety of industries including clean energy, blockchain & AI app development.