Skip to main content

The slash era

I'm not sure how many images of Joe Adell on the 2021 Topps design you have seen already. At the moment of this writing (3:42 p.m.), I've seen it several times, as well as a couple of blog posts about it. I'm sure there are more on the way.

These are what people are saying about it ...

Wait, I suppose I need to show you the image one more time:

There you are.

OK, now, the first reference I saw to it when I woke up out of my nest late this morning is that the design has a border. This was met with applause and I'm right there with them. It's the first Topps bordered flagship set since 2015, although you could make a case for 2019.

There is a lot of tinkering with the border but that just continues the theme of the entire design, which is: IT'S AWFULLY BUSY, AIN'T IT?????

How many design elements are on that card? Ten? Twelve? Fifteen? (Also, purple? There is no purple in the Angels color scheme. Are we going back to the random Topps colors of the '60s, '70s and '80s?)

The second thing that I saw people talking about is how this card looks like a marriage between Panini Donruss and Bowman.

Bluuuh! That's one ugly card kid!

If I were Topps I would never want to use Panini Donruss or Bowman as inspiration. But just based on the 2020 and now 2021 Topps flagship designs, that's clearly where they're going.

This is what Bowman is doing these days, and if you don't see 2021 Topps in that, you're freakin' blind.

And this is what Panini Donruss is doing these days. Wow, that really looks like notebook fodder for 2021 Topps.

And what about this? Come on, man, this 2019 Donruss design is 2021 Topps without the logos!

Wow. (At least you can read the player name on the Donruss card).

As usual whenever Topps releases its flagship design for the following year, people try to compare it to a past design. I do that, too. But people were comparing the 2021 design to 1987 Donruss, which I don't see at all. Sure there's a honeycomb design on 2021 in the top half of the border, which is where the parallels will go, but you're really forcing your childhood on that design if you think it looks anything like the baseballs in the '87 Donruss design.

There is an old Donruss design that does have something in common with the 2021 Topps design. I bet you know what one I'm talking about, too.

There are similarities between 1991 Donruss and 2021 Topps.

The chief similarity are the slashes on both designs and I was surprised that the slash aspect of the 2021 design wasn't brought up immediately.

Let's see it again:

Shall we count?

There are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen ... ah, heck, I'm not counting them all ... slash elements on this card.

We are still in the Slash Era. Deep, deep into the Slash Era.

What's the Slash Era?

I addressed this at this time last year. Today's baseball card designs are all about slash elements and have been for a few years. (This is all in my newsletter, guys, have you subscribed to my newsletter? 😀).

But let's go through it again.

The first part of the 2010s was about the swoosh and it was a primary element in the Topps flagship sets in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Somewhere around the inserts of 2012 and 2013 and definitely with the Bowman sets of 2013 and the Topps flagship set in 2014, angular elements took over the designs and then slashiness really came out around 2015.



Slashy. Slashy.

Not much in 2019 unless you want to describe that long, curved border edge as one, big, extended slash.

But 2019 inserts? Tell me that you see the slashes.

2020. Slashy McSlashface.

And now 2021.

Welcome To The Jungle.

The sheer number of slashes in this design feels like pop music in 1979, the end of the disco era, in which disco infiltrated everything so completely that a backlash grew. I'm not saying people will be blowing up their slash-designed baseball cards on a baseball field, but the 2021 design does have a "jumped the shark" element to it, and I hope this will be the end of the slashes.

For me, the worst aspect of this design, is that it mimics Bowman so thoroughly with the crazy number of design elements.

For years, I could call up a Topps design by memory simply by thinking of its one defining element -- the hats on 1981 Topps, the picture-in-picture on 1983 Topps, the position guy on 1976 Topps, etc., etc., etc.

But I couldn't even begin to tell you the one defining element of a Bowman set from the last 10 years and because of that, all the years blend together and it's difficult to remember one Bowman set from the next.

I'd hate for that to happen to Topps (some people have said it already has, although I'm not quite to that point yet). But one more design like this and it will.


