Blending beautiful design with the beautiful game

Often, the best results come through combination and collaboration. See Buddle and Donovan, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, peanut butter and jelly. And though The Passport Project—an art initiative born of a love for both beautiful design and the beautiful game—has yet to gain the recognition of these vaunted unions, it is an undertaking that is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

Like most fans, principal designer Edgar Acevedo caught the soccer bug and quickly found that his new passion became his new addiction.

“I started playing on Tuesdays with my colleagues from work, and it just got under my skin,” the San Diego-based designer said. “Tuesdays became Tuesdays and Thursdays, which then became Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. I couldn’t stop."

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Realizing that he was fully fixated on the game, Acevedo thought about how he could integrate his background as an designer—he’s an environmental artist for console gaming heavyweights Rockstar Games, creators of Grand Theft Auto, whose work can be seen in popular games Red Dead Revolver and Midnight Club—into his love of soccer.

The answer was as simple as the game he loves: All you need is a ball, so why not create some?

“After playing so much, I just starting thinking that it would be cool to design a ball, and so I did,” he said. “But the first ball didn’t work too well because I put too much detail into the graphic. So I decided to do another one just for fun, not thinking that I would make it into something bigger."

Soon that fun little art project turned into something much more involved, much more serious with the encouragement of a colleague who soon became his business partner.

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“I started getting super busy at work and put it on the back burner until one day I started talking about it with a coworker,” Acevedo says of initial conversations with backer Chris Furst. “Then we started thinking, 'Well, what about instead of making one ball, we make a few balls? What about instead of having one design artist, we have a few different designers make styles?' It just snowballed from there.”

No longer just an idea, The Passport Project is exactly what Acevedo lays it out to be on the PassportSoccer.com website: a very real intersection of art, design and soccer culture. And while the project centers around the website, which includes a blog and an online store, it is the uniquely designed artist-originated balls that are at the heart of it all.

The initial batch features limited runs of 500 each of three different designs: the "Spades Striker" by Acevedo, a sacred heart-emblazoned beauty by Mexican artist Monica Boluto and George Davis’ Day of the Dead-inspired "El Maestro."

Each ball possesses its own personality and appeal, and even though they are pretty playthings best suited for shelf life than life on the pitch, make no mistake—they are high-quality, NFHS compliant match balls. But could you really kick something as attractive as Boluto’s "Furia en el Corazon?"

Most who have come across the work of The Passport Project seem to be content with just having something nice to look at.

“Everyone who has seen them loves the design and the whole package,” Acevedo said. “It also comes in super-cool bag and with a print.”

With their first run of balls complete, Acevedo and Furst are keeping and eye out for new designers. They may begin work on a line of shirts next with an eye toward making a leap to jerseys somewhere down the road.

“I love a lot of the jersey designs that I see from teams, but I just can’t stand those big logos,” said Acevedo with a laugh. “ Just like with the balls, I think that there is room for something more flattering.”


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