Behind the Design: 2024 Topps Series 1

Behind the Design of 2024 Topps Series 1

Date: Feb 14, 2024
Topics: 2024 Topps Series 1, Baseball, How To Collect
Length: 999 Words
Reading Time: ~5 Minutes

As Topps releases its flagship product 2024 Topps Series, collectors from all walks of life are in for a joyous ride. With its rich history and innovation, Series 1 has become synonymous with baseball card collecting, capturing the essence of each MLB season in vivid detail. Leading the charge in crafting this year’s iteration is Topps lead designer Robert Grabe, whose creative vision and dedication to authenticity promise to deliver an unforgettable collector experience.

Grabe provides insight into the brainstorming and refinement process for the 2024 Topps Series 1, emphasizing the collaborative and exploratory nature of the initial stages. He reveals, “Before we get started every year, we kind of brainstorm ideas that we’d like to see or try or maybe find something we haven’t done in recent years.” These ideas, he explains, serve as guiding principles rather than strict directives, offering the team a framework within which to experiment and innovate. One such idea that emerged was the placement of the team name at the top of the card, a concept with nostalgic echoes from previous designs.

The Process

Grabe elaborates on the part of the Series 1 process where fans are involved in selecting design ideas. “We probably showed 12 designs to start, before narrowing down. There are different factors considered beyond aesthetics. We also look at feasibility, tech, grading, how it’ll translate to other products and sports, etc. Really trying to forecast how it’ll hold up along its entire life-cycle.” Once the team narrowed down their ideas and produced sample cards with the selected designs and technologies. Grabe reflects, “Once we got down to 3-4 designs, we got some sample cards printed up with some of the tech we were looking to use. I think this, something physical to hold in your hand, is what sealed the deal for me. ‘Alright, this will work!'”

Delving into the evolutionary process that led to the adoption of a neon-inspired aesthetic for the Series 1 design, Grabe shares, “I didn’t set out to make a ‘neon design,’ but I wanted to make some sort of team-color frame and that led into a process of finding something we haven’t done before or recently.” This pursuit of novelty and vibrancy gradually coalesced into the development of a neon-infused theme, characterized by bold colors and dynamic visual elements. Grabe remarks, “Once I’d started working around having a glow, it evolved pretty quickly into having that neon look.”

Reflecting on the technical challenges encountered during the design process, particularly in crafting the team names at the top of each card, Grabe explains, “Neon tubes are the same diameter through the whole light, so I needed the font to be that way as well.” This attention to detail required Grabe to construct representations for all 30 teams, leagues, and even retired teams, ensuring consistency and readability across the set. Despite the complexity of this task, Grabe’s dedication to authenticity and quality prevailed.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Grabe expresses his enthusiasm for the collaborative spirit that defines the creation of Series 1, likening the process to a “huge jam band” where diverse talents converge to create something greater than the sum of its parts. He remarks, “Series 1 is so big that the entire department chips in on it, working on one aspect or another.” This collaborative approach fosters a rich tapestry of ideas and inspirations, resulting in a product that reflects the collective vision and passion of the entire design team.
In discussing the new inserts and subsets introduced in the 2024 Series 1, Grabe emphasizes the team’s dedication to crafting experiences that resonate with collectors. He asserts, “Everyone who works on this is a fan and a collector,” underscoring their shared passion for the hobby. Grabe assures collectors that the selections are curated with care, drawing from their own experiences and preferences as enthusiasts. This alignment between creators and collectors ensures that the series delivers on both aesthetic appeal and nostalgic value.

Grabe’s sentiment underscores the team’s commitment to authenticity and enjoyment in their work. He adds, “We make these things, we know what’s in the box, and we’re still giddy when we open them up.” This passion translates into every aspect of the design process, ensuring that each insert and subset reflects the collective enthusiasm of the team.

2024 Favs

When asked about his favorite insert or subset in the series, Grabe reflects on the collaborative nature of Series 1’s creation. He shares, “Series 1 has got to be the biggest thing we work on all year. The overall design department is broken into smaller teams, and those teams will typically take on a whole product by themselves.” Grabe explains that Series 1 is a collective effort where designers from different teams collaborate to produce a cohesive and diverse range of inserts and subsets. He adds, “So it becomes like a huge jam band and you get to work with people you don’t normally get to work with on every project.” Grabe enjoys seeing the variety of ideas and inspirations that emerge from this collaborative process, highlighting the tremendous diversity and creativity that it fosters.

Grabe also teases some exciting additions to the series, mentioning, “There’s some City Connect stuff in here that should be fun to say. Some things from Around The Game that are part of it should be popular as well.” These additions promise to add depth and excitement to the Series 1 collection, offering collectors new and engaging experiences.

Acknowledging the significance of featuring Ronald Acuña as the cover athlete, Grabe affirms, “And as far as an individual player’s influence goes, that’s somebody’s favorite player on somebody’s favorite team.” By honoring Acuña’s contribution to the game with such a unique design, Grabe seeks to create a set that resonates with collectors of all allegiances, fostering a sense of connection and appreciation for the sport and its athletes.

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