Maybe the card back will just feature the triple-slash line? It's a bit heinous; but maybe it might look better in person. Some sets definitely are like that. I'm not a fan of it though. Hi.
Jeremya1um said…
It is splashy, but with that being said, I actually don’t think it’s as bad as some of the designs in the last 10 years. We’re lucky to be getting a border.
When I saw the title of your post and the photo of Slash, I first thought this was going to be a post about this being the era of "new" statistics and the AVG/SLG/OBP slashline pushing aside the more traditional stats. But when I saw the Adell Card -- even before I started reading -- my mind said, "'91 Donruss.

Call me old-fashioned, but nothing in the design tells me it's a baseball card, aside from the Angels and the rookie card logos. I know there will be people who like the design, and that's cool. But give me a ball or a pennant or a home plate, or even a tiny ballplayer icon.
Michael Ott said…
I often agree with your blog posts, but this is the first one in a while that had me nodding at every sentence, saying "that's exactly what I was thinking"!
I may be turning into a Night Owl...
dayf said…
dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun



savior of the card design

dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun



there's also a honeycomb
bbcardz said…
I really like this design. Except for the large slash elements that interfere with the player image (draws the eye away from the player). And those extra asymmetrical border elements. And the small player name/position text. I'd prefer no border so that we can have a larger player image but I'll live with it. NO called it exactly right, it is AWFULLY BUSY.
Fuji said…
No slashes in the 2019 flagship design? Hmmm... maybe that's why I enjoyed last year's design so much.
Nick said…
There's a scene in a Seinfeld episode where Jerry asks Kramer what he thinks of a shirt, and Kramer flinches and says "It's too BUSY."

I heard Kramer's voice in my head the moment I saw what 2021 Topps is gonna look like.
madding said…
What they did to the nameplate is horrible. Most of the names are going to be barely legible unless they tweak something between this design phase and production, unless you're Juan Soto (or Jo Adell) and have a tiny name.
jlcre2003 said…
Yard-markers (left edge) and honeycombs have no business on a baseball card. Large intrusive slashes on the left are a mistake.
Billy Kingsley said…
That design is basically the 2017-18 Prestige NBA set with a border on it. I don't dislike it but I liked the Prestige set that did it first.
Matt said…
If you cut this card in half vertically, I would be fine if they kept just the right side of it. I like the 70 Topps badge and the subtle honeycomb design. The name and team plate is fine too, despite the slashy-ness (although I agree that Topps should tweak it to make the name more readable.)

It's the left side that's too much. The extra parallelograms, the yard-markers - get rid of that and this card would look so much better!
Doc Samson said…
An excellent analysis as usual, Mr. Owl.

As an advertising copywriter, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the best art directors and designers around. If there's one thing I learned from them, it's this: anytime you design something, anything, whether it's a movie poster or a matchbook cover, there has to be a "logic" to it.

When I I first saw 2016 Topps, my initial thought was, "what is the mist doing there in the corners?" It doesn't make any sense. When I first saw the 2021 Topps design, my first thought was, "why are the slashes stabbing everything in sight like Jason in Friday the 13th?" To say this design is illogical would be an understatement.
gregory said…
Topps Designer #1: Bet you can't fit more than a dozen design elements on the front of a card.

Topps Designer #2: You're on.
GCA said…
"Subtle honeycomb design" = 2016 parallel background, or 1987 Donruss.

And what are the left side "slashes" for? Nothing but making the design busy enough to keep short attention spans engaged a couple more seconds.

As planned, I will be skipping flagship for the forseeable future. All hail Allen & Ginter!
Sascards67 said…
At First I said Donruss but it is also giving me an Upper Deck MVP vibe now. all they need to add is silver foil signatures.
bryan was here said…
Looks like any recent DonNini set from the last five years, only with logos. Did Topps hire their design team? Inquiring minds want to know!
Nick Vossbrink said…
I don't hate it. Yay borders! Yay no more team name AND logo! Italic text set at a slant so that the verticals are still vertical is one of my favorite things. If they dumped the left-hand slashes and just ate up the bottom right corner I'd be a lot happier but this almost looks exactly like the 1991 Donruss slashes which were intended to make the trimming work out well.

Also my kids took one look and nominated 1991 Donruss + Bowman.
'Slash' rhymes with 'trash'.

That is all.