As a designer every now & then you get involved with a project that takes on a life of its own. Velocette Racing New Zealand’s campaign to rebuild and race the Eldee Velocette at the Isle of Man Classic TT in August 2014 had its beginning in the 1950s. The story of the Eldee Velocette is part of both NZ and Australia’s classic motorcycle racing folklore.
At the Hampton Downs racing event in February 2013 MagentaDot Brands joined a small team of dedicated classic motorcycle racing enthusiasts all contributing their skills and resources to the project not-for-profit. MagentaDot undertook to provide VRNZ the full multi-disciplinary designer’s kit of branding skills, graphic design, web design, writing and advertising… the VRNZ brand’s promotional and advertising campaign is a showcase and a media platform, the journal of the home-brewed Kiwi project to build the fastest Velocette Lightweight Special of the 50s from downunder and race it at the Isle of Man Classic T.T. in August 2014.
The website is part of a clear and straightforward brand toolkit created for VRNZ. It aims not just to tell the story of a Colonial Velo’s return to the 2014 I.O.M. Classic TT, but to get the reader to connect powerfully with the passion that drives the men who champion this ambitious project. With the liberal use of noisy and dynamic action photos, with slideshow ‘visual essays’, short pithy videos, and both short and long-form articles about the machines and the personalities behind them the site aims to get visitors to ‘smell the Castrol’ of Classic Motorcycle Racing.
As anticipated, the project is taking a very large investment of time, materials, and top-of-the-line professional expertise—so it can always do with more support. Hence MagentaDot is selling the VRNZ merchandise we designed for the campaign here on the ‘Goods’ page of this site as well.
The brand manual and toolkit
Typographic design and handlettering plays a key role throughout VRNZ’s identity. Central are the fastidiously re-drawn pair of handlettered, slanted & looped, ‘Velocette’ and ‘Eldee Velocette’ brands. Alongside these is the VRNZ brand inspired by the commemorative ‘T.T. WINNERS’ badging that Velocette placed on the petrol tanks of their ‘K’ series motorcycles after their string of TT wins at the Isle of Man that began in 1926, ‘28 and ‘29.
Velocette ‘T.T. WINNERS’ badging.
In print, Trade Gothic, League Gothic and Compacta, are used throughout VRNZ’s identity. The clarity of these fonts works well in print and online applications and complements the classic copperplate logotype. The colour palette of the website is limited to three colours, red, gold and black, that work together to reinforce the proud history of the Velocette marque. In print the palette is enhanced by a refreshing, agile cyan blue, and a bold red. The blue gives a nod to the colour Les Diener painted the Eldees and has been used to great effect in media advertising to convey a sense of clarity and speed and achieving magazine page dominance with small ads.
Photography plays a key role as well in the brand toolkit. Enlarged and cropped, sometimes retouched composites of noisy and aggressive black and white action photos from the VRNZ archive are complimented by vivid ‘best-in-class’ contemporary photos that reinforce the strength and vitality of classic motorcycle racing downunder in the 21st century across all marques, which VRNZ takes great pride in.
In the heyday of classic motorcycle racing, in the period from the teens through to the 60s illustration was essential to the promotion of the Manx TT both in advertising and posters for the event and for advertising the individual marques. Styles varied from dynamic ‘boys-own’ paintings to mixed-media collages of photos, airbrushing and comic-book art illustrative techniques.
Les Diener made the first Eldee Special in the 50s so illustrations based on the photos of him riding the bike back then are a great choice for a creative direction with a strong point of difference that promotes the classic history of the bike and the presence, power and clarity the bike has proved it has racing in 2013–14 NZCMRR classic racing events.
Working closely with the client the process began by fully researching the racing of classic motorcycles, Velocettes and the Eldee Velo in particular and by attending several 3-day classic racing events in the role of action and documentary photographer between 2012—14. I soon got bitten by the classic racing bug.
For the launch of the paired print and online campaign a noisy and aggressive illustration and layout style that blends the airbrushed comic book techniques of the 50s with present day Moto GP supergraphics was chosen. This approach amplifies the dynamism of the historic project resources and was very effective at driving visitors to the new VRNZ website and blog. The ad appeared in the context of a 7 page Bike Rider NZ ‘Classic Bike’ feature about the Eldee.
To design and build the website to the brief a blend of two approaches is being used; first communicate the broad and deep historical story of the Velocette marque and its place in Motorcycle racing history downunder from archived and contemporary media and first-hand sources, second the descriptive approach relaying clearly and simply the real-life creativity, collaboration, meticulous planning and hard work involved developing a prototype classic racing machine and make it race ready for the world’s most demanding road race. The visual essay/journalistic approach of observing and describing the sequence of events building up to the race, with photos, video, and digitally illustrated infographics as required. The Isle of Man Classic TT 2014 is the destination, the VRNZ blog and Facebook community page first documents the process of getting there and then what happens at the races. The website and blog paired with a 6 month advertising campaign in relevant enthusiast magazines worldwide links the two together in a way that connects the VRNZ and the Isle of Man 2014 project with the global audience interested in classic motorsport today.
The website design and build
Research in January 2014 demonstrated that a combination of the Premium ‘Basis’ template on the Wordpress platform, and MagentaDot Brands multi-disciplinary capabilities offer VRNZ the best fit with the brief, budget and urgent requirement to kick-start the site’s establishment within a very tight time-frame. The paired blog and website platform enables steadily building the breadth and depth of the site content in the period from February through August 2014.
The key role of merchandise and online ordering
Three of the Eldee 3 IOM 2014 project team members; Murray Aitken, Shaun Chamberlain and Phil Price were among those that had hands-on involvement in the ‘Britten V1000’—the handbuilt race motorcycle designed and built by John Britten and friends in Christchurch New Zealand during the early 1990s. The received wisdom from them is that the role of merchandise to the ongoing sustainability of that project financially was more significant than the proceeds from the 10 bikes made and sold. So it was a priority that a custom range of tshirts is designed and merchandised on the site within 2 months of go-live. The garments are hand-screenprinted by Christchurch firm Global Culture, which is managed by another friendly classic motorcycle racing supporter. To commemorate both the launch of the Eldee-TT in July 2014 I flew to Wellington to shoot a set of heroic publicity photos of the bike equipped and ready for the IOM. In addition to publicity, I made the photos immediately useful for the campaign as merchandise, working up two images into an advertising and promotional poster campaign (to add to the ‘TT T-shirt’ merchandise already selling well).
The Isle of Man Classic TT is the supreme test, what this site is about is motor cycle racing’s quest for perfection, the doing and redoing of a thing that gets you ever closer to the ideal—remove the extraneous, preserve the essential—ultimately driving the Eldee T.T. towards its optimal combination of speed and stamina.
The life of the site goes beyond the IOM Classic TT 2014
A design and advertising alliance that unites print media with the website and two social media platforms is proving an optimal chronicle and megaphone for a project that has a life of its own…