A Moment of Recognition

Comparison of two versions of hand drawn "Baseball" type

MLB’s “Baseball” from 2014 (top) and ours from 1989.

When you hand draw type, you become very closely acquainted with that particular piece of language. After spending days with it, you would recognize it anywhere—kind of like how you would instantly recognize one of your own children, even if they were a block away and walking in the opposite direction. I recently had a fun moment like this with the word “Baseball.”

In 1989 (twenty-five years ago!) Mary Parsons and I designed a wonderful book by photographer John Weiss called The Face of Baseball. It contained a stunning collection of portraits of some of the best known players in the game. John Weiss’s photography had a rich, burnished, old-world feel to it and we decided to make the cover typography similarly “old-timey.” After looking at lots of historical uniform typography, we decided to draw our own version of the word “Baseball” that would pay  homage to the history of the game.

So the other day, being a huge baseball fan myself (Go Sawx!), I’m reading the latest news on my MLB At-Bat app when I stumble across a full-screen ad for “RBI Baseball 14.” And that word “Baseball” jumps right out at me as being one of my own.

There’s no question that the designer completely redrew this lettering. And, as you might expect, he or she improved it in a number of interesting ways. But there is also no doubt that the designer had our twenty-five year-old book right there on their desk when they did it. This is the way hand-lettering works, of course. I had countless sources on my desk in 1989 when I drew my version. My version was one of the sources on their desk when they drew theirs.


JIM GIBSON earned his BA in English (yes, English) from the University of Virginia. Nevertheless, he has enjoyed a long career in the graphic arts that spans a broad set of technologies, skills, and interests. Since the early 1980s he has operated his own design studio with an impressive list of satisfied clients.