Wizards and Wands at the Winter Meetings

Gundell's logos for Orlando event evoke the magic of Disney

Brian Gundell poses with "Melvin the Marvelous," one of the logos he created for the 2017 Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | December 11, 2017 7:28 PM

It's Monday, the Baseball Winter Meetings are in full swing and Brian Gundell is having trouble containing his excitement.

"I'm geeking out because my logo is everywhere!"

Gundell made this exclamation on the ground floor of Disney World's Swan Hotel, where along with the adjacent Dolphin, the 2017 Winter Meetings are headquartered. Baseball executives, agents, media members and job seekers swarmed the scene, temporarily transforming these interconnected hotels into a baseball industry ant farm. Prevalent amid the hubbub -- omnipresent, even -- are Gundell's logos.

The eponymous head of the Oregon-based Brian Gundell graphic design company is the man behind the event's official logos. These marks, featuring their own brand of Orlando magic, are displayed on all manner of Winter Meetings paraphernalia, correspondence, and of course, the copious signage displayed throughout Disney's sprawling Swan and Dolphin complex.

"I call it magic. It's the puff of smoke," Gundell said of the logos' overriding theme. "When I think magic, I think of those vaudevillian magicians from the 19th century that you see in films like The Illusionist or The Prestige. Very grand performances with top hats and tails, and just the wonder and awe of the audience. And I wanted to convey that with the design work. So I did a quick, loose sketch of the puff of smoke; that became the primary logo and that drove everything else."

Magic wasn't Gundell's first idea, however.

"There were a lot of conversations [with Minor League Baseball staff] about a theme, and initially my thought was to go toward a space theme," he said. "We're on the space coast, and Orlando has a lot of strong connections to NASA. I thought that was a unique approach, but that got killed off early in the process since we're not in Houston. They didn't want to confuse it. So we started talking about the Disney angle and how to center the theme around magic. I happened to take a family vacation to Disney World last November. And being in the park really helped a lot, to just absorb the whole atmosphere here. That helped generate a lot of ideas. I'm never not working."

In his 12th year as a professional, Gundell has done work throughout the sports industry and cites Nike and the University of Washington as two of his most fulfilling clients. His Winter Meetings work came via Ashley Allphin, formerly a graphic designer for Minor League Baseball.

"[Allphin] contacted me out of the blue through my website to work on the [2017 Minor League Baseball] Promotional Seminar branding for Greenville, [South Carolina]," he said. "We started working on the Promo Seminar stuff. She was really happy with it, so she invited me to do the Winter Meetings. That's how it happened."

Offseason MiLB include

Gundell places his Winter Meetings work in his personal top three, a new highlight within a career that continues to evolve.

"[Graphic design] was something I kind of fell into by accident," he said. "Growing up, I was just really into sports and so I always found sports logos and uniforms really interesting. I used to sketch them all the time as a little kid, but I was not tracking art at all. I didn't take art in high school or really into college. ... But I was in the dorm at the University of Oregon, and I was doing a fantasy sports logo and the light bulb clicked. 'People actually do graphic design for a living!'

"To me, it was just that sports have such a passionate following and can bring people together in such a unique way. I love that a sports logo, a single logo, can unite people from such disparate backgrounds. And the fact that you see it so prominently and so ubiquitously, I always thought that was cool."

This week in Orlando, Gundell's work is nothing if not prominent and ubiquitous. This includes life-size cutouts of a baseball-playing wizard whom Gundell has affectionately named "Melvin the Marvelous."

"I'm here having these Disney little kid moments," he said. "Like 'Oh my God, there's Mickey!' But instead of it being Mickey, it's 'There's my logo! Oh my God! There's Melvin!'

"I still get that star-crossed look in my eyes when I see my work out in the wild. That, to me, is the coolest part of what I do."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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