Role: Digital Art Director, User Experience Designer, Content Designer
How do you bring a company built on selling pieces of cardboard into the digital age? One of Topps’ solutions was an easier way for casual collectors to interact with their cards by using them to win them points (and eventually, digital currency) against real-time events. Blending the ease-of-use of a casual social game with the real-time, real-world action of fantasy sports, Topps envisioned an app platform that digitally recreated the nostalgia of trading sports cards with friends on a street corner—expanding said corner to a global scale: Trade cards with anyone, anytime, anywhere around the globe. The first app to launch would be Topps BUNT, a baseball version geared towards younger collectors (age demo 6-13). But the original design — the UI conceived by an outside agency, where I spearheaded the content and marketing design— was cartoony, limited fans to nine cards at a time, and focused more on unlocking premium avatars than it encouraged downloads, engagement or scale to add much-needed revenue.
Solution: While my original role was to storyboard the concept and journeys (see original sketches on this page) as well as create card content and marketing design, I eventually took over the experience design and matured it while retaining the basic visual style. Additionally, after establishing a deal to bring the experience to football fans by building Topps HUDDLE, I canvassed our existing BUNT fans, diehard enthusiasts who bought Topps product, as well as friends and colleagues who watched football every Sunday to understand the history and gravitas which sets football fans apart from baseball—baseball is pastoral, the experience at the stadium, the food and traditions, the music, the family bonding; football is about the experience watching the GAME. As such, I wanted to find a specific time or place in which football fans could instantly feel transported and immerse themselves in football's most recognizable age. One era set itself apart, the early Monday Night Football years—late seventies, early eighties. And so I altered the design, giving HUDDLE a 1970's Monday Night Football look/feel that captured the low-production quality, phosphor-dot and green-tinged glowing experience of early broadcasts. I revised the customer journeys, user flows and visuals to make it more specific to football, created all of the content and marketing assets including email designs and ancillary landing pages. Here are journeys for Huddle 2012, documenting how to sign in and add cards via trade, as well as how to sit, start and manage cards.
As Topps scaled, we matured the experience further, distancing ourselves from the original demographic as we added socialize features and monetization, aiming for higher demographics. In 2014, I directed design for all content and shepherded the experience direction by overseeing the work of an outside UI designer. In 2016, Topps made a deal to use NFL colors, logos and marks — I art directed the style and patterns of the app, overseeing a staff designer and collaborating with front-end developers to create UI assets (splash, icon, login screens), content (cards, packs, store and news headers) as well as interactions and animation. Sign in/Sign user flows can be seen here, and individual flows around earning coins to buy packs here and here. Finally, here are wireframes highlighting monetization and opening packs, the lifeblood of the Topps apps. Since their inception in 2012, Topps has scaled to eight working apps (including both sports and entertainment), many of which have been featured and achieved high rankings in both the App Store and Google Play Store, and have collectively sold over one billion individual packs.