Disc Sport Icon Design


A set of flying disc sport icons I created for Flying Disc Magazine. These icons were created as part of the redesign of Flying Disc Magazine (of which I was also the designer). The client wanted to expand the magazine further out from the original focus on disc golf to include additional flying disc sports. We needed to figure out a way to indicate that different magazine articles and columns were associated with the different sports.

I am sure most readers will not be aware of most disc sports outside of Ultimate, Freestyle and perhaps Dog Disc, so a little background…

Disc golf is probably the most known of the ‘unknown’ disc sports. If you aren’t familiar, it’s played similar to ball golf, but with specialized flying discs or “Frisbees”. The holes are steel baskets with chains to deaden the disc flight and let it drop into the basket.

Guts is a type of “kill the man” game, with players lined up in opposing rows, and they fight for the disc.

Freestyle is well-known, basically the “fancy tricks” players. Ultimate is basically “Frisbee football”, and Dog Disc is like Freestyle, but incorporating dogs.

Initially, the client wanted small characters or something similar to accomplish this, but at such a small scale I recommended against it. Disc golf was a no-brainer, with the basket being such a recognizable icon in itself. Dog disc also seemed pretty self explanatory. I started working on some ideas in Illustrator:


Two problems with these icons: first, they are not unified at all. Besides the circle enclosing them, but that is not going to cut it. Second, I started realizing that they did not give any impression of the sports themselves. In one way, an insider might get the idea of what each icon stood for, but the icons themselves shouldn’t need a translator. To translate (from left to right): Ultimate, Guts, Disc Golf, Dog Disc. The last issue was not having a clue how to represent “freestyle”. This approach was abandoned pretty quickly.

Next, I thought maybe I should give the client’s character-based icons a go:


I did work up sketches for these, but the finals aren’t too far from the sketch. I actually like these quite a bit, but they run into a new problem: these are going to be very difficult to discern, especially when placed in the magazine at a small enough size that they won’t be obnoxious. The tapering lines were going to get lost, and I knew it. I had to shelve these as well.

My new rule for the icons was that all had to incorporate a mid-air flying disc in the same spot in each icon. This would help make the distinction between each more clear, as it made the variation a bit familiar, but also drew your attention to the specific variation. This would also reinforce the concept of ‘disc sport’ in each icon.

Here’s the rough sketch I worked up to pitch the idea to the client:


For me, this was a ‘bingo’ moment. I knew these were “it”. I don’t actually recall the client’s first impression, but I can say that the finals based off of this concept were the ones we ended up using:

coghill-disc-sport-iconsDisc golf got the green because you play on typically grassy courses. The red of the Guts icon was supposed to play off the aggressive “kill the man” nature of the sport. Freestyle is such a laid-back sort I though a sky blue worked well. Dog disc had to be dog brown. And for Ultimate, well the choices were slim and it sure wasn’t going to be pink…

In the end the client really liked how these came out, as did I. I think they accomplished everything they needed to in a clear, concise and stylish manner.