Clarksville, TN – Basketball and art have driven Beth Rates since she was 5 years old. She recently seized the chance to unite her passions by designing an official game day graphic for the Chicago Bulls to celebrate Women’s History Month.
Rates currently works as a graphic designer for the Austin Peay State University (APSU) Public Relations and Marketing Department and graduated in 2017. She established herself as a key player for the women’s basketball team as a student, and her career total of 127 blocked shots remains the second-highest in program history.
“This was a surreal moment for me, because I grew up loving and playing basketball while also loving art and design,” Rates said. “Being able to put those two things together on such a huge platform for the Chicago Bulls was incredible, and there’s honestly not just one word to describe how amazing it felt.”
The Bulls commissioned seven artists for their Women’s History Month graphic series, including Rates. Her design was released across the team’s social media platforms on March 17 to promote a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I was going back and forth about whether I wanted to do it, but I decided to just submit it and see how things went,” Rates said, noting that she learned about the campaign through Twitter. “I didn’t know if I’d get selected because there were thousands and thousands of people on that thread … but about two weeks later I got a phone call from one of the designers.”
Rates said she was provided with several photos, logos and assets for her design and asked to use her personal style. She decided to spotlight Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine because of his strong performance this season.
“My creative process was different than usual because I was nervous, and I knew this was going to be posted on huge platforms,” Rates said. “I sat and looked at some different sports design posters – which I do in my free time anyhow because I make a lot of edits with my favorite players – and put on some games. There were actually a lot of NBA games playing the week I did it, so I watched a lot of different matches and looked at designers on Twitter and Instagram to see what they were doing.”
Although Rates looked to posters and game footage to get inspired, her finished design came together through pure instinct.
“I knew I needed to keep it in my style as well, so I just sat down, got in my zone and started working,” she said. “There was no rhyme or reason to why I did what I did – it just felt right.”
After determining a theme and choosing the right logo, Rates in her design roughly a week before the game – and it wasn’t long until Bulls fans from around the world were seeing it.
“I couldn’t do anything but thank God, really,” Rates said. “This was such a blessing and such a huge platform. I called my parents immediately to tell them it was live, and they were so happy for me. My friends and coworkers were also really excited.”
Rates said her time as a design student at Austin Peay helped her develop the skills needed to create the graphic, and her job at the University has allowed her to keep improving.
Being able to work on a variety of designs, from issues of the University’s alumni magazine to Candlelight Ball invitations, also prepared Rates to take on a project for the Bulls.
“Austin Peay State University was definitely the reason that I was even able to do this,” she said. “I have coworkers and supervisors here that are so encouraging with all of my designs and let me go beyond my limits … having people like that in my corner gave me the confidence to be able to do something new and step out of my comfort zone.”