James Harden is an oddity. The way he plays, the way he emotes, the way he celebrates a victory. The dude is an unrivaled personality in the game of basketball. And it’s not just because of the thick, unbridled, magnificent specimen of a beard the guy rocks. He’s a force on the court, and an incredible asset to the Adidas Basketball community.
The Harden Vol. 1 is the first Adidas Basketball Shoe sporting his name, and it’s as disruptive to the traditional design of basketball shoes as Harden is to the game. From asymmetrical lacing, to the finish and materials…everything about the Vol. 1 is made to challenge expectations. But seriously, that beard right?
The team at Adidas nailed it with their print. A black and white image of Harden with white bars of static replacing his eyes. It’s a striking image that takes liberties with their star talent in ways the other guys wouldn’t dare. It set the stage for what we could do in motion, and carry into other aspects of the campaign. Harden is a disruption. The design of the Vol. 1 is a disruption. So it goes to figure that his campaign would also be a disruption.
Our design phase took us to places where we challenged traditional legibility in advertising. Reversing typography, flipping it upside down and spreading the characters so far apart that it becomes a puzzle for the viewer to put together in their head. We challenged the flow of the spot and how smooth and seamless elements blended together versus elements disrupting each other, almost stepping on each other in the edit. We explored as many ways of disrupting the ad as we could, and pieced together the ones that worked best.
Datamoshing. The glitch edit became the language that we used to sew all our elements together. It’s a combination of a ton of techniques filtered through a very practical, real datamosh. Once we had a solid edit on our hands, we went into the code of the quicklime and deleted a few lines that set up the key-frames. Without the key-frames, quicklime didn’t know what image to land on, and would attempt to interpolate the image. The results was a very real, and very cool, data mosh effect.
The idea of “oddity” navigated us in how we shot the shoe. This was not a standard turn table shoot. It was a time for us to carry the disruption of the glitch edit into real life.
We challenged the traditional turntable shoot by replacing the turn table with a high speed camera. Our shoot was split into two setups: High-speed and a practical light array. The light array was a nod to the static lines of the print design, but also gave us a practical lighting rig to glitch out, casting light back onto the product. We set it up so that one single red light would disrupt the grid, dropping diagonally to reveal the product.
The rest of the shoot was high speed moments; dropping the shoe against a concrete pad, spinning it in awkward ways, and tumbling it across a surface to get angles of the product design features in weird ways. Our final shot was a single hand holding the product glitching through horizontal lines to “offer” this shoe to the masses.
Harden’s Image. We had a roster of still photography of Harden at our disposal. They worked perfect in a glitch edit that relies on distress to build animated energy. His eyes punched through, the image of Harden screaming, mid court handling the ball. We had to balance the edit with Harden’s image and the image of the product.
Break Through. A key image in the print, the idea of Harden offering up his shoes to the masses in the weirdest way possible. It comes off as a disembodied hand reaching through the ether with these striking symbols of Adidas design.
The Shoe. At the end of the day, we’re selling shoes. As crazy and glitched as the piece got, we had to feature their wonderfully odd design at key moments. We used typography to continue the energy of the glitch, and use mirrored images to maintain a sense of “odd” while heroing a beauty shot of the product.
This was as much about creating a spot as striking as Harden’s personality as it was about giving Adidas a wealth of subversive imagery with which to build a social presence. After all, everything we do now finds its way into the frames of a looping animated gif. But here, it’s a natural fit. The disruption of the glitch effect gave us a place to hide brief moments of Harden breaking through the noise. Like a modern poltergeist, his screaming image tears through an otherwise glossy image of his product.
Real Beard. Real Glitches.
The Harden Vol. 1 is one of those products you hold in your hand with some reverence. Every angle is thoughtfully designed to challenge conventions, and we love that. So much so, we’re rocking a pair as we type this. Working with the Adidas team to craft a spot as unique as the shoes they designed was a liberating experience. We had the space we needed to play, and to experiment with, a handful of techniques on set and off.
We look forward to seeing where Harden and Adidas go with the brand and their set of techniques that worked together to bring this campaign to life. From the onset we were concerned that if we created a piece with too many techniques we’d be left with a lack of cohesion. We’re happy we found the balance in the crazy that is Harden. Their first shoe out feels as striking as when we held onto our first pair of Jordan’s. They’re on to something here.