NFL on Fox Sports Redesign by Michael Cina

Recently I stumbled across a project on Michael Cina’s portfolio site that to my eyes was very bold, fresh and engaging. Clean, minimal and graphic – but for American football. The two things seemed antithetical to each other. But in some parallel universe it could exist. Was it on air now? Was it something I missed completely? (I have to admit here, I’m not a big football watcher, so either seemed entirely possible to me …)

As is the case so often, it was a project that was rejected by the network, who then went in a completely different direction. Michael Cina (along with Michael Young when they worked together as WWFT) designed this back in 2005-2006 for Fox Sports. I wanted to find out more, so I got in touch with him to explain some of his process on the project.

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Fascinating story. One point of note: The 3D robot was a part of Fox NFL graphics long before the 2006 re-imaging. It’s been a lead element in their broadcast, bumpers and promos for over a decade or longer. I wouldn’t classify that character as some reaction to FOX’s exploration into minimalism.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Was it? That’s what we get for believing Wikipedia:


Far be it for me to defy Wikipedia, but the robot had been used for some time during NFL games before 2006. They updated the look, gave it a name and an identity on the NFL Sunday pregame show in 2006. I think the point I’m trying to make is that Fox already had an in-your-face 3D design aesthetic, which they ultimately chose to build upon rather than abandon.


This is a great post!


I can’t be the only one who doesn’t care for this design. The layout, color, typography and overall design doesn’t work, at least to my eye. The designs are more fitting for a corporate annual report than for a broadcast football game.

Huge gap between the needs of the client and the designer’s desire to try something different, for its own sake. Not a suprise that FOX passed on this.


It seems to me, after reading the article, that the design was a response to FOX’s request, not his own design pontifications. He doesn’t seem overly protective of brainwashed about the practicality of the design and seems resigned to the fact that the modern sports fan just wants eye candy in the end.
I thought the article was a nice look at what happens behind the scenes when network graphics are being developed. Whether the design was great or not is almost secondary.


covering the top left corner of the screen or the lower third with a huge solid box is not a great idea. when watching sports, or anything for that matter, you want to see as much as possible.

Justin Cone

While you could nitpick some of the details of the proposal, I find this approach incredibly refreshing. Kudos to the Mikes.


meh, pass. more of a jab than a viable design if you ask me.



Would totally work for Madden series.


I think its great to see proposals like this and to see what happens behind the scenes. But its completely out of touch with the audience. I want to say its border line arrogant to want to “domesticate” a market segment that truly enjoys over-the-top graphics. I don’t mind flat non-3d graphics but this does not even make you feel like you are watching a sporting event.

I think what FOX asked for was flirting with ridiculous, wanting to have graphics that wold last 10 years! Ahh no, nothing lasts 10 years people don’t have the attention span for that and that would not be good for us designers also.

Finally, I want to just say that Michael Cina does beautiful work, I just felt this design is not for this market.

Jon Gorman

Until recently, the Formula 1 broadcasts on ITV had on screen graphics that remained largely untouched for nearly a decade. And they we were remarkably flat and elegant. Although it is a very different audience and viewing experience.


I, for one, think this is brilliant. Would actually love to see this come together. And I think that, ultimately, the average Joe would come to appreciate the game and let the info and graphics just help and, you know, be informative.
Maybe web design and app design can begin to meld into broadcast. That would be good to see..


Web 2.0, meet Football. Football, meet web 2.0.


As it’s already been mentioned previously, it’s really no surprise as to why FOX rejected this work. The sports graphic niche doesn’t leave a lot of room for experimentation beyond the formula that already works: Bold, aggressive and in your face. It’s an extension of the game being played and not an experimentation in trying to find the deeper side of graphic design.

As a sports graphic designer myself, I try to follow a simple bit of logic while designing: If I was drinking at a bar sitting 15 ft. from the television, am I able to register the information presented? In the design Michael Cina presented, there are numerous problems. Poor font choice and type size amongst some of them.

Sports graphics design is a balancing act between designs which make an explosive/aggressive impact and readable key information while not getting lost in it’s overindulgence.


I’m all for experimentation, but really? this is considered good? I get the whole, “try the opposite of the norm or what’s expected” thing. Sometimes the envelope needs to be pushed, even back to 8-bit land if need be. I would think this was having fun or a first round experiment. It would take some ‘BRASS-ONES” to present this to the client though. But then again, designers are a “Self-indulgent” bunch, myself included. ” I have seen some stunning work on this website that has made me want to work harder and sometimes even quit my job. I’m confused by this. I had to check that it wasn’t April 1st.


suttikus: i totally agree.


Motionographer FAIL.


yehhh, im not feelin it.
kudos for trying something new, but its a total failure if you ask me. even if you take away the fact that it misses the mark for sports, the design just isn’t that good. the shapes and colors are totally uninteresting. i think it could have been pushed further. if you’re going to go this far off the mark why hold back? go nuts, make it even more bold, really push the boundries. right now its way too plain, there is no focus, and it feels like the elements were just dropped on wherever with no thought process, no attempt at composition… this kind of design is all in the details and this package has none.


to the person who gave me a thumbs down: i assume you did so because you feel i didn’t read the article. yes i understand they were going for simple. but simple doesn’t mean BLAND. with better composition, better colors, better fonts, and a few subtle details like maybe a simple notch taken out of the corner, this package could have been great. i just dont see where there was any love put into this.

if my assumption is incorrect, ignore me.


I really like a lot of the commentary here. Just to set the record straight…. I was a lead designer for about ten years over at FOX Sports.You can blame Gary H and me for the first iterations of the NFL robot, we actually had some Robots for Hockey first, and those where done by Ben G (1998)…. My good friend Dave T. helped model and animate, as well as Geoff H. My good buddy Darryl did the current one, with Blurs’ help. Nevertheless, this isn’t about that, it’s about these really clean insert designs Michael Cina designed. I really understand what the goal was and what FOX sports was trying to get out of Michael. I think with a couple of back and forth sessions you could have gotten this really cool design that was clean and at the same time true to the FOX brand. I think the current design is definitely a push in that direction. I think what you posted “Thedirtysyndacate” was really well put. Sometimes good concepts don’t get to see the light of day, and for a lot of reasons. However, I’m sure someone will pick up on these boards and be inspired, possibly see the potential for something really new….and don’t forget the “The Bar Test”….Bubba needs to read these graphics while he’s drinking at the bar.



I’m willing to bet the designers have never ever watched a sporting event or TV for that matter.


UN-AMERICAN DESIGN!!! Go back to Basel!!!


The thing that I’m missing here is why this designer would apply this sort of design scheme to a football game, when it would obviously be better suited for an Autodesk product GUI. Granted he had direction to create a clean, timeless, easy to read interface for Fox’s insert look. But he misses the whole point of designing FOR the sport, and instead seems to be designing with no regard for or knowledge of what he’s designing for. With the score box, for example, he’s taking away a huge piece of real estate that is crucial to the person experiencing the game and the insert design. Isn’t the goal as a designer to create an attractive visual complement or experience for the viewer? The designer has not done that here.

Stripping away any “briefs” or “directives” he was given, is this honestly the good work of a good designer? Did he think critically about the viewer’s experience when he was designing it? Does it really warrant such a lengthy feature?


A huge black box taking up the screen while I’m trying to watch sports. How lovely, how could I have not thought of this first!

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