In the past several months around the sports card blogosphere, a lot of a time has been spent writing and reading about the companies’ lackluster design attempts and the recycling of those poor design styles. This topic has recently been touched on a lot with the announcement that Upper Deck has now lost its NBA and MLB licenses in just a few months span. I often hear people complain that year after year, certain product lines continually reuse the same awful card designs, despite critical reviews and slumping sales.
I try not to get too worked up about brands being similar two or more years in a row. After all, this has been happening for a long time. In the 1960s and 70s, card companies often reused photographs from one year to the next, let alone had similar card designs. I do, however, have an issue with several products in the same year that look almost identical, and I’m not talking about Upper Deck’s flagship being the same for each major sport in a given year. This year, in the span of just over a month, Panini will release four separate football products. Not only do 2009 Score and 2009 (Leaf) Rookies & Stars have spin off products that are essentially glorified parallel sets (Score Inscriptions and Rookies & Stars Longevity, respectively), they also look like rip-offs of each other. Take the images below for an exhibit. The top row features scans of 2009 Score inserts while the bottom row shows 2009 Rookies & Stars inserts:
Notice any similarities? Let’s see…photo cut-out of player on very loud background…check. Random “paint splashes” and other crazy shapes…check. Needless diagonal lines poorly incorporated into the design…check. Mostly white background with either odd pastel or maybe team colors on aforementioned splashes and shapes…check. Some cards incorporating a design that only shows a cut-out of the player from the waist up…check. Text moving in multiple directions on the same card…check. Set logo appearing in an area of the card where it could easily be swaped out for the logo of another set produced by the same company…check.
To me, what we have here is just poor decision making. When I first saw images from 2009 Score, I admit I liked it. There is a huge movement towards guaranteed “hits” and high-end products while kids and budget collectors (especially in today’s economy) are left with very few collecting options. 2009 Score had a low-end feel to it, and a price point to match. Cool. Then 2009 Leaf Rookies and Stars came out and I noticed a troubling thing. They are essentially the exact same product. The only difference? Leaf Rookies and Stars promises a bunch more hits and each box will yield you less than half as many cards as a box of Score, but will cost you more than twice as much. So really, Panini has acquired two fairly old name brands that were very different, completely destroyed both of them, and then passed them off as Crap and Crap Deluxe, because R&S is really just Score with more inserts and hits. I can understand going through a dry spell. I’m sure we’ve all experienced writer’s block or creative constipation. But it appears as though Panini has one guy in charge of creating designs for all non-Donruss brands and he was only able to come up with one concept…so he just made some subtle differences and passed it off as two separate product lines. Poor form, Panini. Poor form.
Remember when Score and Leaf Rookies & Stars were two separate entities and appealed to different markets while looking completely different…because they really were two separate products? I do: