You can't walk around The Jake (no, we don't use that other name around here) without seeing something that Nick Pietravoia has done. You don't know his name, but if you glance around the ballpark, his hand is everywhere. From the art inside the concourse to the game programs, from the beaming faces of players plastered along Carnegie and Ontario to signage, none of it happens without Nick. He's the team's lead graphic designer and his employer, Contempo Communications, works every day to make the Tribe's artistic vision become reality.
Vince Grzegorek: So, what exactly do you do, Mr. Graphic Designer?
: We have a contract with the team. I'm the senior designer. I work on all the projects for the Indians – we have about 500 going on, from seating bowl murals to huge wall graphics to the Terrace Club Lobby. We just did a bunch of work for the premium club they just opened. We do the yearbook every year – a nice 100-page magazine with different stories. It's 500 little and big projects inside and outside of the stadium, which is especially cool if you're a baseball fan.
So Larry Dolan wants a new mural in his office and you're the guy he calls?
We do a lot of stuff like that. They just redid all the front office artwork. They had all these different paintings from local Cleveland artists. They wanted to give it a more baseball feel – the previous works weren't necessarily baseball-related. We did a bunch of canvas prints of great memories at Progressive Field. We blew those up, did some acrylic signs on Plexiglas showcasing the brand and baseball, highlighting the history, because it's such a rich history.
Did you grow up here?
Yup, I'm from the city of Cleveland proper, moved to the suburbs when I was in middle school, and now I live in Willowick.
A tribe fan, no doubt.
Oh yeah, since I was five or six. My grandfather was a huge influence on my life, and he was a big-time Indians fan.
Seems like a dream gig, then. When did Contempo's relationship with the Tribe start?
I started in 2008 and I believe we got the contract in 2003.
Do you guys have a goldmine sitting on your servers, then? Between projects that never saw the light of day and projects that the general public doesn't get to see in the inner sanctum of The Jake, you should publish all that stuff. Tribe fans would love it.
That's true. I talked to my boss about putting together a booklet of the Indians' graphic design over the last decade because fans would be interested. We'd have to get MLB approval and we might not be able to sell it, but just on my Tumblr page, where I post some of the recent work, I've been getting quite a few comments about wanting to see more.
Do you guys do any work on patches for the uniforms?
I designed the Bob Feller memorial patch. That was the highlight of my career. I told you my grandfather was a huge influence, and Bob Feller was his favorite player. And I was a pitcher in little league and high school. Feller was like a hero to me, so when I got that opportunity, it was a huge honor. We do have a little bit of work with the uniforms, but we did not design the Herb Score patch. One time we were asked to come up with a patch just for the road jerseys, something that said, "Established 1901," but they ended up not moving ahead with that.
Your Twitter avatar is of Bob Feller. Do you like the earlier Tribe uni designs?
I love the vintage baseball style. It's pretty much what I'm drawn to. I try to bring an old-school feel to what we do. I really like the script "Indians" and the cream jerseys. My favorite is the road gray with the block "Cleveland." That color scheme is really sharp.
Any chance we get to see the 1921 "Worlds Champions" jerseys brought back in any form?
Ha. I talked to the brand manager, now the VP of Marketing and Communications and Branding with the Indians, and I was telling him if we win the World Series, can we bring back those jerseys. He was like, 'I don't know. That would be pretty cool but no one else does that.' Let's at least do it for a game. We love those. I use that jersey a lot in the front office artwork.
Put a little subliminal pressure on the top men, huh?
Exactly. They have a brand vision statement, and their number one thing on the list is to win the World Series.
It'd be pretty silly if anything else was on top of the list.
What else is on the list?
Three main things as it pertains to brand vision. Creating memories, that has to do with bringing kids to the ballpark and remember a great play or having a great memory. Connecting generations, which has to do with the Indians being an American League charter member. I told you about my grandfather. That's the kind of story they want to get across to fans. And connecting families, which is trying to promote baseball as an outlet for families to come spend time together.
As you work on these projects, do you have access to, like, a motherload of all Indians archives everywhere? Does the team have one?
They do. Sort of. They have something called Portfolio, which is a web-based service where you can log in and view all different photos of games. Every game is chronicled and cataloged. But it only goes back about ten years. They don't have as many old ones as you'd think. There are tons at the Western Reserve Historical Society – so many awesome shots from the Cleveland Press Collection—but the Indians don't have much because, I think, they don't have the rights to them.
What's the weirdest small request they've made of you?
Nothing is too small.
Can we get a full wall mural of Paul Sorrento somewhere?
That's my man, my paisan. That's why Vinnie Pestano's my current favorite player.
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