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Freelance Digital Designer For Pro Sport Organizations: Shaun Curtis Has For 18 Years

Shaun Curtis | President | S.O. Casual INC.

I have been blessed with having the opportunity to work in this industry for over 18 years.

Shaun Curtis


S.O. Casual INC.

× The interview with Shaun Curtis was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the President of the S.O. Casual INC..

Like many small business owners, I wear a lot of hats. From project managing artists to executing my own client deadlines to solving IT issues. In addition, I constantly network to help build clientele for the business. This includes attending national conferences, setting up meetings over the phone, online and in-person.

When I started S.O. Casual back in 2005, Owen (my busines partner) and I just wanted to create cool content. As I developed my skills and worked with more sports teams, it grew pretty apparent that we would be doing a lot of our core business in sports. Majority of our business is creating digital content for their shows. For example, designing digital signage for sponsorship, fan engagement pieces, or graphics packages that would be the look and feel of the in house broadcast.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I generally do some administrative work in the morning. I then take calls from clients and normally start working away on making content in the afternoon. I normally bounce back and forth between multiple computers on jobs, this keeps me moving and flexible. I try to take small breaks in between calls and renders. Sometimes, you put your head down and get in a zone; before you know it, the day is gone. Those days happen a lot.

When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.

When I was seventeen, I played Rep baseball. I thought I was pretty good. I was asked to try out for a regional team and was thinking to myself this is it, this is my calling. I got to the try outs and I set up in the outfield. We started doing drills where they hit the ball out to you. The objective was to catch the ball and immediately throw it to home plate. I was throwing these beautiful rainbows from the outfield and was feeling pretty good, until the next guy threw line drive fast balls to home plate. At that point I was like, “Art it is.” I knew I was good baseball player, but I excelled at art. So at that point when I didn’t make the team, I shifted my focus into art fulltime.

In 2001, I was coloring comic books for a company called Dreamwave Productions. Some of the titles we were known for were Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As luck would have it, a family friend got me an interview at Sportsnet. I landed the position with the network and it catapulted me in the direction of creating content that was seen all across Canada. When my first over the shoulder graphic went on air I was hooked. Fast forward to seeing my work played in an arena, I got a rush watching people get excited while my videos were playing. Most would never know that a 30 second open was a combination of many people and more than 3 to 4 weeks of work.

What’s your favorite part about doing digital media in the sports industry? What contract was your favorite?

For me, it is the reaction I get from the fans. Being in the background, most people don’t realize how much work goes into a 30 second open or building out the sponsorship pieces that play in the arena. So when I see peoples’ eyes light up and they cheer loud after watching something I built, I generally walk away thinking I did something cool.

On the other hand the process is just as fun. I like being in a empty arena with no fans and working on content trying to figure out where I am going to place the WOW moments which would dictate how the crowd would react. I definetly love the feeling that comes with that.

If I had to pick one of the cooler jobs S. O. Casual did, I would say the 2015, Orlando Magic court projection piece. We had a tight deadline but we got it done. I ended up flying to Orlando, Florida to watch it play live and the fans reaction made all the late nights worth it!

What is (are) the biggest challenge(s) you have faced in your career so far?

Staying relevant.

A lot of companies have come and gone. What we have learned is that we must adapt with the changing times. Teams were going away from freelance work for a bit so a lot of the small guys would lose out the bigger companies. Luckily, S. O. Casual has been able to keep our core clients, branch out and learn new skills which has allowed us to offer new services. Social media has become a big part of everything we do and it holds true in sports as well. Being able to work in this space has allowed us to stay busy.

How has COVID-19 forced you to pivot your business?

I have always been mobile for the most part so my work environment has not changed. The key change was social distancing. By not allowing fans to enter arenas, the demand for work no longer existed. Where I saw the pivot was moving my business from the arena to the small screen, (i.e. social media).

One of my university clients was in the midst of planning a year end, live awards banquet and it was abruptly cancelled due to COVID-19. S.O. Causal found a solution and created team player nominee and award winner videos for Instagram. We are using this time to expand our brand, research and network. We have created augmented reality filters for various, professional sports teams to use on Instagram.

What is your biggest accomplishment in creating digital media in the sports industry?

That’s a hard one. I have been blessed with having the opportunity to work in this industry for over 18 years. I’ve created content for some big events, Invictus Games and the Grey Cup.

I’ve helped create content for new leagues, for instance, the CEBL(Canadian Elite Basketball League) or CBL(Canadian Basketball League), CPL (Canadian Premier League).

I have to say, I am always amazed about opening an arena because I love the comraderie invovled in getting a building up and running. There is something about starting from nothing and turning it into an 18 thousand plus, seated arena full of fans for the first time. It’s hard to put it into words how it feels other than to say, it’s magical.

I opened the Amway Center in 2010 for the Orlando Magic and then in 2012, I opened the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets. As the Lead Designer in both buildings. I created the first design framework for both arenas, leaving my mark in both cities.

What is your favorite digital creation you have made so far in your career?

I would have to say in 2012, I was tasked with making the in-house graphics package for the Brooklyn Nets.

I was hired in September and the season started in October. I had a couple of weeks to build a robust package that consisted of stat boards, logo loops, etc. During that season I put ideas together to use for the next season. The summer of 2013, I made the package exactly how I was envsioning it. I was able to find ways to be creative as well as incorporate the ability for the client to sell more sponsorship. Effectively showing the value that I can make for their organization.

Stacey Leawood Stacey's Final Thoughts

Shaun Curtis is a perfect example of how open-mindedness and adaptability aids survival in the sport industry. He took his passion for sports and combined it with his artistic talent to move out of the little leagues. His continual resiliency in the face of adversity separates him from the crowd. The whole sport industry was sidelined by COVID-19, but once again pivoted his business for the time being and has prospered because of his “thinking outside the box” decisions. Shaun is a reminder to all our readers to think outside the box!

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