Designing an ICON

Web3 opens up new possibilities for baseball cards. Here’s how we create them.

Designing an ICON

Web3 opens up new possibilities for baseball cards. Here’s how we create them.

In 2021, we launched MLB ICONs; digital collectibles that celebrate the best players in the game, across all 81 All-Stars and 30 of the season’s top prospects. Each ICON card included two video highlights and four unique player images. The Candy ICON collection encompasses five rarity tiers that range from core to legendary, each increasing in visual content and complexity. ICONs celebrate the story of the player through the lens of design, animation and emerging tech. Here’s a guide to how they’re created. 

Creating a spectrum of player stories.

Over the course of a season, and the span of a career—iconic players emerge; reshaping the game in their image. Our goal is to capture and represent the essence of an iconic athlete: showcasing them in multiple poses, various uniforms and capturing both candid and highlight worthy moments alike. Candy’s MLB ICONs feature five rarities: Core, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, and Legendary: each designed to celebrate all aspects and angles of a players style. Core represents the most simple of the variants (single image, no video). Uncommon introduces a secondary image to the same composition. Rare evolves into an alternate hero image with a secondary player and video highlight. Epic and Legendary include longer video highlights, player signatures, and another set of unique player imagery.

Drawing inspiration from pop culture, and baseball lore. 

When we look for player visuals to include in ICON collections, our goal is to identify the images with impact: the style and personality that epitomize a player’s performance. From there, we embark on a process of visual exploration to determine the spectrum of design elements and content to incorporate into each ICON. 

Every ICON collection is meant to encapsulate a general tone and personality that proudly features the player in a heroic way. We’re baseball lifers and immerse ourselves in baseball culture, history and beyond. We find inspiration in the annals of past card designs; in the way baseball is brought to life through new eras of tv broadcast and in-stadium experiences, in the way MLB uniforms are tailored, hemmed and stitched, and how they’ve changed over time. We also draw inspiration from visual effects, gaming, and the arts.

Design that evolves with the community.

Each season brings a new roster with renewed aspirations that inspire our outlook on the league—which shifts to meet the mood of the moment.  Our approach to design is iterative, and our goal is to refine each collection until we find balance between cohesion and diversity. Every MLB ICON, regardless of collection or rarity tier, has design elements that are unique to itself, because every MLB player and team has its dedicated fans, regardless of leaderboard rankings.

In addition to these dynamic design elements, many ICONs feature a unique badge that commemorates a specific milestone or achievement. Existing badges include:

  • First Mint Badge - marks the first time a player is featured in a Candy ICON or Insert
  • ICONs Rookie Mint -indicates that the ICON, Chaser, or Insert was minted during the player's rookie season
  • ICONs Rookie Year - indicates that the ICON, Insert, or Chaser features the player's rookie season

Candy considers a player to be in their Rookie season if they debut before August 1st of that season. Every season brings a new cast of characters with their own CandyICONs, and you never know which first-year players will be the next sleeper hit.

The tools of the trade. 

After Effects: This is our main tool for creating bespoke designs that incorporate motion graphics, highlight footage, and 3D renders in an integrated and cohesive way. While most elements are conceived in an application like Photoshop or Illustrator, we most always rebuild in After Effects for further scalability and enhancement. Every player and highlight used in an ICON receives a color correction pass and pan-and-scan capability where we can visually center and scale footage. After Effects is also helpful for a range of other design needs, from rotoscoping our 2023 Future Inserts to adding dynamic design elements to Candy’s Moment Boxes and Anthony Rizzo promo videos.

Photoshop & Illustrator: Photoshop and Illustrator are the industry go-to’s  for creating primitive elements that are then imported to other tools to create more dynamic effects. Illustrator is helpful for creating vector-based assets such as logos and typographic lockups, while Photoshop is used to create most of the custom texture sets you see in our ICONs, including foils, metals, chromes, and glasses.

Maya: Maya is a piece of 3D software that allows us to model, light and texture our digital assets from the ground up, and is massively useful for creating bespoke collectibles within and beyond Candy’s ICON ecosystem. This tool is where creative assets like the Jackie Robinson & Lou Gehrig busts, and Championship rings were born.

Real Time Candy: Our proprietary visual database that allows us to design and distribute our ICONs in a scalable and automated way. RTC provides uniformity in our ICONs system by serving as a cloud based container for every player, team, stadium and their associated image and data. Daily data pulls from SportRadar, which tracks everything from individual player to team data and everything in between like weather and length of game, is also ingested into RTC and used to populate the content of ICONs.

Unreal Engine: Candy’s team has also introduced Unreal Engine to our pipeline as a production tool that allows our 3D assets to render quicker and opens the opportunity of exploring a range of video game-like interactivity that we’re excited to continue exploring as we bring new ideas and techniques in to the ICON design ecosystem. 

Each MLB ICON is designed to capture a milestone and create a memory as the season's story unfolds in MLB. Our mission is to empower fans to bring the game home and create their place on the field. We’re here for your input. Join the conversation on Discord.