Hamilton graphic designer Ben Bartels of Never You Mind creative studio is the face behind the deck design of the New Zealand Olympic Committee's world record giant skateboard.
Almost 1000 Kiwis entered a competition to name the giant skateboard. Eke Tahi (Ride as one), suggested by Karyn Fisher of Maraetai, Auckland, was the one that convinced the jury.
Eke Tahi is on tour around the country and will come to Hamilton on Sunday where Ben will see his design on the actual 12m-long 800kg board for the first time.
"I think I can only appreciate it properly, when I see it in real life."
Ben used to skate himself when he was younger and has illustrated quite a few regular-sized boards before, so when he was asked to design the deck for Eke Tahi, he wasn't too surprised.
"When I started, I hand-painted them for friends and family. I sometimes still do that, but normally I work on a computer - it's easier to undo mistakes."
His illustration for the giant skateboard depicts a New Zealand athlete's physical and emotional journey, from humble beginnings to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The athlete rising from the cloud stands for the long white cloud, with the flag symbolising the support of the nation. The road is windy with stormy seas signifying the tough road ahead. Tokyo is being symbolised with cherry blossoms, Mt Fuji and an iconic sunrise.
Originally, Ben handed in five ideas, one of them depicting a young kid eating cereal and watching his idols at the Olympics on TV. The whole process of coming up with the final design has taken him two weeks.
"I am excited to be part of this project. The board has a nice proportion. I started with a tail and nose graphic and brought it together with a centrepiece using bright colours and strong black shading. Because it is so big, the challenge was to be able to replicate the design in any size without losing quality."
With the giant skateboard, the NZ Olympic Commission wants to celebrate the more extreme, urban and youth-focused events including six newly added categories at the Olympic Games, including skateboarding, surfing and three-on-three basketball.
Ben says: "I know that some skaters don't like that their sport was included as an Olympic category, because they say skateboarding shouldn't be a competition. Personally, I think it is a good idea to include skateboarding, because it takes a lot of skill to do it and that should be acknowledged."
In high school, Ben wanted to become an architect, because of his love of drawing. Then he heard about graphic design. "You need to be very precise as an architect and I like to be more creative. I have always drawn cartoons and things, but I didn't know that drawing pictures could lead into a career."
He studied for a bachelor's degree in graphic design at the University of Waikato. After finishing his degree in 2011, he went to Australia's Gold Coast with his girlfriend, now wife, Nicola.
In Australia, he worked for JetPilot Clothing, a brand focusing on action sports like surf-, wind- and snowboarding, motocross and jetskiing.
"Clothing was a way to have my artwork seen. I create my artwork on a computer, so it was really exciting and quite satisfying to see my pieces of art out and about."
After two years, Nicola and Ben went to London for an OE, where he worked for Bravado UK / Universal Music, a merchandise company, and did some freelancing.
"I designed some merch for the Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer. And I illustrated some cans for a beer brand. They wanted it in the style of an 80s video game which I think was pretty cool."
For the past six years, he has had his own studio - Never You Mind - creating logos, working on branding projects, clothing, posters or restaurant menus.
"I got my dream job, it is really fulfilling. Most days it doesn't even feel like work. I love working for myself, you never know what kind of things wait around the corner. Having two kids, my job also allows me to be more flexible."
Two years ago, Ben created his first mural and got hooked.
"I would love to get some more into doing those, because they are quite powerful due to their size."
You can find Ben's studio here.
Eke Tahi's Waikato schedule
May 16: Hamilton, Melville skatepark between midday and 3pm
May 17: Cambridge, Velodrome from 9.30am, Morrinsville and Thames in the morning, Paeroa in the afternoon
May 23: Taupo
June 17: Ōtorohanga