Behind the Design: Bowman’s Best Baseball

Visualizing the 2022 Bowman’s Best Set

Date: Mar 8, 2023
Topics: Baseball, Behind the Design, Bowman's Best
Length: 614 Words
Reading Time: ~4 Minutes

The final set release from the 2022 campaign, Bowman’s Best is not your grandpa’s card set — you won’t find the traditional white borders or unadorned headshots here. If you’re looking for fastballs down the middle, check out the base cards in Topps Series 1; with Bowman’s Best, you can expect a steady diet of curveballs. Simply put: Bowman’s Best is the ultimate playground for the designers who create the set.

“As a designer, you can let your creative juices flow a little more freely with these cards,” said Arvin Catriz, the art director for Bowman’s Best. “It’s a lot of fun to work on it.”

Catriz described it as the “younger brother” of the Bowman brand. It’s the final release of the season, and it’s a smaller product than its peers, with only 100 cards in the base set. Therefore, there’s a lot of room for experimentation — for bolder photos, louder colors, and unconventional design elements. It’s the perfect place to try whatever wouldn’t fly on another product.

“Bowman’s Best is edgier, a lot more colorful, a bit more graphically enhanced,” said Derrick Eng, an associate art director at Topps. “We get to switch it up a little bit.”

Let’s learn more from the designers behind Bowman’s Best to see what went into developing this year’s set.

Pushing the Limit

The challenge for Catriz and Eng is to build upon the previous year with fresh, invigorated designs without straying too far from the core brand. It’s the challenge that designers face with any annual card set, but those behind Bowman’s Best have a little more latitude in solving it.

For 2022, that meant dropping the organic look of 2021 in favor of a more geometric, edgy design. Catriz and Eng try to make good use of the chrome tech used to print the set so that collectors might notice more fine lines and more intentional color choices.

Overall, Catriz thinks it’s a design that will elicit more excitement from fans. “When you pick up one of these packs, we want you to get hit with a ton of color,” he said.

One of the inserts that excited the designers is Bowman UFO, a collection of cards that features power hitters who can hit a moonshot every time they approach the plate. Catriz loved the insert’s neon elements.

“It’s different from what we’d normally make for Bowman,” Catriz said, “That’s definitely going to stand out when people open packs.”

But when the mandate is to push the limit, there will inevitably be times when you take it too far. Catriz and Eng laughed about some of their mock-ups that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. Eng created a Top Prospects mock-up with, as Catriz joked, “too many bubbles.” 

The Elements of Excellence insert also presented a challenge: the complex subset includes interlocking cards that come together to form a puzzle.

It required numerous revisions before and after the designers showed their creations to the brand team. Eng and Catriz work on enough different products that they know they’ll have frequent opportunities to repurpose their nixed ideas. But hey, if they don’t cross the line occasionally, then they’re probably not being adventurous enough.

All for the Rookies

Catriz and Eng see Bowman’s Best as the perfect starter set for a new collector. In addition to the attractive colors and edgy designs, each master box of Bowman’s Best has four autograph cards and over a dozen refractors. 

That’s a lot of opportunities to pull a valuable card.

“We want to see the demographics of card collectors growing,” Eng said. “And hopefully, Bowman’s Best might expand their collecting hobby to other parts of Topps.”


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